I first heard about the Baha'i faith in college when a girl I went to school mentioned that her parents were Baha'is and attempted to give me a little background on the faith...it didn't stick. Years later I was married, living in WV and working as a nanny for a family that, it turned out, was Baha'i. I still knew nothing about the faith but if you read this blog at all, you know that I LOOOOVE studying religion, and if people are willing to teach, I'm willing to learn.
For the purpose of this blog--which isn't to teach about the faith, although I'm including a little intro, I really just wanted to talk about how people live their faith. The thing about Baha'is is that they don't proselytize. Instead they are taught to live a life of service, and in that life of service teach others about the faith through their actions and words. The Baha'i faith teaches about the concept of 'independent investigation of truth' where people are obligated to seek knowledge through their own eyes. All Baha'is, even those born into the Baha'i faith have to decide to become Baha'is. There is no clergy, although there is a very strong administrative body. There is no obligation on anyone to become a Baha'i, or live as a Baha'i unless they want to, and there is no condemnation of people who aren't of the Baha'i faith.
Here is a short blurb on the background and goals of the Baha'i faith from info.bahai.org:
The Bahá'í Faith is the youngest of the world's independent religions. Its founder, Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahá'ís as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad.
The central theme of Bahá'u'lláh's message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society. God, Bahá'u'lláh said, has set in motion historical forces that are breaking down traditional barriers of race, class, creed, and nation and that will, in time, give birth to a universal civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth is to accept the fact of their oneness and to assist the processes of unification.
One of the purposes of the Bahá'í Faith is to help make this possible. A worldwide community of some five million Bahá'ís, representative of most of the nations, races and cultures on earth, is working to give Bahá'u'lláh's teachings practical effect. Their experience will be a source of encouragement to all who share their vision of humanity as one global family and the earth as one homeland.
Baha'is are very passionate about their faith and willing to talk at extent about how they came to the Baha'i faith, and what it means to them, and in today's world...if you ask. For example, today we were at a BBQ with some Baha'i friends and we talked about cats, and where we lived and then my husband got in a conversation with another guest about something or other and suddenly the other man was teaching my husband about the Baha'i faith. While I know a good deal about the faith, my husband doesn't since it is hard to teach one's spouse about anything that you are passionate about, and in my case may not know terribly well. Having someone else there to do it was exactly what I'd been waiting for, and he seemed to really enjoy the conversations that he has had with Baha'is thus far. I'm encouraged that he isn't immediately writing them off as that 'evil organized religion,' but my hubs loves to learn as much as I do, and is willing to gather as much information as possible if for no other reason than to have knowledge.
Today I was struck again, about how Baha'is truly live out their faith. They are deeply faithful, but it isn't as external as I've found in Christian and Muslim faiths. The externalities are the greeting of "Allah-u-Abha" (God is most Glorious) as Muslim say "Salaam Aleykum" (be be unto you), wearing of religious jewelry, and religious pictures. It is about the internal, the spiritual, living your faith in your every day life that I find so beautiful, and appealing. No clergy, no one telling you what to do--if you don't want to be involved the in the community, no one is forcing you. However, if you wish to be involved, if you wish to learn, the door is always open.
I have lately longed for the friends that we left behind in West Virginia. These friends we made soon after we were married, and with the expectation of staying in West Virginia for years. They are kind, honest and open people with no agenda. My husband pointed out that the Baha'is that he had met so far seem to fall into those categories, which made me again examine what it was about the Baha'i community that appealled to me so much. I realized it was because they live out the morals and ethics that I had always found important and lived by, but didn't have a means to describe. All this made me realize that I think I've found the community that I have longed for. I can live, learn and maybe fall in love with the faith, but never be pushed, or made to feel uncomfortable or out of place. Here is hoping for the best and learning to be a better, more faithful and patient person along the way.