Find Communities in Australia

Join activities, celebrations, study groups, spiritual empowerment and education programs for young people, and more.

Learn about the Baha’i Faith

Baha’i beliefs address essential spiritual themes for humanity’s collective and individual advancement. Learn more about these and more.


6 Reasons to Steer Clear of Partisan Politics

September 10, 2012, in Articles > Baha'i Life, by

In the United States, the conclusion of the summer Olympics also means we’re fast approaching another presidential election. In fact, the way various elections are staggered, we’re never more than a few months away from an election of some kind. Perhaps in your country, you too are blessed to have the freedom to elect your governmental leaders. It’s a precious and hard-won human right that the whole world is destined to exercise.

Democracy is a core value of Baha’i life. The way in which we govern our own affairs is deeply democratic. We elect our leaders from the bottom of the administrative order to the very top. But we do it all without campaigning. We don’t put our own names or those of others up for election, and likewise we don’t engage in negative self-campaigning to remove ourselves from consideration. Baha’is simply and prayerfully vote for a slate of people they believe will best serve the community, and, in the case of Spiritual Assemblies, the nine top vote-getters are elected.

When it comes to civic life, we vote in governmental elections; however we are not to campaign, and a concern for unity would dictate that we not even discuss our preference with others.

This non-involvement in partisan politics is a new concept to most who encounter it. In my own culture, not only is it new but it runs afoul of longstanding social norms that hold political involvement as a virtue, not a vice. Standing up for this or that political initiative, full-throated support of your candidate, yard signs, bumper stickers, going door-to-door, participating in rallies or protests, posting your politics on Facebook – all of these are expected, and Baha’is are often conspicuous in their absence from these activities, having to gently decline to put a sign in our yard for our neighbor running for the school board or to donate money to a campaign or explaining why we’re not going to the polls to vote in primary (party) elections.

In the Baha’i Faith, prohibition of a given thing is sufficient reason to abstain from it, but I have found that contemplating the wisdom and real-world consequences of the Teachings has been a boon to my own faith. In thinking about this topic, I’ve identified six distinct reasons to abstain from partisan politics, over and above the fact that we’re required to.

1. Interpersonal Unity

Perhaps the best reason is simply to avoid hurting feelings and alienating others. When people understand that the whole point of the Baha’i Faith is the unification of humanity, they usually get fairly quickly the problem with partisan politics, which, by its very nature divides people and sets one side in a perpetual battle against the other. This state of perpetual conflict is not only true for the elected but runs all the way down to those who simply hold an opinion. Discussing political opinions with friends can be an amusing parlor game, but more often it results in discomfort between friends and family members and is a source of irritation. I’ve even known friends who have ceased to be such when they discovered each other’s political preferences. This is doubly tragic when we consider how seldom if ever such mutual irritation changes anything.

I recently saw and reposted an amusing but profound graphic on Facebook that read: “Your constant political posts on Facebook have finally turned me to your way of thinking. Said nobody. Ever.” At least half of my friends who “Liked” the post were guilty of the charge. Apparently, they only read opposing views as “politics,” while their own jabs and public political alignments are merely expressions of common sense or humor.

Having identified how partisan politics undermines the spirit of unity, I’ll move quickly through the remaining five reasons:

2. Protecting Oppressed Believers

Having a ban on partisan politics as part of the doctrine of the Faith helps to insulate Baha’is from charges of sedition in countries that lack freedom of political expression. “Revolutionaries? It says right here in our scripture we’re not even allowed to be partisans.”

3. The Baha’i Faith doesn’t fit on the traditional political ‘spectrum’

Members of the Faith cannot identify with a party because the teachings of the Faith will not conform to any party platform. Moreover, we can’t really even identify with a lower-case political ideology like “liberal” or “conservative,” because ideology itself breaks down in the solution of the Faith’s teachings. We reject the liberal-conservative spectrum in favor of a list of principles that refuses to be plotted easily on a typical spectrum. To use just two examples, reducing the extremes of wealth and poverty might be a sentiment in harmony with the political left, while the emphasizing the importance of work is a sentiment dear to the right.  Progressive income tax, left. Capital punishment, right. And so on. (We can say, however, the Faith eschews both political extremes in explicitly rejecting communism and libertarianism.)

4. Politics as currently practiced is inherently unspiritual

Living through just a few political cycles as a Baha’i sensitizes one to how inherently unspiritual politics is as practiced today. Candidates are bound by tradition to engage in self-aggrandizement and the telling half-truths and lies about opponents to paint them in the worst possible light.

And if it were a spiritual practice, why does it seem politics appeals to ever more superficial qualities like good looks, smooth presentation skills, and fear.

5. Partisan politics appeals to zero-sum mentality

The exercise of politics after winning usually involves competition for resources based on geographic territory instead of the best interest of the whole polity.

6. Partisan campaigning wastes massive amounts of resources and energy

Finally, consider the resources – both energy and money – expended on defeating an opponent and defending one’s own side, both during and after campaigns. What could such human and monetary resources be used to achieve if they weren’t flushed down the toilet of history by political gamesmanship?

Abdu’l-Baha said, “Speak thou no word of politics; thy task concerneth the life of the soul, for this verily leadeth to man’s joy in the world of God. Except to speak well of them, make thou no mention of the earth’s kings, and the worldly governments thereof. Rather, confine thine utterance to spreading the blissful tidings of the Kingdom of God, and demonstrating the influence of the Word of God, and the holiness of the Cause of God.”

No word of politics? Or of worldly governments? That’s a tall order! But if you try it, you’ll find it’s a commandment that will bless your life in the exact degree that ignoring it has vexed all of ours.

Posted by


Avrel Seale lives in Austin, Texas, U.S.A., where he writes and speaks frequently on the Baha'i Faith. He's the author of seven books and the blog The Trailhead.

Discussion 11 Comments

Yes a tall task to keep out of the Political Debate that’s for sure. In the current political climate it is always a hot topic within the workplace. It can be difficult to express a view without being mistaken to have taken a political side on the topic.

Regards Tony

Tony Bristow-Stagg

Tony Bristow-Stagg (September 9, 2012 at 8:50 AM)

Good thoughts Avrel.
I am appauled that politicians seek election on the basis of their political stance on issues – “Vote for me and I’ll [fill in your self-interest issue here]…” thus when approaching an election (in Australia voting is compulsory), I always seek out an opportunity to meet the candidates to see whether they will put their partisan interests and careers ahead of doing what should be the right thing. Of course knowing what is the right thing is always a difficult for someone like myself who may not be at the coal-face of the issue, so I have to rely as best I can on the exemplified integrity of the candidates, and in this there is some measure of parity with the Baha’i perspective.

Interestingly the more recent Ridvan message of the Universal House of Justice calls on local spritual assemblis to adopt a less hands-on and more reviewal role in the administration, stepping back perhaps to assay the activities of the community against the spiritual standards and emerging direction of the community. For this reason, though notwithstanding Shoghi Effendi’s guidance on qualifications for service, the seeming shortcomings of having to vote members onto an administrative system on a simple majority from amongst people who you may not know evaporate because the selection is made not on the basis of technical ability, although that plays a role, but on the integrity and character of the persons you seek to identify to fill this role.

I find it hard to imagine a simple devolution away from the self-interests of political hegemony, notably the industrial lobbying that takes place, towards a more transparent and openly democratic system (assuming that is what will emerge), without some seriously intense events that will catalyse what would be a radical transformation in the political and social landscape.

Whoever the President or Prime Minister is, he or she will need our prayers so they can, like we should “Be anxiously concerned for the needs and exigencies of the age in which (we) live”.

Charles Boyle

Charles Boyle (September 9, 2012 at 10:32 AM)

Thank you dear Avrel for your most timely blog on Baha’is staying outside of partisan politics! Your reasons stated are so clear and yes, it is indeed a tall order to comply with. Over the past 4 years, I have really struggled with (and lost at times) this principle given to us by Baha’u’llah and further explained to us by ‘Abdul’Baha but I now understand and see so vividly the wisdom behind it. The political atmosphere leading up to the elections in November and also the emity and discord I have seen and heard and still see and hear among citizens the past few years have profoundly affected me with the resulting disunity and division it has caused. Your number 1 reason cited (interpersonal unity) is especially dear to me because if we are to be the example of Baha’u’llah’s teachings, exhibiting thru our words and deeds the essence of His teachings on unity, then we must strive to place our focus on doing all we can to follow His teachings. I think if we could focus more of our energies on working the Teaching plan given to us by our Universal House of Justice to develop, serve and uplift our communities, to bring about harmony and unity, thru devotionals, educating our children and junior youth, enlightening and supporting each other and our neighbors and friends thru study circles, and just overall being of service to each other, where needed, then we wouldn’t have the time or energy to invest in such non-productive and dis-unifying diversions as partisan politics.
So tall order or not, I pray that we stay firm and committed to our Faith and what it stands for: unity of all the peoples!

Linda O'Dell

Linda O'Dell (September 9, 2012 at 7:44 PM)

Thank you, Linda! I love your point: if we were doing what we’ve been asked to do, not only would we not have the time or energy for politics as usual but neither would we have the stomach. Love to you and your family! Avrel

Avrel Seale

Avrel Seale (September 9, 2012 at 2:29 AM)

Thank you for sharing some great thoughts! And Linda’s point was very pertinent too. Less negative talk, more positive action : )

Erin Wishney

Erin Wishney (July 7, 2013 at 4:19 AM)

With an election in Australia tomorrow, 7 September 2013, I would like to add to the above post with a link to a statement from the Baha’i International Community(BIC) on the subject of non-involvement in politics: The Baha’i International Community is an international non-governmental organization with affiliates in over 180 countries, which together represent over 5 million members of the Baha’i Faith. The engagement of the Baha’i Faith with the United Nations dates back to the founding conference of the UN and its predecessor, the League of Nations. As an organization with consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and with UNICEF, the BIC collaborates with the UN and its specialized agencies, as well as member states, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations.

It is the understanding of the BIC that the progress of humanity is a global enterprise advanced by the combined efforts of individuals, communities and institutions. The work of the Office of the BIC is guided by the teachings of the Baha’i Faith and the knowledge generated by the worldwide Baha’i community as it endeavors to apply the principles of unity and justice to the betterment of villages, neighbourhoods and to society as a whole. The BIC strives to further UN discourses and processes in the fields of development, human rights, and the equality of women and men by offering those insights and approaches that affirm the importance of the coherence between the material and spiritual aspects of human life.

I have written extensively on the Baha’i Faith and politics; readers with an interest in some of my writings can go to this link:

Ron Price

Ron Price (September 9, 2013 at 12:44 AM)

A wonderful article. I just have a dilemma as to whether ‘democracy’ is a core value in the Bahai Faith. We could say for instance that universal participation is part of a Bahai Value which may also be found in a democracy in its own form, but democracy as we understand it today is a whole lot of other things too. What do you think?


Tay (September 9, 2015 at 7:24 AM)

I agree with the author about staying out of partisan politics. I would like to add that my liberal friends and family believe in hard work and personal responsibility.


Elizabeth (March 3, 2016 at 12:23 AM)

Thanks for this article. I enjoyed the read. However, while reading the first point I wondered where we draw the line between engaging in political discussions and engaging in societal discourse. In the USA your political parties basically “occupy” any viewpoint that you can have on any issue. Don’t like abortion? You’re a Republican. Don’t like death sentence? You’re a Democrat? Don’t wanna go to war all the time? You’re a Democrat. I would think it is OK to discuss political issues on their own, detached from partisan politics. E.g. the question of how to fund healthcare systems, in my opinion, should be discussed by Baha’is and all others. It’s a very important issue and Baha’is can contribute to that discussion as they can to many other issues, e.g. education, the role of military, foreign policy, and so on. The crux in any discussion is separating the issue on its own from partisan stances on that issue. In my opinion Baha’is can discuss politics if we detach the political / societal issues from the partisan stances on it.

In fact, by doing so, we could even encourage others to think outside the box of party politics and be an example for the fact that you don’t have to be a Republican or Democrat, but simply an interested person that looks at political issues completely detached from partisan stances.


Niko (March 3, 2016 at 8:23 AM)

Niko …I found a writing of Abdulbaha in tablets of Abdulbaha v2pg 342 it says it is necessary for us to vote …no excuses and we are to take part in the affairs of the Republic…please see whole quote

Marjorie Dickinson

Marjorie Dickinson (March 3, 2016 at 1:15 AM)

Thank you Avrel. It is a growing interest of mine as I start to explore the true nature of governance, management and political agency in society for my Masters.

Pharan Akhtarkhavari

Pharan Akhtarkhavari (April 4, 2016 at 5:51 AM)

Leave a Reply


"*" indicates required fields

Receive our regular newsletter

Join activities, celebrations, study groups, spiritual empowerment and education programs for young people, and more.

Find Communities in Australia

or Internationally

Horizons is an online magazine of news, stories and reflections from around individuals, communities
and Baha’i institutions around Australia

Visit Horizons

Baha’i beliefs address essential spiritual themes for humanity’s collective and individual advancement. Learn more about these and more.

What Baha’is Believe

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia.

We recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.

Baha’i Blog is a non-profit independent initiative

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent authoritative views of the Baha’i Faith.