Letter to the Editor of Religion, submitted December 9, 2007
In Moojan Momen’s article “Marginality and Apostasy in the Baha’i Community,” I was mentioned as one of twelve former Baha’is “identified as apostates,” who have launched “a prolonged campaign against the Baha’i community.” Momen claims that all twelve of us “share an obsessive hatred of their former religious community… a form of envious rage,” and are “engaged in a continuous chain of acts of revenge” against the Baha’i Faith.
In my case, nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that I maintain a website at www.bahai-faith.com in which I tell about my experiences in the Baha’i Faith and critique the religion from the standpoint of my new faith commitment, Christianity. But none of the contents of that website, or anything else I have written about Baha’is or Baha’ism, are hateful, envious, or vengeful.
In fact, as I wrote in the opening paragraph of the Bahai-Faith.com site: “First of all, let me say that I love the Baha’is as I love everyone in the true Christian spirit, and that most Baha’is I have known are nice and well-meaning people…. The purpose of this website is to explain why I left the Baha’i Faith after joining it and promoting it with much enthusiasm, and to encourage people to question the claims of the Baha’i religion and think critically about it for themselves.” My interest has always been simply to provide information to people about my perceptions of the Baha’i religion and its organization, in the hope that they will think very carefully before joining, and will consider alternatives such as the liberal Christian and Universalist beliefs I hold now.
Another offensive inaccuracy in Momen’s article is his claim, quoting Max Scheler, that an “apostate” such as myself “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.” On the contrary, in my case I spend most of my time actively working to further my new beliefs, Christian Universalism, and very little time thinking, speaking, or writing about the fact that I am an ex-Baha’i. Since leaving the Baha’i Faith, I have become an ordained minister, have written a book about my interpretation of Christianity, and have worked with 12 other ministers and religious authors to start an ecumenical non-profit organization, the Christian Universalist Association.
And this brings me to what is perhaps the most embarrassing inaccuracy in Momen’s piece, which calls into question his qualifications to be published in an academic journal of religion. In his paragraph about me, Momen asserts that Christian Universalism itself is my “own sect” that I founded. In fact, Christian Universalism is a widespread and growing belief held by numerous people who come from several major denominations, such as the United Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America, the Society of Friends, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and even some independent Pentecostals and evangelicals. This view of Christianity predates me and, in fact, predates the Baha’i Faith by well over a thousand years: its earliest notable proponents were Origen and Saint Clement of Alexandria, both of whom lived in the second and third centuries. In modern times, the Universalist Church of America (a historic Christian Universalist church which became the ninth largest denomination in the U.S. at its peak) was founded by John Murray, Hosea Ballou, and other prominent ministers in the early 1800s.
In short, Moojan Momen’s article is a poorly researched attempt to lump all well-known ex-Baha’is together and tar them with one broad brush, using the stereotypical slander that we are all full of hate and an obsessive spirit of revenge against our former religion. While that may be true of a couple of critically outspoken individuals, the evidence shows that in my case it is completely false and an offensive, unscholarly allegation.
Rev. Eric Stetson
The Christian Universalist Association
Responses to Moojan Momen's article
Bahai-Faith.com -- Beyond the Baha'i Faith: An Ex-Baha'i Perspective
Bahai-Faith.com founded November 2002. This page last updated November 11, 2008.