Sunday, April 30, 2006

On Connecting to God: Sheri's Remarkable Story

I'm at this doorway, this threshold. In the past is who I have been, every moment that has created my being and lead to my current aspiritions and dreams. Ahead of me lies the manifestations of my dreams. All it takes is one step to move into that direction and yet I am still here - in this threshold.
Photo: Adam
For quite a while I had been noting with interest the comments of Adam's Mom on Jess' blog. The other day I sent out a quick email: "Hi Adam’s Mom. I can see you have been a serious blog reader for a long time, but you have no blog of your own listed on your profile. How come?"

Adam's Mom responded back the next day. "I actually have two blogs. One I used as an outlet when I was trying to get pregnant and has since turned into Adam's blog with photo updates for my family and friends. I just recently started another blog so that I can write things out when I need to without my family being involved."

Adam's Mom has two really great blogs, her newest called Mom Off Duty. Adam's Mom, whose name is Sheri, writes very powerfully and beautifully in a current post on it how she has made a commitment to resume spiritual study in part stimulated by Jess' active pursuits.

I was raised in a Christian home but backed away from religion after a traumatizing church service one day. The pastor called all the children to the front of the church so they could all see what he was doing. He showed them a goldfish happily swimming around in a fishbowl. Then he scooped the fish up in his hands and proceeded to show the kids the poor little fish gasping for breaths, jumping around in his hands. He told them that this was life without God. You flounder about, struggling to get by. Then he put the fish back into the water and showed them how the water represents God's love. See how happy the fish is now? To make his point, he took the fish out of water again. I was disgusted. I was turned off religion and I certainly didn't want to belong to a church that used scare tactics, especially with children.
Photo: Adam & Sheri
Then when I struggled with infertility I shyed away from God even more. Infertility - a term I use loosely since it wasn't such like some of my dear friends who see specialists, try IVF, etc. mine was that I didn't ovulate and it's mightly hard to get pregnant without those magical eggs. In October 2004, I miscarried only a few weeks into my pregnancy. Certainly God was hiding from me and not hearing my cries. It was my dear (internet) friends who got me through that time, not God I felt.

After medical intervention, on my second round of fertility drugs, Shawn and I made our miracle. We decided we would name him Adam. Adam - the first man made in the likeness of God. Being pregnant and feeling the life inside of me poke, wiggle and squirm I knew that this was only possible because of God. I knew that there just HAD to be a higher power to make this possible. It was when I was pregnant and feeling such a closeness to God that I decided to study the bible. Then during the last few months of my pregnancy, we undertook major renovations to our home. I was eight months pregnant and painting baseboards, eating out every night since we had no working kitchen and no running water. This took its toll and I fell into bed (which was a mattress on the floor) exhausted every night and forgot about my studies.
Photo: Two beamers
Then just recently I was looking at my son and realized that he is such a miracle. He is Adam, our first son and God's first son. I was looking at Ad and just had this feeling that something is missing in my life. Around the same time, my friend Jess started studying the Baha'i Faith.I know everything happens for a reason so I am excited she is studying this right now. Her blog has shown me that something IS missing in my life - my connection to God. I am going back to studying the bible (fingers crossed I can make it through the old testimate because my goodness was Numbers ever boring!) I am also going to follow along with Jess in her studies because many of the things she writes about just feels right, does that make sense? It resonates with my soul to be the truth.

Sheri, Mom Off Duty

Friday, April 28, 2006

On Doing Much Better: Gyoza and Reading The Secret of Divine Civilization

Default user pic for bethoc on LiveJournal

I love a slice-of-real-Baha'i-life post like this one from Beyond the Fields We Know, Musings and Poetry from a mommy with her head in the clouds, a.k.a. bethoc on Live Journal whose bio reads: "Drifting through life, constantly surprised by its twists and turns, and the beauty of God."

4/28/06 10:17 pm. Doing much better now. :) Off work a few minutes early, easy drive home, relaxing stroll up the street to 'Miyako' for dinner. The new issue of American Baha'i was in the mailbox, so took that and The Secret of Divine Civilization for reading material. Very good choice! Between those and salmon teriyaki, gyoza, California roll, miso and green tea, and the stroll home, I'm in a much better place.

On Discovering the Baha'i Faith: The Internet as the Primary Portal

The Internet is increasingly the first source of information about the Baha'i Faith that people encounter. Irene of Linkoping, Sweden, is a case in point. Reading a posting on BBC News about an Iranian Baha'i led her to her first investigation of the Faith. (Baha'i blogger Barney of Barnabas Quotidianus also cited the same post on his site.)

There it is on the
BBC Homepage, home of the BBC on the Internet, under the heading "A - Z of religions and beliefs" is "Baha'i." Click further and you find "The basics" and then "Beliefs." Click on that and you find "Baha'is believe all people should be united spiritually." Click on that and you come to the page that so impressed blogger Irene that she excerpted from it on her blog Irene, the Little Bird.

Photo: Linkoping, Sweden
Have you ever heard about Baha'i? I have heard it before, but I wasn't too curious to find out what it's about.

But now, that I've found a detailed description about it, what it believes, its history, its guide of life,... I simply don't find anything that I don't agree with. It's a very beautiful belief, indeed.

A quote from the website:

Bahá'ís believe that humanity must now move forward to global maturity, recreating itself as a single human family: The reality is that there is only the one human race. We are a single people, inhabiting the planet Earth, one human family bound together in a common destiny, a single entity created from one same substance, obligated to 'be even as one soul'. Official Bahá'í statement, August 2001

This is life, this is world, this is love, this is humanity, this is unity, this is equality, this is respect.

Ironically, I found the link to this nice website from an article in BBC about several profiles of Iranian diaspora. One of them,
Soroosh , told about why his family was better off [out] of Iran: because his parents are Bahais, and was oppressed by the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran during that time.

It is.. Baha'i is a beautiful belief. Why would any mind be against it, unless it is a sick mind?

Irene, "Baha'i Beliefs," Irene, the Little Bird

Thursday, April 27, 2006

On the Independent Investigation of Truth: Children Free to Choose to Be Baha'is

A reader has raised some interesting points in a comment s/he made today to a two month-old post on Baha'i Views:

You state in your post of February 28, 2006 that "the Baha'i Faith is a voluntary organization." Yet, many of the younger generation of Baha'is, to which I belong, were essentially raised in the Baha'i Faith.

Personally, I don't recall really being given a *choice* by my parents over whether to become a Baha'i or not. They agreed amongst themselves that I'd "be raised a Baha'i". Signing that declaration card in my mid teens was as much of a "choice" as was deciding whether or not to live under my parents' roof at that time, or whether to attend Feast, etc.

I've always been curious, and more than a bit disturbed, by this phenomenon, and I'm curious about your thoughts on this issue.

Posted by Anonymous to Baha'i Views at 4/27/2006 11:57:49 AM
Here is what Shoghi Effendi said on the matter:

"The basic principle of the Cause is independent investigation of truth. This applies to us as much as to our children. They should be free to choose for themselves any religion they wish. To promise that they will belong to a certain Faith and not to another is therefore not only contrary to our precepts, but is also a futile promise to give. How can we make the future generation think as we do or follow our dictates. God has made them free. All that we can do is to open their eyes and tell them of what we think to be the truth."

From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 3, 1931
Below are links to passages from Lights of Guidance that relate in greater detail to the important related issues that this dear reader raises.

Education and Training of Children
479. Must First Train Children in Principles of Religion 480. Encourage the Children from Early Childhood 481. Incumbent Upon Bahá'í Children to Surpass Other Children 482. Parents Held Responsible to God for Education of Children 483. Teachers of Children Serving Bahá'u'lláh 484. Failure to Educate Child is an Unpardonable Sin 485. Child Left in Natural State Grows Up in Ignorance... 486. If Babe Did Not Live at All, Better Than to Grow Ignorant 487. Training in Morals and Good Conduct is Far More Important Than Book Learning 488. Pupil Must Be Encouraged 489. Station of Those Who Serve and Teach Children 490. Methods of Teaching Children 491. A Wise Schoolmaster 492. Curriculum of Study: Must Follow Same Curriculum for Daughters and Sons 493. Beginning of Formal Education 494. Subjects to be Taught in Children's Classes 495. Formal Education Must Begin at the Age of Five 496. Nothing in Teachings States Child Must Not Be Separated from Parents for First Five Years 497. Mother Has Chief Responsibility for Bringing Up Child 498. Mothers Ordained Primary Trainers of Children and Infants 499. Training of Children in Case One of Parents is Non-Bahá'í 500. Greatest of All Services Rendered by Man to Almighty God--Teach Children to Deliver Speeches of High Quality 501. Preferable that Child Should Receive First Training at Home Under Mother Instead of in the Nursery 502. Spiritual Assemblies Should Provide Mothers with Well-Planned Programme 503. Difficult to Teach and Refine Character Once Puberty is Passed 504. Should Train Children to Memorize Prayers and Tablets 505. Sacred Duty of Children Towards Their Parents 506. Children Should Be Trained to Understand Spiritual Significance of Bahá'í Meetings

Registration of Children
512. Bahá'í Children Do Not Automatically Inherit Faith of Parents 513. Children Whose Parents Become Bahá'ís 514. Status of Children Under the Age of 15 515. Age 15 Relates to Spiritual Functions and Obligations 516. Children Under 15 Cannot Marry 517. Children Are of Age at 15 as Far as Keeping Laws of Aqdas 518. Children of Bahá'í Parents Considered as Bahá'ís 519. Registering Children Upon Attaining Age 15 520. Upon Attainment of Age 15 Child Must Reaffirm His Faith 521. Registration of Children of Bahá'í Parents 522. May Be Circumstances in which Children Should Not Be Registered

Lights of Guidance, A Bahá'í Reference File by Bahá'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi and Universal House of Justice, Compiled by Helen Hornby

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

On Ebb and Flow: A Call to Joint Prayers Declined

Anonmelancholic -- "My photo"

The Baha'i Writings offer the view that there are two processes in the world, a process of disintegration and a process of integration--of things falling apart and something new arising out of the ashes. It is easy to find many negative and pessimistic posts out there in the blogging world written by those who are in the business of tearing down out-moded anachronisms of the past (how's that for a redundant phrase!). As part of his spiritual search, Mel-Anon apparently turned away from conservative Christianity in favor of "progressive religion" some time ago. He tells a story of an incident that happened before his separation from the former in "Some Trust in Chariots" that is worth retelling, despite the melancholic tone, given its mention of the Faith. His commentary is perhaps typical of many who become part of the "community of interest" in the Faith, participating in the core activities.

Many people have argued...that conservative Christians have a Manichean view of the world; Manichean having been taken from an ancient dualistic religion that views the world as a struggle between absolute Good and Evil. This is not the case. It is dualistic, but it's Our Side against Their Side. People who do good things in the guise of another faith are doing so only out of some mystical devilish plot which will surely be revealed in time. They grumble that the Dalai Lama might come and hoodwink people into living a Satanic life of peace and kindness. (Good Lord, let it be so.)

This reminds me of a story, one of many that should have sent up red flags about my future as a conservative evangelical. Shortly after 9/11, the campus chapter of the Baha'i faith wanted to have a joint prayer session with the ministry organization I was clinging to at the time. They were rebuffed, because we wouldn't want to give the impression that we were giving tacit approval to their wayward prayers. So it was that, in the shadow of the moment where healing and unity should have won the day if they ever were, we could only think to antagonize. This more than anything, I believe, started me down the road of finding the whole charade an untenable mess.

Mel-Anon, "Some Trust in Chariots," TypePad

On Baha'i Elections: Happy Ridvan!

This is how Rolling with the Punches describes herself: "I am (generally) a happy, energetic, optimistic and slightly nutty Persian-Latin-American who is trying to find her place in this ever changing world. Hopefully my place will be in China, writing and implementing arts integrated curricula for middle and high school aged students." She participated in the election of her Baha'i local spiritual assembly on the first day of Ridvan. Here is how she described it on MySpace in a post entitled "Who says voting can’t be a spiritual experience?"

Photo:New Assembly of Welwyn UK by John Barnabas
On Thursday night (April 20, 2006) it was the beginning of Ridvan. This is 12 day festival in the Baha'i Faith when we celebrate the announcement that Baha'u'llah, the Prophet Founder of the Baha'i Faith, made to the world. He told the world at that time that He is the Manifestation of God for this day. And the first day of Ridvan is the day designated for Baha'is all across the globe to get together and elect their Local Spiritual Assemblies. A Baha'i Local Spiritual Assembly is comprised of 9 adult (21 yrs and older) Baha'is chosen by the Baha'i community to carry out the administrative duties and responsibilities. Different communities have different needs, depending on the size and maturity of community, but most Assemblies manage the local Fund, maintain membership data, encourage the Baha'is to deepen their knowledge of the Faith, coordinate teaching and educational activities and plans, and also appoint committees if necessary to carry our different services needed by the individuals in their community. And these members have no special rank or station, and are not considered above others. Actually their merit and authority is only in existence as a group. The LSA as a whole makes decisions based on consultation and unity. No one member may make a decision for the community.

Photo: Ottawa annual meeting for electing assembly, 162. B.E.

How are these LSA members selected? Well, in local communities where there are 9 or more adult members, all the adult members get together and read the Baha'i Sacred Writings on the purpose of an LSA and the spirit in which members should be elected. After prayers and readings, each individual chooses 9 members in the community who he or she believes will best serve the community and who have certain qualities and skills that will help the community to grow, unify and progress. There is no campaigning, no electioneering and no nominating in Bah' elections, whether it be on a local, regional or national level. The voting is all done by secret ballot; each individual writes his or her selections and is checked off by the tellers as each ballot is collected. (It also possible to send in an absentee ballot.) While the tellers count the votes, the community, in the spirit of love, unity and consultation, has the opportunity to reflect on the last year and give suggestions to the incoming LSA. The tellers then make a report to the community after all the valid votes have been counted. At this point the old members LSA are relieved of their responsibility and the new LSA members accept the responsibility to serve the community.

Why is this relevant to my life? Well it affects me in a few ways. One: this year was the first year I voted for my LSA in person (always absentee ballot before). It was an awesome experience. I was able to choose members of my Assembly surrounded by others doing the same. In that atmosphere of serenity and spirituality, I wrote down the names of the 9 people in my local community of Chicago, IL, that I thought would best serve my fellow lovers of Baha'u'llah. And later I was present as each member was announced and saw the unassuming and humble way in which each individual accepted that duty. And what a diverse group! All different ages, races, genders and backgrounds! Two: I actually have a say in how my local community is managed and who does it! I know that the people elected to the LSA are there because the collective wanted it. Three: I work in the Baha'i National Center in the Membership and Records office. My "official" title actually is "Membership Support Specialist." I won't bore you will the details of maintaining and continually updating the 230,000 records in our database (although I find the job exhilarating since I LOVE prioritizing, organizing, arranging, classifying and categorizing), but one responsibility my office has all of a sudden is to verify and input all the data being sent by the roughly 1,700 LSA and roughly 1,700 Registered Baha'i groups at this moment in time. AHHHH! Every single election report form and group formation passes through our hands before going into the database and then to Records. If you don't see me til the end June, that's why. I'll be performing all my regular never-ending tasks and duties PLUS (with the help of my other team members) tackling this daunting task. I'm NOT by any means complaining, but Im feeling a bit overwhelmed by the boxes of mail, faxes and emails that are pouring in!

It was just a great night and really made me love my local Baha'i community even more! Of course it was also wonderful to go out afterwards and chill at the Pick me up Cafe with an amazing group of young adults/youth that I don't necessarily get to hang out wit has often as I would like.

Rolling with the Punches, "Who says voting can't be a spiritual experience?" MySpace

On MySpace Baha'is: Youth Getting Started

Profile reading is always an inspiration when the youth is Baha'i.

My name is Matthew.
Matthew means 'Gift of God' but i'm still working on that part ;) I follow the Baha'i Faith which gives me guidence and puropse in this world. in my honours year at Glasgow University just now studying Sociology/Anthropology. when i graduate i plan to do ESOL so i can be of some use to humanity.

Ramatullah's "About Me"
I'm a Baha'i. Let's see, what else is there? There's quite a lot about my deeper spiritual side that you won't see on this silly profile. I've got a lot of long term goals I'm dead-serious about, and everything else is trivial. What goals, you ask? Well, a career in media design for one, and not one in a Chinese restaurant, that's for sure. How will I achieve my dreams? You'll see. My biggest shortcoming is that I have a hard time
finishing what I
I never know what to write in these things..."About Me"? WHAT about me? II suppose could tell you that I sing while I do the dishes... I'm hungry hungry hungry, and that's not just hungry for food. I'm hungry for knowledge, and love, and understanding! I'm hungry for world peace and international unity! I belong to the Baha'i Faith, the newest, freshest world religion! (For more information visit http://www.baha' you could just ask me, I'm always happy to talk about the Faith) I am very passionate about this, and still learning everything, about the Faith, other religions, life, and myself! I'm really energetic...and I guess that means when you try to make me sit still...I get restless. PHysically and emotionally. I'm never settled... I play hard and I work hard. I'm incorrigibly optimistic as well as a hopeless romantic... I like to read out loud...public speaking is one of the high points in my life...I just love the exhileration of being in front of people...aah!!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

On Spiritual Seeking: Jess' Baha'i Encounter

Here is Jess' description of her recent meeting with local Baha'is as posted on Rambles, Reviews and Rants.

Monday, April 24, 2006,
"My Baha'i Encounter."

As promised yesterday, I am going to try and attempt a more detailed version of my evening spent with Baha'is.

When I arrived at the home where the gathering was held, I was warmly greeted. The teenagers stayed below in the basement and I was ushered to a beautiful formal sitting room where three Baha'is were to talk with me. The American woman, Eve, did most of the talking, but the other two added bits here and there. The two women are both probably about my mother's age and both converted in the last five years. The man, who was also the host of the party and the owner of the home I was in, was younger, and was born in Iran to a Muslim father and a Baha'i mother. Anyway, all three were very enthusiastic and full of information.

I began by telling them how I became interested in the Baha'i faith many years ago in a comparative religions course at the local community college. I mentioned that I had read bits and pieces here and there when I stumbled across it since I first learned of the faith but that I had recently began a deeper study. I talked at length about blogging....Eve, the American woman was the most interested in my online Baha'i friendships and seemed very fascinated that most of what I've learned has been via the internet. At any rate, all three were also surprised that I have read a couple Baha'i books and have a basic knowledge of the religion's doctrine, history and founding members. The man opened up his adjoining study and gave me a couple more Baha'i prayer and devotional books. They are both pocket sized and have the writings of Baha'u'llah in them. Eve promised to loan me other Baha'i books and I look forward to reading them.

Eve told me about Firesides, which are Baha'i meetings. There is usually a main speaker and then the rest of the attendees sit around after the speaker has finished his message and discuss it. They all three made it very clear that Baha'is believe in a personal relationship with God. No clergy are necessary in this faith. I was educated about the Baha'i Universal House of Justice and told how elections are held on local, national and international levels. I was shown pictures in a book of the shrine in Haifa, Israel and told that it is now one of the seven wonders of the modern world. The gardens and terraces really are breathtakingly beautiful. The man got out his own photo albums and showed me pictures of his pilgrimage to Israel.

There are so many other details of that full evening that I could include but it would be like trying to transcribe a conversation here from my memory. That was really what it was like, sitting down with friends and having a good long chat. I got to ask lots of questions and they asked me a lot of questions. I learned many fascinating things from each of them.

The one thing that really sticks in my mind from that evening was something that Eve told me. We were talking about the Christian belief in Heaven and Hell and what Baha'is believe of the afterlife. She said that she had once heard another Baha'i compare our lives on Earth to that of a baby in a mother's womb. As a baby grows and develops in the womb its body is growing to support it in another world that it has no concept of. Everything that happens to the baby in the womb happens so it can function properly the moment it is born, in a totally different environment. Just like a baby being born, when we die we will be spiritually ready to be with God. This life is our spiritual womb. The more growth you achieve spiritually here the closer you will be to God once you die. There is no hell as Christians believe it to be. Hell for Baha'is is an absolute separation from God and spiritual death in this physical life. Someone like Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy or anyone who has led a dissolute, worthless life will be too immature spiritually to commune with God in the afterlife. And that is Hell.

I look forward to more encounters with Baha'is. Eve and I exchanged information so I hope to connect with her soon and either attend another event or borrow some of her books so I can continue reading!

On Interfaith Dialogue: The Baha'i Faith and Laura Shulman

Photo: Laura Schulman

"I began by telling them how I became interested in the Baha'i faith many years ago in a comparative religions course at the local community college," Jess writes in her current post "Baha'i Encounter."

"Is there any chance you learned about the Baha'i Faith at NVCC with Laura Shulman??" Julia writes in a comment to the Jess' post.

Who's Laura Shulman? She is not a Baha'i, but she writes very passionately about her love for the academic study of religions including the Baha'i Faith on various links to her website "Welcome to the home page of Laura Ellen Shulman, Instructor in Religion."

What I value most about the academic teaching of religion is the process of helping people to better appreciate the values and possibilities found in religions other than their own, giving people the intellectual and attitudinal tools needed to improve relationships with people of diverse cultures, encouraging people to explore religious world views in greater depth, and expanding their own personal horizons and understanding of religion and a deeper aspect of life. I tell my students that the most important thing they can learn in my classes is tolerance, respect and appreciation for beliefs and opinions that might differ from their own. I am excited about the subject I teach and I try to teach in such as way as to excite my students about it as well... [Read more]

Laura has prepared a PowerPoint presentation on the Baha'i Faith that is available for viewing here.

On Baha'i Bloggers: Sanisha Returning to Post

Sanisha is back from China. See her hundreds of China photos posted to flickr. Her photo "Me and Tahirih" is from the China set. Read her lastest post on log @ this...look at this on The World Order of Baha'u'llah, the seminal letters of Shoghi Effendi from the late 20's and early 30's. Check out her entries on her other blog, Backblog, the latest on a real Renaissance man.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

On the Persian Santur: A Jess Update and the Music of Ostad Manoocher Sadeghi, Baha'i

First, a Jess update. Regular readers of this blog know that Jess has been systematically investigating the Baha'i Faith and reporting on it on her blog Rambles, Reviews and Rants. Through the efforts of a woman who works where Jess does, arrangements had been made for Jess to meet with some local Baha'is, her first meeting with Baha'is other than her co-worker. Here is an excerpt from her "Update..." from yesterday:

I did go to meet the Baha'i woman last night. It turned out that the event I was going to was a youth group of sorts for teen aged Baha'is in a very nice home in Great Falls. They kids had a great party going on in the basement! It began with prayers, followed by dinner and by the time I was leaving the dance music had come on and things were getting lively. Almost everyone there (there was a German woman, an American woman and me) was Persian and had gorgeous dark eyes and hair. After the prayers two men played two different traditional Persian instruments that I cannot recall the names of. One instrument sat on a table and had strings and the man hit them with two mallets. It made an ethereal musical sound. The other man played a drum of some sort. It looked wooden and was shaped sort of like a spitoon (sorry, it did!). The music was fantastic. I wonder if there are CD's recorded of that style of music?

For many Persian music is synonymous with the sound of the santur. The santur (سَنتور) is a hammered dulcimer of Iran. It is a trapezoid-shaped box often made of walnut, with 72 strings. The name means one hundred strings in Persian. The special-shaped mallets (mezrab) are lightweight and are held between the index and middle fingers. A typical santur has two sets of bridges, providing a range of three octaves. The right-hand strings are made of brass, while the left-hand strings are made of steel.

According to Wikipedia one of the leading santur players in the world is Ostad Manoochehr Sadeghi, a Baha'i who performed at the Second World Baha'i Congress in New York City in 1992 and whose music can still be heard today. Samples of his music are at, concert videos can be viewed, and copies of his most current CD ordered.

Friday, April 21, 2006

On Spreading the Baha'i Message: With Ocean Liners, Automobiles, and the Internet

Collage: University of Alberta Libraries
The Baha'i Faith can be an especially intriguing subject for religious scholars, those inclined towards the academic study of religion, or simply those who have an abiding interest in the phenomenon of religion although not necessarily formal training. It is interesting for Baha'is to see how their Faith is presented by those who study it and write about it. Shadows is a new Baha'i blog that features "religious news and opinion." The blogger, Bradley Richert, aspires to be degreed in religious studies. He is an undergraduate student at the University of Alberta which has, by the way, a Campus Association for Baha'i Studies. Perhaps he is familiar with Baha'is on campus.

Today which is the first day of Ridvan, a Baha'i Holy Day, Bradley has featured the Faith on his blog. His description is that of a person looking in from the outside. His expressions are not quite how a Baha'i might characterize their Faith, but are for the most part accurate factually. His treatment is certainly positive in nature. Here is his profile, followed by excerpts from his overview.

brichert (Bradley Richert), male, 23 years old, Edmonton, Canada, speaks English (CA). "I am currently an undergraduate (still) student at the University of Alberta. I am a double major in Philosophy and Religious Studies. My main interests are in ethics as well as gnostic/esoteric studies. Eventually, and I really mean eventually since I have a kid on the way, I will continue my education in hopes of attaining a MA in Religious Studies."

... One such significant religion is the Baha'i Faith. Much like the founders of the world's other major religions, Bahá'u'lláh received an explicit vision from God. The history of the Baha'i Faith reads like a condensed version of the Judeo-Christian scriptures. And like the Christian faith, the Baha'i was founded during a crucial epoch in history which would contribute to the exponential growth of the religion. As early Christians took advantage of the Pax Romana complete with safe passage on the newly built road system, the Baha'i have spread their message with the use of ocean liners, automobiles, and now the internet. ...

In just over 150 years since that first declaration, the Baha'i Faith has become known as one of the most ethnically diverse religions boasting approximately 5 million adherents. It is often used as a functionary by the United Nations because of its distinct advocacy for human rights. It is one of the new independent major religions, meaning that it has transcended a "cult" like status and is taken seriously on the world religious stage.

However, the religious plurality, or more definitive, the religious relativity, of the Baha'i Faith occasionally runs into conflict when addressing certain congregations. The Baha'i Faith does not target conversions from the mainstream adherents of other rleigions, but to those who are disgruntled with the lack of tolerance and acceptance. ...

Bradley Richert, "He Whom God Shall Make Manifest," Shadows, Religious News and Opinion

Thursday, April 20, 2006

On Overcoming Obstacles: Real Baha'is, Real Life

Dallas Marie's story is very compelling, I'm sure you'd agree. Below is the middle part. Go to her site and read what came before and what comes after. Then drop a comment on her site. I'm sure she would love to hear from you and would welcome your words of support.

Dallas Marie on MySpace
... I started going to Sunday school with Mallory. She was a Baha'i, which I didn't understand, being I was raised in a pretty tight methodist community. We had our squabbles in the past on the religion, and had both left with hurt feelings. However I'd met her family and a select few others who I couldn't put off as not worth learning what they believe in. If you've met a Baha'i, you've been touched for life. They tend to be some of the most genuine understanding people in the my eyes at least. So, I went to Sunday school with Mallory every sunday, I decided I wanted to learn a bit about this and decide for myself whether she was right or wrong rather than going by what I had been taught and read. Ironically enough, the particular weeks I began going, they had combined the youth and adult classes, to show a series of videos in the subject of *surprise* teaching Christians. And what a blessing this was to me. I've never been shown the truth like what those videos provided me with. I was convinced this was right for me, and I signed my card. I converted to the Baha'i Faith and I was thrilled. I met so many people who have left marks on my heart for life. ...

Dallas Marie, "Just letting my mind wander...," MySpace

On Becoming a Baha'i: Act of Faith or Courage

See the Doberman Pizza post about Dan's attending a fireside by Louise Profeit-LeBlanc and then read the article about Louise on The Baha'i Community of Canada webpage. Dan's observation:

Louise Profeit-LeBlanc with a mask from her art collection
[Photo by Lindsay Slavin]
Becoming a Baha'i is as much an act of courage for some people as it is an act of faith. Perhaps it would be easier if becoming a Baha'i wasn't seen so much as "changing religions" as acknowledging the oneness of all religions. You know — rather than thinking of it as "switching from one family to another", realizing that we're all part of a much bigger family — the human family — that includes us all.

On Celebrating Diversity: The Look of Baha'is

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On LJBaha'i: More Recent "Seeker" Posts

Recent "seeker" posts regarding the Baha'i Faith on LJBaha'i:

Photo: Stratford, Ontario, Canada
User: ambivertemmers (5067733) .x.Brownie in Motion.x..x.Chronicles of a randomly-moving baked good.x. Name: Emmers.Website: MySpace. Location: Stratford, Ontario, Canada. I am not a Baha'i, but I've been going to Firesides almost every week for about three months now, taken Ruhi book 1, and made friends with a bunch of crazy Baha'is.

User: ia_rbgirl (4133075) Because you're mine I walk the line..Name: Danielle. Website: myspace. Location: Clive, Iowa, United States. Hey everyone. I'm a college student who has recently started studying different religions. I came across Baha'i, and i was drawn to it quickly. Everything about it spoke to me and made sense. I was so drawn to it i decided to do a presentation over the religion.
Image: "DefaultKeywords: me"
User: englishteacher (2484470). Body Snatching Prom Queen. Name: thingsido. Bio: It's interesting to me, the changes a human being goes through over the course of a lifespan. We are continually growing, changing, evolving, even devolving. I want to explore every facet of what it means to be a complete person. At every step I want to pause back in reflection and affirm while assessing the damage; understanding that it's all okay. I'm 27 and I’ve had a few roles thus far... englishteacher being one of them. I’m working on psychiatric nursing right now. I’m excited to see what is going to unfold when I’ve finished my education. thus far the ride has been pretty amazing. hi i'm new to this community i just wanted to introduce myself. i'm really interested in learning about your faith. i used to have a group of friends in university who introduced me to the baha'i faith. i'm interested in rejuvenating that interest.

On Discovering the Baha'i Faith: Questions and Answers on LJBaha'i

Below are the questions posed by Erin. Check out the responses provided members of the LJBaha'i community. Erin Kay Carrigan (februaryskye) wrote in ljbahai:

Photo: Saginaw High School
Hi everyone. My name is Erin and I'm 18. I heard about the Baha'i faith for the first time yesterday, and I'm pretty sure it's what I've been looking for. I'm going to learn some more about it before I join, but I love the idea of unity and that you aren't calling out all other religions as wrong and saying everyone is going to burn in some eternal pit of fire just because they don't believe the same as the next person. I have a few questions.

1.) I want to make sure that I'm reading correctly and that this is a very accepting faith. I'm right in thinking that Baha'is accept everyone, right?

2.) What is the Afterlife supposed to be like?

3.) How long have you been Baha'i? What drew you to it?

4.) What do you do at a Baha'i center? Is it like a church? I noticed there's one right here in Saginaw so I was curious.

5.) How do I ease my mother's mind on this? I mentioned it to her, and she looked like she was going to cry and said, "I don't like this. I thought you were a Christian!" Which I am, but I see so many points where I disagree with it, that I can't really see myself staying in the faith much longer. I disagree with it too much to even be calling myself a Christian. I think she's worried because for a very long time (since I was like 7 until I was 16) I was an Atheist. Then I had a spiritual awakening after some really bad stuff went down in my life, and I've been a Christian since then. I think I chose Christianity at the time because my family had started going to a Christian church, and that's what I was taught. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I chose some kind of faith. My life got instant better for reasons that I can't explain except that I found something to believe in.

Anyway, I want to ease my mother's mind on this and make her realize I'm not joining a cult. Which I guess she realizes that it's not anything bad, but she told me last night that the Bible says that during 'the end times' there's going to people trying to get Christians to join a lot of off the wall religions. I tried explaining things to her, and she said it's my decision...but she's concerned for my soul, I guess. I told her nobody is forcing me to join or telling me any totally wacky things, but she's still worried.

A lady from what I'm assuming to be the Saginaw Baha'i center e-mailed me today saying if I had questions, we could meet for coffee. If I decide to join and meet her for coffee, would it be a good idea to bring my mom if she wants to go? I don't know much yet, so it's hard for me to explain it to her. I told her Baha'is don't condemn Jesus, Moses, or any other important figure from the major religions. That didn't seem to do much.

But yeah, those are my questions. Sorry this is so long. I'm really interested though. Thank you so much! :)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On Baha'i Bloggers: Barney's Quality Blogs

How is this for an introduction?

Who am I and what am I doing here?
I answer to Barney Leith, although my full name is John Barnabas Leith.

I am probably very much mistaken about most of my ideas about what I am doing here. But I can tell you that I am a
Bahá’í and I strive to follow the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh in my life.

Barney at the 2006 Naw-Rúz reception in the House of Commons
So reads Barney's page "Welcome to a glimpsed reality," portal to his three blogs, Barnabus Quotidianus, The Metaphysician, and My Photos on Flickr.

Barney has been busy! The quality of his efforts is wondrously apparent.

Press coverage of Baha'i comedian Omid Djalili is featured in the current post on Barnabas Quotidianus, personal diary of John Barnabas (aka Barney) Leith, one of the highest quality Baha'i blogs in the world, in my estimation

"A Buddhist Looks at the Self" is the current entry on The Metaphysician, explorations in humanness. Read "It's a Start" for what inspired Barney to begin this new blog. Good going, Barney!

Barney has been on flickr for some time. I love the diversity of his photo sets, some Baha'i, some family, and some travel and nature. Great pics!

On his welcome page, Barney has a link to photos of the Naw-Rúz reception 2006, hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Friends of the Bahá’ís in the House of Commons.

On Baha'i Laws: Signposts on the Mystic Path

Chastity before marriage and abstinance from drinking alcohol are but two laws of Baha'u'llah that his followers are called upon to follow. These prohibitions may seem quaint to some in today's cultural climate. In fact, the whole idea of adhering to a moral code may seem odd or strange to many. The spirit with which Baha'is view the laws and ordinances of their Faith needs to be understood to appreciate just how different is the Baha'i approach to these matters.

Photo: The Shrine of Baha'u'llah
One of the primary purposes of the laws, as well as the teachings, that Bahá'u'lláh has given is the uniting of the peoples of the world .

O ye that dwell on earth! The distinguishing feature that marketh the preeminent character of this Supreme Revelation consisteth in that We have, on the one hand, blotted out from the pages of God's holy Book whatsoever hath been the cause of strife, of malice and mischief amongst the children of men, and have, on the other, laid down the essential prerequisites of concord, of understanding, of complete and enduring unity. Well is it with them that keep My statutes.

In the West, people tend to see the law as something that limits their freedom and hence something that is only to be endured reluctantly because there is some indirect overall benefit. In the Bahá'í Faith, however, there is a more positive attitude towards the law brought by Bahá'u'lláh. It enables human beings to align themselves with the spiritual laws that govern the universe. We would not jump from a fourth-storey window because we know that the physical laws of the universe would cause us to injure ourselves badly. Similarly, Bahá'ís believe that we should not break these spiritual laws, otherwise we are inflicting spiritual harm upon ourselves. Bahá'u'lláh, therefore, does not see these laws as rigid legalistic framework, concerned with enforcement and punishment. He states that these laws are an indispensable part of a human being's spiritual progress; signposts on the mystic path.

Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power.

And so our obedience to these laws should not be for fear of punishment, but out of joy and love.

Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty.

"Baha'i Laws," An Introduction to the Baha'i Faith

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

On Immigration: It's Effect on the American Baha'i Community

Marriage Prayer in Chinese:
"He is the Bestower, the Bounteous! Praise be to God, the Ancient, the Ever-Abiding..."
Immigration is an issue of national debate in the United States presently. How has immigration effected the ethnic composition of the Baha'i Community?

Immigration has profoundly shaped the American Baha'i community's ethnic composition. During the war in Vietnam the Baha'i Faith in Southeast Asia particularly attracted ethnic Chinese and Hmong hill people; they have been especially numerous among the groups fleeing Vietnam. Baha'i teaching efforts in refugee camps attracted thousands of Cambodians and Laotians to the Baha'i Faith as well, and many of them came to the United States. As a result the American Baha'i community has several thousand Baha'is of Southeast Asian background; no one knows exactly how many there are. In some cities--such as Portland, Oregon, and Lowell, Massachusetts--Southeast Asian Baha'is are a majority or substantial minority of the Baha'i community. The Islamic Revolution in Iran also forced tens of thousands of Baha'is to flee that country and about ten thousand have settled in the United States, especially in greater Los Angeles. ...
Photo: Louis Gregory
The Baha'i principle of the oneness of humanity has been another consistent source of appeal. The American Baha'is early recognized that the oneness of humanity meant that they had to teach their religion to all types of people, and that they could not form racially or ethnically segregated Baha'i communities. The Washington, D.C. Baha'is took the lead in teaching African Americans the Baha'i Faith in 1903; by 1909 about a dozen blacks had become Baha'is (in a community with about seventy Baha'is altogether) and in spite of resistance by some white Baha'is, who maintained the time for integration had not come, the African Americans were integrated into the white community. In 1911 the Washington Baha'is elected Louis G. Gregory, the leading black Baha'i, to the local Baha'i governing body; in 1912 Gregory was elected to the national Baha'i coordinating body as well by delegates representing all the Baha'i communities in North America. In 1912 Gregory married a white Baha'i. The union was the first racially integrated marriage in the American Baha'i community; `Abdu'l-Baha, who was visiting the United States at the time and who had actively encouraged their courtship, praised interracial marriage as a demonstration of the love that is possible between the races. `Abdu'l-Baha also spoke extensively about the dangers facing the United States if it did not overcome its racial divide; he set the tone for future Baha'i concern about the issue.

While integration of races and ethnic groups in the American Baha'i community has never been perfect or without controversy, it has consistently been a priority of the American Baha'is, and explains why persons of varied ethnic backgrounds have been able to coexist in local Baha'i communities. Intermarriage among these groups is a sign of their acceptance of each other. The American experience has helped set the tone for Baha'i communities worldwide.

Excerpted from "The American Baha'i Community in the Nineties," by Robert H. Stockman, Baha'i Research Office, Wilmette, Ill. Published in Dr. Timothy Miller, ed., America's Alternative Religions (Albany: SUNY Press, 1995)

On Thai Baha'is: A Picture with the Princess

Princess Soamsawali and the National Spiritual Assembly of Thailand

On Investigating the Baha'i Faith: Further Update from Jess

Photo: Ella on right with cousin and uncle
Jess continues to write remarkably and openly about her experience of studying the Baha'i Faith. Growing up in the country, she had what my wife likes to call "good home training." She has a strong family, the members of which are very supportive and loving to one another. The family values are strongly rooted in Christianity. Naturally, there are many emotions that can accompany investigation of the Faith by the sincere seeker, as these excerpts from Jess' blog Rambles, Reviews and Rants clearly demonstrate.

Sunday, April 16, 2006 -- "Easter"

Photo: Jess' neices and brother-in-law
I was really fortunate this year that my mother and my sister and her little family could come visit with my family for the Easter holiday. We had good intentions of going to church but we realized Saturday morning when we were trying to get all three girls and ourselves ready and at the photo studio by 10 a.m. for pictures (my mom's Mother's Day gift is a pic of all 5 of her girls) that getting to church by 9:30 in a town 40 minutes away would be a stretch. Then, all the children would have to be checked into childcare and our car would have to be valet parked because my church has limited parking. Then the adults would have to be bussed to the site where the Easter service was to be held- under a large tent away on property owned by the church that would fit 2,000 folks instead of the smaller sanctuary that only seats a fraction of that amount. I wasn't sure how the daycare location vs. the tent would work out. Anyway, this short story is getting long... I guess I am trying to make excuses for feeling guilty for missing church on the biggest day of the Christian year.
Photo: Ella in her Easter dress
And to make matters worse, I sort of feel like an adulterous Christian. I am cheating on the faith of my childhood by actively pursuing another. At least Baha'is accept that everyone is worshipping the same God, so no matter what a practitioner of that faith does or does not do on a holy day of another faith it would probably be acceptable as long as they behaved respectably. Oh my. I am just feeling guilty, guilty guilty. Well, guilty or not, I didn't go to church today and I have plans to attend a Baha'i meeting on Thursday. I guess that just says it all right there.

On a lighter note, here are a couple pics from today of my daughter and me in our Easter finery. We got dressed up for dinner even if we didn't make it to church!

Ella and me:
Monday, April 17, 2006

I have been feeling muddled, worried and guilty over this Easter holiday. I have not been sure if my emotions stem from nostalgia or because I am finally admitting to myself after years of secret doubt that Christianity's dogma is not what I truly believe. I wonder if people who leave other religions feel as awful about it as I do? Surely they must. It feels like I am losing a best friend, someone that I know so well and have been able to trust and depend upon. Or for another analogy (probably a poor one), it is like I am breaking up with my high school boyfriend and I am on the search for my life mate. I think I am falling in love and this could be the one but I am so afraid that I am wrong and I am going to get hurt. I guess I have to keep on dating Baha'i to find out! Does that sound really silly?!

On Demons, Satan, and Hell: Jenna Passing Tests

What follows is an "academic" discussion, in the words of the blogger, a brief excerpt from one of the most moving blog posts I've read yet to date, "A Comb of Stings," by Jenna on MySpace. But first, here is half of a stanza from a poem Jenna posted by Edward Taylor written 350 years ago: "Is Grace's Honeycomb a Comb of Stings? This makes me ready leave Thy Grace and run, Which if I do, I find I am undone."

... I wasn't raised to believe that in the eternal battle between God and Satan. The Baha'i Faith doesn't allow for demons--nor hell, for that matter. We believe heaven is like a sea of light, so resplendent that, if you knew its wonder, you'd cut your throat to be there now. Once, Baha'u'llah did write down a tablet that described heaven. His scribe, so overcome with desire to be there, slit his own throat. Baha'u'llah had the tablet destroyed.

We believe that, based on choices made, souls will have different connections to God. Some souls--angels, prophets, martyrs, children--will dwell in His presence without shame. For the rest, it's the life lived that determines one's nearness to Him. Baha'is believe that true hell is separation from God; we don't need demons torturing us to know that pain.

And we don't need Satan, either. We just don't believe in him. All wrong-doing, all sins are upon our own souls. When we are called to account for our trespasses, we must take full responsibility. As a Baha'i, you can't say, "The Devil made me do it." You can't say, "He tempted me, Lord."

While Christians do take responsibility for giving into temptation, the sin doesn't originate within them. It's outside them, because, in their minds, Satan preys upon them.

So I don't believe in demons, and I don't believe in hell. Hell, after all, is not even a word you can find within the Bible, except in translation. It was taken from the Norse goddess, Hel, which was also the name of her dominion. In the sixth century, Pope Gregory the Great sent missionaries out into Europe to preach to the pagans. He was fascinated by pagan culture and folklore and admonished his followers to accommodate their culture, not force people into the Christian Faith. And so the missionaries began translating words with very different meanings--Sheol, Hades, Gehenna--into the one word: hell.

I'm getting too academic, too distant. I can't displace the pain I'm feeling this morning with scholastic ramblings. The point is that I don't believe in the "lake of fire." I don't believe in demons, no matter how vivid my dreams are. And I don't believe that a battle is being waged for my eternal soul.

That's why Michael and I are taking time apart. We ended our relationship, over this matter of religion. I'm a Baha'i and he's a Southern Baptist. ... [Read the full story]

Jenna, "A Comb of Stings," MySpace