Recently three of my friends resigned from the Faith within a short period of time, all long-term, deepened, dedicated, pioneers. Their resignations hit me hard and even scared me! If it happened to them, maybe it could happen to me too!
All of a sudden I understood why Rúhíyyih Khanum always wanted people to pray for her steadfastness – any of us can lose it so quickly!
He should forgive the sinful, and never despise his low estate, for none knoweth what his own end shall be. How often hath a sinner attained, at the hour of death, to the essence of faith, and, quaffing the immortal draught, hath taken his flight unto the Concourse on high! And how often hath a devout believer, at the hour of his soul’s ascension, been so changed as to fall into the nethermost fire! (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 265)
As I always do whenever I don’t understand something, I turn to the Writings to find the answers – in this case – why do people resign? Let’s take a look at what I discovered!
Some have been the victims of backbiting – which is the leading cause of withdrawal:
If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections From The Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 230-231)
Some were not educated and deepened after they declared:
It is not enough to bring people into the Faith, one must educate them and deepen their love for it and their knowledge of its teachings, after they declare themselves. As the Bahá’ís are few in number, especially the active teachers, and there is a great deal of work to be done, the education of these new believers is often sadly neglected, and then results are seen such as the resignations you have had recently. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 567)
Some needed more help and comradeship than they received:
If some of these isolated and inactive people gradually turn to other work than the Cause we should not always blame them — they probably needed more help, more stimulating more teaching and Bahá’í comradeship that they received. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 84)
Some ceased to go on developing; became complacent, or indifferent, and stopped drawing spiritual strength and vitality from the Cause:
Many of those who drift away from the Cause do so for the reason that they had ceased to go on developing. They became complacent, or indifferent, and consequently ceased to draw the spiritual strength and vitality from the Cause which they should have. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)
Some people fail to meet their tests – often which come from each other:
Sometimes, of course, people fail because of a test they just do not meet, and often our severest tests come from each other. Certainly the believers should try to avert such things, and if they happen, remedy them through love. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)
Some withdraw to relieve tension and alleviate feelings of enmity that have arisen:
Embarking on an action reminiscent of His solitary retirement to the mountains of Kurdistan when the unfaithful were shamefully destroying the Cause of God, Bahá’u’lláh, who at this time was residing in the house of Amru’llah, withdrew with His family to the nearby house of Rida Big which was rented by His order, and refused to associate with anybody. This was on 10 March 1866. The reason for this withdrawal, which fortunately was of short duration, was similar to that which had motivated Him to retire to Kurdistan a decade earlier: namely, to relieve the tension and alleviate the feelings of enmity which during the course of years had been engendered in the hearts of some by Mírzá Yahyá and were fanned into flame by his latest actions. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 120)
Some have busied themselves with the things of this world:
Grieve thou not over those that have busied themselves with the things of this world, and have forgotten the remembrance of God, the Most Great. By Him Who is the Eternal Truth! The day is approaching when the wrathful anger of the Almighty will have taken hold of them. He, verily, is the Omnipotent, the All-Subduing, the Most Powerful. He shall cleanse the earth from the defilement of their corruption, and shall give it for an heritage unto such of His servants as are nigh unto Him. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 207)
Some have lost their vision of the Cause, or never had a proper grasp of its implications before entering it:
Just because some people have lost their vision of the Cause, or never had a proper grasp of its implications before entering it, and leave the fold, should not cause undue discouragement. There are bound to be such cases, and although every moral support should be given them, if they still wish to withdraw, they fall off — as you said — like withered leaves from the Tree of the Faith, and do it no real harm. (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 448)
Some allows their own ideals and purposes to retain their pre-eminence and leave when they find they cannot pursue them as they wish:
It is not unusual for people to be drawn to the Faith because they see in it the fulfilment of the ideals which are dear to their hearts. But, if a soul truly recognizes Bahá’u’lláh, and his understanding of the teachings deepens, he will gradually see how his own ideals are but facets in the all-embracing Purpose of God, and will be willing to endure all manner of suffering and frustration for the sake of the fulfilment of that divine Purpose. If, however, the believer allows his own ideals and purposes to retain their pre-eminence in his thinking, and he finds he cannot pursue them as he wishes, it may result in his leaving the Faith to pursue them in other ways. This is what would seem to have happened to the friends you speak of. (The Universal House of Justice, 1989 Jun 21, ‘Dialogue’, ‘A Modest Proposal’ etc)
Some find the bitterness of discord sweet:
In a similar way, thou beholdest some women who have abandoned the Testament, and to them the bitterness of discord is sweet. They keep aloof from the Extended Shadow and dwell under the shade of a “black smoke.” Alas for them and grief for them! They will surely lament and find themselves in loss. Verily, this is but an evident truth! (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 130)
Some resign so they can break a law with impunity:
A believer cannot escape administrative expulsion by the ruse of resigning from the Faith in order to break its law with impunity. However, the Assembly should be satisfied that there was indeed such an ulterior motive behind the withdrawal. A believer’s record of inactivity and his general attitude to the Faith may well lead the Assembly to conclude that his withdrawal was bona fide . . . and in such a case the withdrawal may be accepted. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)
Or worse, some have dissimulated their faith so they can break a law:
To deny that one is a Bahá’í while one still believes in Bahá’u’lláh is not withdrawal, it is dissimulation of one’s faith, and Bahá’í laws does not countenance the dissimulation of a believer’s faith for the purpose of breaking the law. “If a believer who did not like a particular law were to be permitted to leave the community to break the law, and then rejoin with impunity, this would make a mockery of the Law of God… It is abundantly clear from his letters that he has continually believed in Bahá’u’lláh, that he know the law that marriage is conditioned on the consent of parents, that he dissimulated his faith in order to be able to break this law with impunity. He must, therefore, be regarded as a Bahá’í without administrative rights… (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 57-58)
How do we treat those who have resigned?
We associate with them in joy and fragrance:
In general, however, a person who has withdrawn from the Faith is regarded as being among the generality of humankind with whom the Bahá’ís are enjoined to associate “in joy and fragrance”. (Universal House of Justice, Withdrawal from the Faith, 4 April 2001)
Assemblies dealing with this issue do not to take any overt action other than noting the matter in its records; being cautious about accepting a subsequent declaration until satisfied it has been made in good faith; and that they have taken steps to rectify the action taken in violation of Bahá’í law, which led to their resignation:
Sometimes, after a person’s withdrawal from the Cause has been accepted, it becomes evident that his statements were insincere and were made merely in order to evade Bahá’í law. The Assembly need not take any overt action in such a case, but would note the matter in its records. In other words, it would have to be cautious about accepting a subsequent declaration of belief from this individual until satisfied that it is made in good faith. Also, depending upon the circumstances, the Assembly might require him to rectify the action, taken in violation of Bahá’í law, which was the motive for his withdrawing from the Faith. (Universal House of Justice, Withdrawal from the Faith, 4 April 2001)
Is there anything we can do to prevent it?
From the above quotes, we see the following:
- Stop backbiting!
- Educate new believers and deepen their love for the Faith and their knowledge of its teachings
- Give them more help, more stimulation, more teaching and Bahá’í comradeship
- Avert problems, and if they happen, remedy them through love
- Find ways to relieve tension and alleviate feelings of enmity
- Give them moral support
- Don’t blame them
- Fan their faith in Bahá’u’lláh into flame
- Don’t grieve or feel undue discouragement over those that have busied themselves with the things of this world
- Understand that their resignations will do no real harm to the Faith
What are your thoughts on those who resign? Post your comments below!