Saturday, 24 November 2007

Crikey! Thanks Moojan

Yesterday, to my amazement, I found out that Moojan Momen had written an article called "Marginality and apostasy in the Baha’i community" and had it published in the prestigious academic journal "Religion". The citation is Religion 37 (2007) 187—209. The astonishing thing for me is that I am one of 12 people he discusses as being 'apostates'. Moojan says that we're all full of ressentiment. He doesn't name Michael McKenny or Sen McGlinn as apostates, despite their disenrollments, because they don't have any ressentiment.

"Some confusion has arisen out of different uses being made of the word ‘apostasy’. In the 1980s the word was used to apply to those who left a religion, particularly the religion of their birth.2 By the late 1990s, however, the word ‘leavetaker’ or ‘defector’ was being applied to anyone who simply left a religion. According to the sociologist David Bromley, the word ‘apostate’ now referred ‘not to ordinary religious leavetakers ... but to that subset of leavetakers who are involved in contested exits and affiliate with an oppositional coalition’ (Bromley, 1998b, p. 5). This narrower definition is the one used here.

This article is not the place to discuss at any length why people become apostates. But the findings of this article do fit well the description of ressentiment, a term that was taken from Nietzsche and was developed by the German social philosopher Max Scheler (1874—1928). Although Scheler’s work has been criticised for elitism and excessive nationalism, his insights into human motivation and particularly into ressentiment remain penetrating and perceptive. In his introduction to Scheler’s Ressentiment, the sociologist Lewis A. Coser has summarised Scheler’s concept of ressentiment thus: ‘Ressentiment denotes an attitude which arises from a cumulative repression of feelings of hatred, revenge, envy and the like.... Ressentiment leads to a tendency to degrade, to “reduce” genuine values as well as their bearers. As distinct from rebellion, ressentiment does not lead to an affirmation of counter-values since ressentiment-imbued persons secretly crave the values they publicly denounce’ (Coser, Introduction to Scheler, 1961, pp. 23—4). Applying the phenomenon of ressentiment to the apostate, Scheler writes:

"An ‘apostate’ is not a man who once in his life radically changes his deepest religious, political, legal, or philosophical convictions—even when this change is not continuous, but involves a sudden rupture. Even after his conversion, the true ‘apostate’ is not primarily committed to the positive contents of his new belief and to the realization of its aims. He is motivated by the struggle against the old belief and lives only for its negation. The apostate does not affirm his new convictions for their own sake, he is engaged in a continuous chain of acts of revenge against his own spiritual past. In reality he remains a captive of this past, and the new faith is merely a handy frame of reference for negating and rejecting the old. As a religious type, the apostate is therefore at the opposite pole from the ‘resurrected,’ whose life is transformed by a new faith which is full of intrinsic meaning and value." (Scheler, 1961, pp. 66—7; see alternative translation in Coser, 1954, p. 250)

I just want to thank Moojan very much for featuring me in his article. This has meant that my name and websites have been featured in that prestigious journal and are now getting untold publicity. I guess real thanks go to Baha'u'llah, but Moojan has faithfully played his part.

Gee, I am overwhelmed. I never imagined I'd ever get mentioned in an academic journal. If my detractors only knew! I'm a nobody and yet the House with its disenrollment and now Moojan with this article - they keep on making me famous.

It puts real pressure on a girl to keep her websites up to standard! I've been so busy at work these past two months, I have neglected them, including this blog. But things have settled down work-wise now, and thank the Lord for that, because I've got real work to do on my sites for the readers of Religion.

Also, I'm overwhelmed by the bounty Baha'u'llah sends me. He says that when people are mean to you and say untrue things about you for his sake, then we should be grateful to him. Tribulation is a horizon unto My Revelation, he says. And believe me, it's true. I've never been so happy and known such joy since my disenrollment and since my reputation for being bad was promulgated by the House of Justice. If people really knew, they'd rush to be in my place.

So all I can say to Moojan is "Thanks!" Keep those rocks coming. I can't believe you bothered to spend all those hours writing an article about how bad I am, for my sake! It's a win-win. You get to do an act that you believe will send you to paradise and I get to be the recipient of one that already has.

"Come nearer, nearer! How much (more) of this highway robbery? Since you are me (and) I am you, how much (more of this) being you and being me?

We are the Light of God and a Lamp. How much (more of this) quarreling with ourself? Because of what (is) light such as this fleeing from light?

We are all one complete being, (so) because of what (is) double- vision such as this? Why do the rich look at poor people as contemptible?

Why does the right (hand) look at its own left (hand) as contemptible? Since both are (part of) you, what (is "fortunate" about) right, what is "contemptible" (about left)?

We are entirely one essence, one intellect and one head. Yet we have become double-seeing because of this bent sky."

Rumi: Rise Up From Me-ness and Mix With All
Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard

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