The Covenant Study Website that I discussed yesterday has a new post on criticism at:
I just went over the quotes from the Guardian and the House included here, and basically what a Baha'i has to do us be her own lawyer. We can offer criticisms, but only in such a way that they will not bring about disunity or negative views of the institutions. That means being very guarded, in view that some are more sensitive than others. The feast is the main forum for positive criticism, but the larger the group is, the more likely it is that more unprepared souls will be there who will take it the wrong way. I have observed that when there is a high level of love, trust and goodwill between friends, the friend can offer frank feedback that would be insulting from anybody else. That is why the Master advises us not "take offense" and Baha'u'llah admonishes us to see one another as family members. In a united family you can be very outspoken without danger of ill feeling. So there is a formula, the higher the love, the sharper the knives of criticism can be plunged into the heart of the situation without pain.
My favorite part from this selection is this, from the UHJ:
"The responsibility resting on the individual to conduct himself in such a way as to ensure the stability of society takes on elemental importance in this context. For vital as it is to the progress of society, criticism is a two-edged sword: it is all too often the harbinger of conflict and contention. The balanced processes of the Administrative Order are meant to prevent this essential activity from degenerating to any form of dissent that breeds opposition and its dreadful schismatic consequences. How incalculable have been the negative results of ill-directed criticism: in the catastrophic divergences it has created in religion, in the equally contentious factions it has spawned in political systems, which have dignified conflict by institutionalizing such concepts as the “loyal opposition” which attach to one or another of the various categories of political opinion — conservative, liberal, progressive, reactionary, and so forth.
"If Bahá’í individuals deliberately ignore the principles imbedded in the Order which Bahá’u’lláh Himself has established to remedy divisiveness in the human family, the Cause for which so much has been sacrificed will surely be set back in its mission to rescue world society from complete disintegration. May not the existence of the Covenant be invoked again and again, so that such repetition may preserve the needed perspective? For, in this age, the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh has been protected against the baneful effects of the misuse of the process of criticism; this has been done by the institution of the Covenant and by the provision of a universal administrative system which incorporates within itself the mechanisms for drawing out the constructive ideas of individuals and using them for the benefit of the entire system. Admonishing the people to uphold the unifying purpose of the Cause, Bahá’u’lláh, in the Book of His Covenant, addresses these poignant words to them: “Let not the means of order be made the cause of confusion and the instrument of union an occasion for discord.” Such assertions emphasize a crucial point; it is this: In terms of the Covenant, dissidence is a moral and intellectual contradiction of the main objective animating the Bahá’í community, namely, the establishment of the unity of mankind." (Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms, paragraph 31-36)