I believe love is what unites us. The theme of unity pervades the Baha’i writings, and believers talk about it constantly, and pray for a world filled with united people. But what exactly is it that unites humanity? I say it is love. What is love? I say it is Baha’u’llah, his Word, and his light. I say that it is this that unites all human beings and, indeed, all in creation. This is what I believe, this is what I am all about, this is what I teach, and this is what my book is about.
Despite this testimony, I am not a member of the Baha’i community because the Universal House of Justice has decreed that believing in Baha’u’llah is not sufficient for a person to qualify for membership. “A person’s qualifications for membership cannot be made solely on the basis of the individual’s statement of belief in Baha’u’llah.” (Letter to NZ NSA, 19 April 2000) Therefore, it disenrolled me in 2000. What more does it think is required? Apparently, I had given “unmistakable indications of lack of understanding of the foundations of the Baha’i Administrative Order”. Apparently, expressing views about the administrative order that vary from those held by the House of Justice is unacceptable.
What does Baha’u’llah say? What is acceptable to him? He says in his will and testament: “Every receptive soul who hath in this Day inhaled the fragrance of His garment and hath, with a pure heart, set his face towards the all-glorious Horizon is reckoned among the people of Baha’ in the Crimson Book.” (Kitab-i-‘Ahd) Based on this, I would say that sincerely believing in Baha’u’llah is enough for him.
Consequently, the following situation arises: when it comes to salvation, it is enough to believe in Baha’u’llah, but when it comes to Baha’i community membership, a person must hold views that line up with those of the House of Justice. I decided that it is salvation that matters to me, and community membership has to be a contingency. Baha’u’llah has given me the right, and the duty, to decide truth for myself, so I will stick to my views whatever the consequences. But for the record, I have always accepted the administrative structure set out by Abdu’l-Baha in his will and testament, and have never argued that the Baha’i community should not be organised.
My question is: what unites us? If my experience is anything to go by, one’s views about Baha’i administration are not a source of unity. I have one set of views and the House of Justice members have another, and we have been estranged for over 20 years. What is more, to expect believers the world over to hold the same views on the subject of administration is fanciful. As such, throwing people out of the community because they express unpalatable views is not a way to generate unity.
I argue that, philosophically, it is a mistake to locate the source of unity in the realm of people’s ideas. The source of unity must be a transcendent reality – one that is not subject to the limitations of the world. Otherwise, one person’s ways of thinking or doing things, which are necessarily limited to them, will be forced on others. Instead, I believe that what unites us is love of Baha’u’llah, his Word and his light. This is a transcendent reality that constitutes the very essence of all created things. This must surely be what unites us. We can all say that we love him. We can all say, as Baha’u’llah puts it, that we have inhaled the fragrance of his garment. I think this is enough.