Misters Roosevelt, Churchill, and Murchie

The American Empire, it might well be said, was born on the day Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders defeated the Spanish in Cuba. Roosevelt was surely the first American Emperor — though a democratic emperor, and his Cuban adventure was the heroic gesture that crowned him. Largely ignoring the Constitution, Teddy expanded the powers of the Presidency so as to rein in monopolies. He made the United States a world power, and the United States and the world have not been the same since.

One of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders was Teddy’s Harvard classmate, Guy Murchie. Roosevelt wrote of Murchie:[1][2]

The Harvard contingent was practically raised by Guy Murchie, of Maine. He saw all the fighting and did his duty with the utmost gallantry, …

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Dr. Troutman’s Apostate Taxonomy

I haven’t done much with this blog lately. Too much is going on in life and the Bahá’ís have been very quiet of late. I need to find something to post about! Oh here: this will do …
Insects

It was recently brought to my attention that I had been removed from Wikipedia’s list of Ex-Bahá’ís, which was quite a surprise given that I didn’t know I’d ever been on any such list. It’s hard to enjoy fame when nobody tells you you’re famous.

It happened that when yours truly was stricken from the honor roll, the list was broken up into two much shorter lists … and one really long list:

  • Former Bahá’ís: Juan Cole and Abd al-Hosayn Ayati
  • Apostates: K. Paul Johnson, Denis MacEoin, and Ehsan Yarshater
  • Covenant-breakers: (too many to mention here)

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Bahá’í Calendar Redux

The Bahá’í Calendar, arguably the least lunar calendar there is, has recently been given a lunar calculation of its own. Because the founders of the Bábí and Bahá’í religions were reported to have been born a day apart on the Islamic calendar (though two years apart), the Bahá’í leaders in Israel figured it would be nice to make this happen on their calendar. To do this, they marked the 8th new moon after No-Rúz in Tehran as the one most likely to be close to the time of year when the two prophets were born, and then had one prophet’s birth commemorated on the first day after that new moon and the other prophet’s birth commemorated on the day after that.

The commemorations will no longer occur on the actual dates of birth on the solar cycle (October 20 and November 12) or even the Islamic calendar, but rather, they will take place on different dates from year to year, as is done with Easter and Good Friday.

Calendars are an important tool for scheduling our activities. A farmer might use a solar calendar to plan a harvest. A Bedouin might use a lunar calendar to plan a journey across the desert. Many calendars are a hybrid between solar and lunar so that they can be used in accord with seasonal and lunar cycles. The Gregorian calendar, for instance, is precisely calculated to remain synchronized with the seasons. It is not so precise with respect to lunar cycles, each of its months being about a day too long to keep pace with the phases of the moon. Still, a Gregorian month can be used to loosely approximate a lunar month.

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A Protestant Revival in 19th Century Iran

We are all familiar with the “Jesus is coming” meme, and many of us are aware that Jesus isn’t the only savior on the way. Some religions are given to hopes of saviors in the future. It’s no surprise that many people hope to be saved, like a slumbering beauty longs for her Prince Charming, though that salvation may mean the destruction of the world. This desire has been expressed among Christians and Muslims for as long as Christians and Muslims have walked the earth. Continue reading

Messiah as Man

“the more fallible the mammal, the truer the example.”
—Christopher Hitchens

I wasn’t brought up Christian, but I was brought up to believe in a holy trinity of sorts. I was taught that a certain few men were perfect images of God; that these men, though not God in essence, were perfect reflections of God in the “material world,” and thus they were effectively God so far as mankind is concerned. As images of God in the material realm (i.e., idols), they could be regarded as God incarnate. Hence Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of my parents’ religion wrote, “I am God.”

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The Lost Prophet of the Millennium

Remember the old Y2K scare? We generally look back at that anxious time as an anticlimax, understanding that nothing much happened at the turn of the millennium. I remember how the Bahá’ís expected world peace to flower by the end of the 20th Century. Since then, many Bahá’ís have sought out alternative interpretations of their failed peace prophecy.

Mustaghath

Mustaghath, shortly before his occultation

I say “failed,” but I know something that most Bahá’ís don’t. Truth be told, at the close of the year 2001, on the very last day that fell within the Y2K window, a young prophet discovered his calling. Evidence of this portentous moment can be found with the help of the tool known to nostalgic Web surfers as the WayBack Machine:

Dec 02, 2001

This page doesn’t provide any actual information on the youthful prophet, but information would soon be forthcoming:

The hour is approaching when the most great convulsion will have appeared. I swear by Him Who is the Truth! It shall cause separation to afflict everyone, even those who circle around Me….

—Baha’ullah (Mar 29, 2002)

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Unitarian Baha’is?

Who are these “Unitarian Bahá’í” we’ve been hearing about?

If a theological unitarianism is meant, why use the term “Unitarian Bahá’í” at all? Have you ever met an avowed trinitarian Bahá’í?

bp is for Blessed Perfection

The mystical 18-pointed star ("bp" is for "Blessed Perfection")

If we are to take the term seriously, we ought to seek to understand its meaning in context. The term has come to be associated with the Behaists, an early 20th Century Bahá’í splinter group whose distinguishing doctrine was a rejection of the divinity, i.e. infallibility, of `Abdu’l-Bahá’, the leader of the Bahá’í religion at the time. The point, then, of using the term “unitarian” in this context, is to indicate a rejection of the divinity (infallibility) of any man. This makes sense, for the deification of any man is tantamount to polytheism.

The problem I’ve always had with the Behaists calling themselves Unitarians is that they never had a problem deifying Bahá’u’lláh himself.

Frankly, I happen to believe that most Bahá’ís are trinitarians, because their theology of Manifestation owes much to Christian theology. This is also true of those who call themselves “Unitarian Bahá’ís.”

The home page for the Unitarian Baha’i discussion group states:

The Unitarian Bahai faith is a movement of Bahaism that teaches that none of the successors of the prophet Baha’u’llah are infallible …

A true unitarian would not deify any man. A unitarian Bahá’í would be a Bahá’í who lives as a Bahá’í without any belief in the infallibility of Bahá’u’lláh.

I personally believe that a Bahá’í can be a unitarian. It’s not as if I don’t know of any true unitarians among the Bahá’ís, but I hesitate to single them out for fear of what might be done to them.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

The latest target of BIGS Legal

The latest target of BIGS Legal

I recently decided that I didn’t really want to say any more about the Rocky Mountain Bahá’ís, that is, the O’Bahá’ís (Orthodox Bahá’ís) of New Mexico and the BUPCees (Bahá’ís Under the Provisions of the Covenant) of Montana. It’s obvious that they’re irrelevant and seeing as I have taken the position that the Guardianship was a bad idea to begin with, I don’t really see the point of promoting their desperate causes.

Guardianship? For those not in the know, a Guardian is a sort of Bahá’í Imam or Ayatollah.

Anyhow, The BUPCees are just too kooky and fragmented, and the O’Bahá’ís—they’re just boring. What have they done for me lately?

But then I was reminded that these two pathetic minorities have recently been getting bullied in court by the dominant Bahá’í organization, henceforth referred to as the BIGS™ Corporation, or BIGS™ Inc.

Word on the street has it that the BIGS™ (Bahá’ís In Good Standing) have been diverting construction funds into litigation against those minuscule mountain communities, so I couldn’t help but take notice. And what are they suing the O’Bahá’ís and BUPCees for? Exclusive rights to Bahá’í terms such as “Bahá’í,” “UHJ,” and “The Greatest Name.”

“The Greatest Name”—now who wouldn’t want to corner that?

“The mainstream Baha’is have responded with a lawsuit that tries to bar the orthodox from calling themselves Baha’i and sharing the “The Greatest Name,” a sacred and trademarked symbol. Baha’is believe they are not only safeguarding their identity. They are defending the truth with a capital T.

“The Orthodox say that is not a matter for the courts to decide.”

—Chicago Tribune, May 18, 2009

At present, BIGS™ Inc is losing. They lost to the BUPCees in 2005 and then lost to the O’Bahá’ís in 2008. The latter case is being appealed. Stay tuned. The Chicago Tribune is on the case.

“… the Court finds that the alleged contemnors are not in contempt …”

Futurebus

How minority Bahá'í attorneys of the future will get to court.

I wonder how well paid the BIGS™ Inc legal team is. I wonder whether the BIGS™ Inc lawyers are themselves BIGS™ members. Then again, who cares?—I just hope they’re well paid. But I digress.

As for the mountaineers, can they even afford attorneys? I’m surprised that they can even afford airline tickets to Chicago. Then again, maybe they left the driving to Greyhound. Speaking of Greyhound, check this ride—but I digress further.

The Dread Jensens

Back around the close of the 1970s, my friend next door showed me a newspaper article that seemed to be about my father. It was about a Bahá’í chiropractor—a Dr. Jensen—who was making prophecies about a coming calamity. My father, Dr. John Jensen, is a Bahá’í chiropractor with a Bahá’í fondness for doomsday visions. Fortunately—or unfortunately, as the case may be—the Dr. Jensen featured in the article was out in Montana, a long way from my home in central California. It was some other Bahá’í chiropractor named Jensen.

The old Montana State Prison

The old Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana

This was quite a coincidence, of course. It’s not like there are many Scandinavian Bahá’ís like there are hoards of Scandinavian Mormons.

Actually, my father’s dad was one of those Scandinavian Mormons, but that’s another story.

One thing the Bahá’ís and Mormons do share, though, is a peppering of heretics across the Rocky Mountain states. Must be something about mountains that brings out the heretic in people.

This Dr. Leland Jensen of Missoula, Montana was well known among researchers for his string of failed prophecies. He was also known for being convicted for sexually molesting of a minor. It was while doing time in the big house that Jensen received his calling, as so oft it happens. Upon release, Jensen founded his own Bahá’í sect, and commenced to doing what prophets do.

My father was and is quite different. He is a principled man who would never entertain prophetic delusions or manipulate people as the Montana Jensen did.

But my father did—and does—share Leland Jensen’s apocalyptic view of the immediate future. He is a Bahá’í, after all. It’s in the scripture. A lot of bad things are going to have to happen for the world to be cleansed before the last century ends.

As a child in a Bahá’í household, I learned about a horrible calamity that would soon cleanse the world of its blind materialism and render it receptive to the light of faith in Bahá’u’lláh. We weren’t sure what exactly would happen but we knew it would necessarily be bad—something along the lines of Zechariah 13:

In the whole land, declares the LORD,
two-thirds will be struck down and perish;
yet one-third will be left in it.
This third I will bring into the fire;
I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold.

Two-thirds of the people of the world would perish, and many of the survivors might wish they had perished as well. It was a retributive promise laid over the real danger of the Cold War. It was easy for a child to internalize.

Noted skeptic Michael Shermer has also heard of Leland Jensen. Shermer discussed Jensen at length in his book How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science:

On a brisk April 29 morning in 1980, Dr. Leland Jensen, a chiropractor and leader of a small religious sect called the Baha’is Under the Provisions of the Covenant, led his devoted followers into fallout shelters in Missoula, Montana, to await the end of the world. Within the first hour, Jensen believed, a full third of the Earth’s population would be annihilated in a nuclear holocaust of fire and fallout. Over the course of the next twenty years most of the remaining population would be ravaged by conquest, war, famine, and pestilence. (page 192)

What I find interesting about this Leland Jensen episode, beside the curious parallels in my family, is the way that Jensen and his followers handled the failure of Jensen’s prophecies. It reminds me of the rationalizations offered by Bahá’ís in response to the failure of mainstream Bahá’í prophecies of peace and calamity in the 20th Century:

Psychologists who studied Leland Jensen and his Baha’i sect … discovered that when the end of the world came and went, they did not quietly disband and go home. Psychologist Leon Festinger applied his theory of cognitive dissonance to failed prophecy, and argued that the stronger one’s commitment to a failing cause, the greater the rationalizations to reduce the dissonance produced by the disappointment. Thus, paradoxically, after the 1980 debacle in the bomb shelters, not only did Jensen and his followers not abandon the cause, they ratcheted up the intensity of future predictions, making no less than 20 between 1979 and 1995! Jensen and his flock applied one or all of the following rationalizations:

  1. the prophecy was fulfilled—spiritually
  2. the prophecy was fulfilled physically, but not as expected
  3. miscalculation of the date
  4. the date was a loose prediction, not a specific prophecy
  5. God changed his mind in order to be merciful
  6. predictions were just a test of members’ faith.

How We Believe, page 202

Looks Aren’t Everything

Bahá'u'lláh in Edirne

Bahá’u’lláh in Edirne, Turkey

As a young Bahá’í on pilgrimage, I remember not being delighted by the photograph of Bahá’u’lláh that only pilgrims and janitors are permitted to see. Having grown up with charming images of `Abdu’l-Bahá, my expectations were high, and unfair to Bahá’u’lláh.

Portraits of `Abdu’l-Bahá are as common in Bahá’í households as crosses are in churches. “place the picture of `Abdu’l-Bahá in your home,” Bahá’ís are told (Lights of Guidance, page 520). They are instructed to post these portaits up high in prominent locations. This is done out of what they call “respect.” In spite of this idolatrous practice, Bahá’ís consider themselves special for not displaying portraits of Bahá’u’lláh.

I don’t intend to criticize Bahá’u’lláh for his lack of physical charm, but when I hear Bahá’ís wonder at the attractiveness of `Abdu’l-Bahá, I am moved to ask, “why do you place significance on such matters?”

Abbas Abbas Everywhere

Abbas Abbas Everywhere!

I can’t help but be skeptical regarding the motives behind the Bahá’í prohibition against portraits of Prophets. Given the Bahá’í affection for graven images, I’m inclined to wonder whether the prohibition would have ever been laid down had Bahá’u’lláh been better looking.

Bahá’ís are told not to keep photos of their Prophets because such photos could too easily become idols; believers would focus on the appearance of their prophet, and be distracted from his message. Yet, the anticipation of Bahá’ís to view the one Holy Image in the International Archives Building in Israel is only heightened by that prohibition of graven images, and Bahá’ís shudder at the prospect of seeing the image of Bahá where they ought not, as though the image itself has some kind of ominous power!