I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile, but have been too afraid. This questionnaire about divorce in the Baha’i community pushed me over the edge and helped me to decide to share my story. For me, I have a very personal and deep relationship with the Baha’i Faith and divorce.
I am at least a fourth generation Baha’i on both sides of my family (which is pretty rare). In fact, on my father’s side it goes back all the way to Baha’u’llah himself. My great great… grandfather was the personal physician to Him. So this story and the decisions I made after it were very difficult for me as I have some deeply ingrained beliefs from the faith that I still hold to this day.
The divorce between my parents was absolutely awful, and I believe was worsened by the Year of Patience and by my local LSA’s attempt to handle it. In the Faith couples who want to divorce are asked to go through a Year of Patience and counseling by your local LSA on a continuing basis. My father is a very sick and mentally ill person who sexually molested and attacked our entire family including myself, my brother, and my mother. He was born and raised in Iran, and comes from a very famous lineage of Persian Baha’i’s. In fact, as far as I know he continues to be employed by the Faith at one of the Baha’i institutions (I’m not going to name which one for his sake.. even though I don’t believe he deserves the cloak of secrecy). He was incredibly devout and still is. He used to tell me that God talked to him and that God told him what I was doing at all times and used this concept to control his entire family.
So when my mom finally built up the strength and courage to leave him (which was only brought up by our non-Baha’i friends), she had to go through the Year of Patience and counseling by the LSA. Essentially this led to my mother having to stay in regular contact with an incredibly abusive and scary man, and the entire session when the LSA was trying to figure out why my mother was leaving him, she refused to divulge the real reason because of my father’s death threats towards herself and us children if she told anyone. And because the entire LSA loved my father for his lineage and for his devoutness to the Faith, the scene that was painted was that my mom was some kind of irreconcilable bitch who just wanted a divorce and my father was heartbroken when in reality he was/is an absolute psycho. My mother knew that even if she told them what was really going on, they just wouldn’t believe her. And based on my interactions with other Baha’i’s who still interact with him, this love for him continues. It makes me sick to my stomach.
I know this isn’t the average for the normal Baha’i family, but I believe that having to go week after week, month after month to be berated by her local LSA for not “wanting to work it out” and my father sitting there so smugly watching the scene unfold was what eventually wore her down to leave the Faith. And yes I know counseling by the LSA is voluntary, but not when your husband threatens you with violence if you don’t comply. He was punishing her for leaving by making her sit through that unimaginable hell.
I mean there were times with the LSA would leave our house, my mother would leave the house sobbing in tears, and an hour later my dad would be banging a prostitute in our shower while me and my brother were home. He is just so… sick, crazy, whatever you want to call it. And he is currently “serving the Faith” and everyone loves him and raves about how great and devout he is. And no, he’s not trying to change. He’s using the Faith to manipulate others and make them feel small. As my brother struggles through drug addictions and multiple arrests, my father sits back and does nothing except to say “I will pray for him.”
And I am so mad. I don’t believe marriage is a club. It involves the two people who made the vows and that’s it. It doesn’t involve a highly skewed assembly of nine looking down their noses at the initiator and shaming them into staying together. It should involve a TRAINED PROFESSIONAL counselor and no judgement from anyone.
So as you can see, I am very jaded and do not currently identify myself as a Baha’i in good standing. I have never signed “my card,” but I do miss some beautiful aspects of the faith. Other parts still make me sick to think about. My father has ruined my faith for me, and I really don’t think I can ever come back officially. But I still read from the prayer books and occasionally look to the texts for guidance. I still have prayers memorized that I use. But I feel so angry that my father ripped my faith from me.
Coming to terms with my abuse and subsequent parts of my life have really defined me and helped me to become the person I am today. I cannot return to the Faith while keeping the identity of my father cloaked. And I do know he is now somewhat significant to about half of the country as far as his name is concerned. I’m actually concerned I may have already said too much to identify him.
But if anyone out there has any words of encouragement, advice, anything, it would be greatly appreciated. I am not trying to smear the Faith. I love most parts of it, and still believe in God and still try to bring myself closer to him everyday. But I feel pushed out and spiritually isolated.
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