Some notes, essays and articles

‘Theocratic assumptions in Baha’i literature’

Published in S. Fazel and J. Danesh (eds) Reason and Revelation, Studies in Babi and Baha’i Religions vol. 13, Los Angeles, Kalimat Press, 2002. 35 pages in pdf, including an annotated bibliography in an appendix.

This essay presents scriptural support for the view that the institutional differentiation of the religious and political orders is a central Bahá’í doctrine, and looks for counter-arguments in one passage from the writings of Shoghi Effendi and one phrase interpolated into The Promulgation of Universal Peace. It then criticises the ‘dispensationalist’ form of argument that has been used to support theocratic theories.

Beyond this, it points to three challenges facing the Bahá’í community: the need to provide explicit scriptural foundations to support ideas presented as Bahá’í teachings; the need to clarify certain attitudes toward politics; and the need for moral self-examination.

‘Church and State: Forward and Introduction’

Church and State: A postmodern political theology, Studies in Babi and Baha’i Religions vol. 19, Los Angeles, Kalimat Press, 2005. 34 pages in this pdf.

This is presented on the web because a phrase on the first page of the Foreword has been misrepresented through selective quotation, and I would like readers to see what was actually said and judge for themselves what was intended.

‘A common language for postmodern political theologies’

Paper delivered at the Annual Conference of the Society for the Study of Theology,
3-6 April 2006, in Leeds, UK. 18 pages

This presentation shows that a particular reinterpretation of neo-platonic emanation theology, and an appropriation of the organic metaphor for society to refer to a harmony of distinct organs, can be used in the theologies of all the monotheist faiths, and can help believers to feel at home in the world as it is, and to see what the divine Will requires in this world. This means accepting the pluralism of normative orders. It asks religion to renounce any claim to have a unique dignity before God that is denied to politics or science. It implies limits to what a political theology can claim. And it puts the burden of coordinating the whole not in any one project, but on the mystery of the person, both human and divine.

‘Bahai meets Globalisation’

in Margit Warburg, Annika Hvithamar and Morten Warmind (eds), Baha’i and Globalisation, Aarhus University Press, Denmark, 2005.
This PDF is made from my last version which is not exactly the same as is in the book.

This paper will attempt to draw attention to the potential ‘fit’ and misfit between the dynamics of globalisation and the Baha’i Faith. The character of the Baha’i Faith itself is still being shaped, in a three-way dynamic involving the community’s scriptural resources, the traditions of practice it has built up over several generations, and the demands of a globalising society. No attempt will be made, therefore, to predict whether Baha’i will have a fruitful marriage with Globalisation, or a short infatuation broken up by underlying incompatibilities. A comparison of the key dynamics of globalisation and corresponding Baha’i scriptures and practice will, however, identify aspects of the relationship that will be most interesting to monitor.

Family Law in Iran

Family Law in Iran Published on this site.

Self-published essay. 89 pages in pdf.

Iranian law contains many features which are quite different to western law and to the forms of Islamic law employed in Sunni countries. However there is no adequate summary of Iranian family law published in English. Those available in French are out of date, suppose that the Civil Code will apply to the exclusion of Sharí`ah law, and focus narrowly on the position of women. The one outline available in German is intended for legal professionals and is based only on legislation, which is only one source of Iranian family law. Nasir, who claims to provide the first thorough English-language treatment of Shí`ah law actually deals in detail only with inheritance law, and outside this field he uses limited sources and makes errors as a result.
This survey is intended to provide a brief outline of contemporary Iranian family law, focussing on those aspects that are most likely to be relevant to readers outside Iran, for instance in dealing with migrants whose purported marriages or divorces were effected under Iranian law, or who might stand to inherit under Iranian law.

Text Criticism of Paris Talks

Appendix 3 from my 2005 dissertation Church and State: a postmodern political theology (book 1). PDF is 4 pages.

This is an exercise in textual criticism. It is a 4-page table comparing three versions of notes of a talk given by Abdu’l-Baha in Paris on November 17, 1911: the first being the Persian notes of what he said, the second the English notes published in Star of the West, and the third being the English version published in The Wisdom of Abdul Baha in 1924 and in later editions of Paris Talks. It shows remarkable differences between them. The conclusions from this comparison are given in Church and State pp 224-226.

‘Leaving something to be desired:
Geertz on religious development in Islam Observed’

Unpublished essay (2002), 6 pages.

Clifford Geertz’ Islam Observed: Religious Development in Morocco and Indonesia, has been enormously influential, not just in relation to the study of Moroccan and Indonesian religion, but also in thinking about ‘what religion is.’ This essay attempts to grapple with the terminological inexactness of Geertz’ approach, and his generalisations about religion, and to retrieve some sort of validity for his approach, while also criticising his application of it in the cases of Morocco and Indonesia.