Jun 21, 2017

Question: What is easy familiarity? – from a talk by Peter Khan, 1984

[Transcribed from video tape at Hawaii Summer School 1984, from a question asked]

“The practice of indiscriminate kissing and embracing involving unrelated people of opposite sexes is not desirable, and discouraged. Particularly these days when restraints are being abolished one by one, the Baha'is should make efforts to uphold in their personal lives and in their relationships to one another the standards of conduct set forth in the teachings." (Shoghi Effendi, ‘Advent of Divine Justice’)

I want to comment on that, but before I do, I want to finish the letter from the Universal House of Justice. The House of Justice says: "...like most problems to do with human behavior, this is a matter more affected by education, general standards, and attitudes, than by hard and fast rules." We will pick that up again in another letter by the Universal House of Justice in a moment, but notice several things they are saying. It is better carried out by education, general standards and attitudes than by hard and fast rules. Let me call your attention to the fact that there is room for individual differences and individual interpretation. For example, one of the sentences referred to kissing and embracing. Let me call your attention to the words used, "indiscriminate kissing and embracing". What is indiscriminate kissing and embracing, involving unrelated people of the opposite sex? It is not desirable, and discouraged. Notice they don't say prohibited. My point rather than propounding one point of view is to indicate the need to look closely at the words used by the Guardian in deciding what one feels is right and wrong. Decide for yourself what is indiscriminate! Decide what it means for yourself, what it means about being not desirable, and discouraged. There is room for individual differences. Like I said, if I were to come into the room and kiss every female and touch every male would that be indiscriminate? If it were all people that I had been friendly with for years, would that still be indiscriminate?

I'm mentioning this because in my country, in living in Australia in years gone by, there was a view propounded that kissing in the Baha'i Faith was forbidden. This created a great deal of controversy and antagonism in the Baha'i community, many hot feelings were expressed, one by the other, and things became polarized. Eventually the whole thing was dampened down and we got some degree of rationality to the thing, by calling attention to the fact that these are the words of the Guardian and that you decide for yourself. If you think it mean prohibited, O.K. , lots of luck, you behave that way if you want but don't force others to behave in that way. If they want to come to that conclusion, fine, but it is important not to read too much or too little into the Writings, rather to see where the Writings go.