Sunday, November 11, 2007

On Marching to a Different Drummer, Liberal Christian, Pagan, Mahikari, and Baha'i: Steve Prepares to Do a Devotional

I have been part of a Baha'i study circle at the Madison Baha'i Center, and I have nearly completed Ruhi Book One. The last class will be this Sunday. What has surprised me is that I have already been invited to put together a devotional service for this Sunday. This particular service is on the eve of the birthday of Baha’u’llah, the prophet founder of the Baha'i Faith. I am flattered, indeed, considering that I have not declared myself a Baha'i at this point. Methinks they might be a bit too trusting, but that’s just me.

A Baha'i devotional consists of readings from multiple religions on a certain theme. The notion is very consistent with the Baha'i belief that the founders of all major religions (plus many other prophets unknown to modern humankind) all were sent by the same God.

The local Baha’is have told me about a fascinating resource called Ocean. I downloaded it earlier this week. Ocean is a program that stores the texts of Baha'i books, books from other major religions, and other spiritual texts. Built into it is a search engine that can search the entire texts of all these books for words and phrases. I’d describe Ocean as “Baha’is going geek-brilliant,” harnessing computer technologies unimaginable in Baha’u’llah’s day to really demonstrate the notion of the common origin of spiritual traditions.

I decided to test Ocean by entering the word “prayer” into the search engine, figuring it would give me the widest scope of search engine hits. It came up with 10,161 sentences in 1,457 documents. Almost half were Baha'i texts, but it also included, among other things, Confessions of St. Augustine, the Divine Comedy of Dante, the King James Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Vedas, four different translations of the Qu’ran, writings by Rumi (one of my favorite writers!), the Torah, and a Taoist text. I could keep myself fascinated for days, weeks, and months at a time.

So we’ll see how it goes. In the liberal Protestant church I grew up in, our Sunday School class had the privilege to organize a church service. I’ve organized Pagan rituals, and served as a prayer leader at Mahikari cerermonies. So it can’t be too hard, right?
{Re-posted with permission}

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