I found this article quite interesting, as it dealt with one of my special interests (spirituality in SF). Years ago, I was a big fan of Seals & Croft, both Baha'i, until their music started getting overtaken with cant that I wasn't interested in hearing. Liking their music spurred me to learn more about the Baha'i faith, and this article hit all the valid points about it, imo. Thanks.
I reading it now and look forward. I've read SciFi for decades and been a Baha'i for almost as long. I've been researching Baha'i fiction writers for a time and had seen the adherents.com reference previously. For a while now I've been tracking down and reading a number of short stories and books by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff and in doing further research I tripped across this article and joined, since free, just to read the rest.
Well that was... weird. I feel a repeated effort to stay off task whether by issue of focus or facination with tangents bordering with misunderstanding. For me it is symbolized by the title - The Baha'i and Science Fiction. "The Baha'i" is a strange term to a Baha'i. One might say "The Baha'i Faith and Science Fiction" or "The Baha'is and Science Fiction". However Mr. Tidhar uses the term Baha'ism far more often in his article - so why not "Baha'ism and Science Fiction". As far as his title sounds to me he could as well have said "Baha'i and The Science Fiction." But at a limited level "The Baha'i and Science Fiction" is some understandable.
Mr. Tidhar says near the begining: "... Baha'i ideals...identify with the worldview of much pre-Cyberpunk science fiction.... the Baha'i faith is interesting in that its development, and as I will show later its identity, has evolved in parallel to the world of science fiction."
Herein the author notes parts of a view of the development of the world of science fiction - pre-Cyberpunk supposes at once pre-and at Cyberpunk as part of that history. His statement also destinguishes the Baha'i Faith from that Cyberpunk stage even as it notes somehow that the Baha'i Faith is in fact somehow developing in parallel to the forms of science fiction. That confused me even as I found some serious question of the validity of the goal which was snatched away even before it was really presented.
I don't know much about Mr. Rabbani's, (certainly a leading figure to understand of the Baha'i Faith), reading habits but I do agree his efforts were probably not informed by themes of science fiction. Mr. Tidhar goes on to review much of Mr. Rabbani's life, limited by this short article and generally other aims anyway. But in struggling to present the identity of the Baha'i Faith a tale is told I, as a Baha'i, barely recognise. Mr. Tidhar emphasizes connections or parallel thought with developments of Judaism, Israel or some Jews, some formulation of a life and philosophy named as Fordian, and an extended section on why one former Baha'i may or may not have had "problems" with the Baha'i Faith. As a Baha'i I can say that such themes are certainly not how I or any Baha'i I have spoken with (we love to trade our "declaration stories") came to the Baha'i Faith or our continued life within it. Indeed several volumes exist reviewing how various people became Baha'is or memorialize them and none of these things are mentioned. Instead of emphasizing Israel one must be rather taken up first and foremost with the history of Iran - a word used but once and then in a quote in Mr. Tidhar's article. Rather than a philosophy named for Henry Ford (which Mr. Tidhar later notes as emphasizing assimilation rather than diversity), Baha'is are asked to pursue "unity in diversity" and to review history, the present, and the future, as leading towards what every religion has promised it's adherents - that one day we would all be at peace with eachother - as well as various specifics about how we can get there. In sum it seems clear to me that Mr. Tidhar has continued to do what he mentions near the beginning: "a religion that I lived close to for many years without ever becoming aware of its nature."
However I looked forward to an analysis of the Baha'i Faith and science fiction. I was rewarded alittle with views of other religions and science fiction but largely left wanting again. Even the analysis of Baha'i authors of science fiction and fantasy or mentions of the Baha'i Faith in any work was cut short and entirely spent doing something else. Truely the work of non-Baha'i Tom Ligon did a better job of understanding the Baha'i Faith in his fictional works "The Devil and the Deep Black Void" and "The Gardener" of which he speaks here
Rather than hearing any review of the writings of Baha'i science fiction or fantasy authors (except to note that Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff may be of singular importance - with which I agree btw) or non-Baha'i authors mentioning the Baha'i Faith (of which I have given a better example above than anythinng Mr. Tidhar offered) we are treated to a variety of reasons the Baha'i Faith has not been mentioned much either way and this more or less flowing from the analysis of the adherents.com website's author(s) - whose website was not about reviewing those authors or their content for connections between the Baha'i Faith and science fiction anyway. There is some analysis I admit I find interesting in other interactions of science fiction and religion which the author specifically disconnects with the Baha'i Faith - "Baha'ism, in opposition to the examples given above, seems to take a positive and a non-millennialist approach to its world affairs." While I agree that the Baha'i Faith is a positive religion and therefore clearly disconnected from the doomsday and terrorist examples of interaction of religion and science fiction offered I cannot in good faith characterize the Baha'i Faith as non-millennialist. Again this at least speaks to the lack of understanding of Mr. Tidhar of the Baha'i Faith. It is not millenialist as one might expect from fundamentalist Christianity or Islam or Judaism but it is very caught up in the issues of, as Mr. Tidhar calls it, the cyclic history of Great Men which he unfortunately spends all his time speaking in terms of other religion and science fiction relationships rather than the title of his article "The Baha'i and Science Fiction". Baha'is refer to this idea as "Progressive Revelation" but by whatever name one calls it, it would have been a fruitful avenue to explore what Baha'is mean by "millenialist" rather than saying the Baha'i Faith is "non-millennialist."
Lastly, Mr. Tidhar embarks on a warning of the Baha'i Faith he has just noted most have not found threatening. "And yet, despite the lauded values of the movement, it is difficult to view its missionary efforts without some concern, just as the missionary efforts of the Catholic Church can be regarded as morally dubious.... This is enhanced by a particular episode relating to one of the handful of science fiction and fantasy writers of the Baha'i faith. " The missionary efforts of the Catholic Church I would suppose to refer to the colonialisation period and resulting problems of the Native Peoples of North and South America and Africa (though of the Middle and Far East to a lesser extent.) But then he doesn't speak at all about the missionary efforts of the Baha'is. The closest he comes is several paragraphs earlier when speaking of how the Baha'i Faith had grown much in third world countries to the point that the Baha'i Faith is now know "as 'the second most widely spread religion after Christianity' " (and uses a number for the population of the Baha'is more than a decade old - we are now probably twice the number he quotes.) At the very point where he appears to be raising an issue about how the Baha'i Faith is spread he says nothing of the kind. Instead he notes one teaching of the Baha'i Faith and calls it "Fordist morality". He may not like this teaching but what does it have to do with missionary work? A Baha'i hearing "missionary" ussually winces because it is a poor word to describe how Baha'is pack up and move to other parts of the globe. Specifically, missionary work is often sponsored and as soon as the sponsorship is over those people often move back home. Baha'is "pioneer" - they go of their own accord, finance their own path, and lay down roots that often last their lifetimes. As such they often merge much with the local culture and remark often about the lack of materialism which is so thick "in the States" as they say. And there they find people interested in the Baha'i Faith and convert sometimes in large numbers. What does this have to do with homosexuality and Baha'i teachings on the subject?!
Truthfully I was hoping for review of science fiction and fantasy subjects of Prophets (or Great Men perhaps) and how they compare with those of Baha'i teachings, or how a variety of teachings of the Baha'i Faith may be compared with those in science fiction or fantasy. For example Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoffs series "The Meri" has a large influx of Baha'i teachings and wrestling with issues of the equality of women and men. Surely it would provide ample material to discuss the relationship of the Baha'i Faith and Fantasy literature. Or Tom Ligon's work I mentioned above - it would have provided substance about which to have a interesting discussion of what the Baha'i Faith does or does not teach about wrestling with terrorists.
Even a discussion of how the Baha'i Faith has not had much mention might have been interesting if it had reviewed how other religions, some 160 years after their founding, were mentioend in the literature of their day. I believe for example there was a play in the 100's AD that portrayed Christians, albeit as fools or clowns if I recall correctly.
In fine, I hope Mr. Tidhar reads the literature of the Baha'i Faith itself rather than what others have to say of it primarily. I also hope readers here consider the source of something than rumors of it. Indeed large volumes of source material of the Baha'i Faith, our scripture, and large works on the history and teachings of the religion are available to casual searches on the internet. But if a link is needed, consider www.bahai.org.