Cultivating a Bahá'i Response to Homosexuality
By Joseph Housseal
Presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #4 (English)
November 4-6, 1994.
Presented Saturday, evening
This presentation addresses in a simple, almost outline form, some fundamental considerations regarding the issue of homosexuality within the context of its prohibition by Baháíu'lláh, Hence the approach of this talk focuses on a response to homosexually-inclined souls investigating the Bahá'í Faith.
Considerations addressed include:
1. The importance and conveyed meaning of language and tone; an appreciation for the language and tone of Bahá'í Writings.
2. Over-reacting to, fearing, and resisting homosexuality empowers it. Bahá'ís can offer a loving unity so embracing as to tolerate, enlighten and transform individuals. Sex is isolated and overemphasized in current culture. Baháíí teachings on the nature and role of sex must be seen in a comprehensive context.
Furthermore, if, as much of clinical evidence suggests, the cause of much modem homosexuality is a developmental obstruction brought on by a lack of adult affirmation, then the response of the Baháíí Faith must be: "Here is where you will find your affirmation" and not "You are not affirmed."
3. Philological difficulties with Shoghi Effendi's interpretation of the word "boys" which clearly implies pederasty.
Consideration is given to some historical aspects of homosexual behavior. Most notably, the practice of exclusive adult homosexuality-and its corollary of sexual preference as ' personal identity-is a modem phenomenon, no more than forty years old. The politicization of exclusive homosexuality is also modem.
Hence, arguments about the historical validity of homosexuality are undercut by the various natures of homosexual expression throughout history, none of which advocated a rejection of heterosexual love, but rather, were usually part of a process designed to assist a youth in assuming his mature role as a father and husband.
4. A close examination of Bahá'u'lláhís words that He "shrinks from shame" - the spiritual and communicative implication of this.
5. Reference to Shoghi Effendi's writings regarding the benefits of a consciousness of humanity as a whole; the abolition of insularities of all kinds; and the unfettered search for truth.
6. Primacy of the spiritual attraction to Bahá'u'lláh; a brief discussion of the relation of recognizing Baháíuílláh, obeying His ordinances and receiving the Fruits of exercised Faith; an evaluation of the relative benefits of various kinds of behavior in terms of true liberty and maximizing individual potential.
7. Invitation to the homosexually-inclined person to make unbiased inquiry into the subject in terms of:
a) historical, sociological and aesthetic fact
b) the relation of self-control and spiritual growth
c) the nature and characteristics of habitual behavior
d) The spiritual and organic reality of male & female
e) a delineated inquiry into personal potential.
8. Many who have had or do experience homosexual activity, currently and historically, do not perceive it as a problem; are not necessarily addicted or bound to it; and can put it behind them without great anguish.
9. Advocation to cease use of any material on the issue of homosexuality which re-states Bahá'u'lláhís teachings in inflammatory, defensive, judgmental or aggressive ways; to emphasize unfettered inquiry; and to encourage latent spiritual attraction with such confidence that it is further amplified, increasing the possibility that the homosexually-inclined soul will come to value Bahá'u'lláhís teachings in a comprehensive and faith-enhancing way.
10. Conclusions. Homosexuals can and do change. It seems that the reason Bahá'u'lláh, as other Manifestations, does not directly address the issue is because it is a symptom, not a cause, of deep problems. Homosexual expression reflects the values of the society in which it exists. Hence it is not implausible to expect a radical decrease in homosexuality in the future with the cultivation of knowledge in education and the relations between men and women. The elimination of institutionalized homosexuality coupled with the maturity of heterosexual relations should produce a hitherto unprecedented depth of male intimacy unhindered by the communicative ineptitude of homosexual expression.
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