As many of you know, I have come to a place where I've been seeking ways to create real-life community among liberal and alienated Baha'is, without falling into the schismatic trap of creating an alternative "Baha'i Faith" -- which I pretty much view as an unworkable dead-end. But what I'm seeing out there, as a product of natural evolution, are groups that are both strongly oriented towards the spiritual and mystical teachings of the Faith, that are inclusive in their approach, and local in their reach. All it really takes is for someone who wants such a group is to contact like-minded people, whatever their "official" Baha'i status, within driving distance and set up meetings.
And there are all kinds of people who would be interested in such an approach: Unenrolled Baha'is, inactive Baha'is, ex-Baha'is who are still inspired by the Writings of Baha'u'llah, non-Baha'is who investigated the Faith, but were dissuaded from signing a card by some of the more authoritarian aspects of the Faith. The fundamentalist strain in the community has left a lot of disappointed people in its wake -- it really is just a matter of finding them, which can be a daunting task, I'll admit, but it can be done.
In some ways, conditions within the Faith has made such a development inevitable. I cannot be expected to forever hang around the edges of a religious community that has made it abundantly clear that it doesn't want me, or people like me, within its ranks. It kicks people out that think like I do, declaring us unqualified to be on the rolls of the Baha'i Faith. So, what's a lover of Baha'u'llah to do? One thing that fundamentalists always do is underestimate the commitment and depth of feeling on the part of religious liberals -- that's true no matter what religion you're talking about. We are expected to just drift away, since after all, we are assumed not to really take religion seriously anyway.
And, you know, I don't think that the Baha'i administration will be all that much bothered by this development -- assuming that such groups do not recruit aggressively and don't have an excessive focus on the flaws of the mainstream. At least, such groups have gone pretty much unnoticed or have been ignored, so far. The fears that were around in the late 90s, that Baha'i liberals would be named as covenant-breakers and shunned by their fellows, has not materialized. It seems to regard the problem as solved by liberals either leaving voluntarily, or being deprived of membership. The administration appears to be virtually asking us to create our own kind of community, since it sees us as being unqualified to be among "real" Baha'is.
It just took a while, I think, for that message to really sink into our heads. We are Baha'is, after all, and we really do believe in unity. It has been hard for us to accept that what the administration means by that word, and what we always thought it meant, are as different as night and day.