Returning to Faith

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jenniferatemple
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Joined: Tue Dec 03, 2013 11:10 pm

Returning to Faith

Postby jenniferatemple » Sat Dec 07, 2013 12:33 pm

My impression at the last Holy day, Day the Covenant, was that I had no right to be there. “She should not be in the room”, one of the friends had said. There was also a general sense of coldness. At one prior Holy day, people looked a bit disconcerted when I offered a prayer for the events in the Philippines. I'm not sure whether that was because no one else thought of it, whether they thought it was out of place or simply that it was me. I have never been informed about feasts, though, of course I do know the days they should happen on, I am just excluded.

I never resigned nor have my administrative rights ever been removed. Until an assembly says otherwise, I am, in fact, “a Baha’i in good standing”, no?

I am disinclined to attend any future events with out a card. Though “Baha’i cards were not mandated by Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi, the cards were a created convenience for ease of administration. Not having one does not make one a non-Baha’i nor does the lack of a signed declaration card. (Though I did sign one) Are our conveniences becoming dogmas?

I have written the NSA to clarify my position after a 20 year absence. I have no idea what sort of reply I may get. I married during my absence from the faith. Though this marriage is of a platonic and legally practical nature and has no physical component. It was simply a convenience of law to do with inheritance, Tax and CRA.

Should it be required, my husband would be quite enthusiastic about a Baha'i marriage and I do have the wholehearted consent of the one living parent, my mother. My husband said "You never really left the Baha'i Faith." Perhaps this is true, but I did spend 20 years getting my "mind right" around certain issues.I still continued to teach the faith only I never claimed to be a Baha'i or name the faith, whose principals I openly promoted.

The unwelcome feelings I get makes me inclined to continue seeking deeper faith and understanding on my own, rather than subject myself to the feeling I am being ostracized.

In any case, I will stay away until fully approved, officially, by the NSA. (Does anyone know how often they meet?)

Just looking for the thoughts of a wider range of Baha'is, here.

jenniferatemple
Posts: 75
Joined: Tue Dec 03, 2013 11:10 pm

P.S.: Returning to Faith

Postby jenniferatemple » Sat Dec 07, 2013 12:38 pm

It is a huge consolation to me that for reasons I don't care to outline, I am sure God has forgiven me and prayers do resonate in a way that they have not, for many years. It was not until then that I contacted the local community.

Jonah
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Re: Returning to Faith

Postby Jonah » Sun Dec 08, 2013 3:48 am

It's my understanding that you don't need to "do" anything to be, or return to being, a Baha'i. As long as you believe in Baha'u'llah and don't undermine the Covenant (e.g. by questioning the legitimacy of the Institutions), I think you're good to go. This quote from the Aqdas, which you've seen many times, lists the two requirements which I think are all that's necessary:

"The first duty prescribed by God for His Servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Day Spring of His Revelation and the Founder of His laws ... It behoveth every one ... to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world."

jenniferatemple
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Joined: Tue Dec 03, 2013 11:10 pm

Re: Returning to Faith

Postby jenniferatemple » Sun Dec 08, 2013 2:41 pm

I may not need to "do anything" but unlike a church, one cannot just show up. One does need to know who and where events are being hosted. Then one wants to feel welcome to be there. I am thinking not many try to get back, given the robust response on this board as well as on the ground. I can't think of another faith that is so hard on its "prodigal sons". If I walked back into an Anglican Church after my 40 absence I would be welcome and could take communion with no one batting an eye. To come back to the Baha'i community takes considerably more courage and a very thick skin.

It is not as though I behaved badly in my absence. I just cannot do hypocrisy. One of the friends suggested I do just that, at the time I was pulling away. She pointed out her own secrets but said it was too much to give up community life. Through the years I have had many arguments with this friend about the intent in the writings. I find people can justify just about anything with a little twisting of logic. For me, faith and God were never a place for games. I demanded absolute honesty with myself, as I think is true of anyone that takes their soul seriously. How I appeared to others was not an issue. It also has come to my thinking, that those most deeply involved with faith are the very ones who are always questioning themselves and their relationship with the Almighty, "I AM".

In my present life as a Baha'i, it's just me and God. No one else is welcoming or talking to me. More than anything I find this a sad state of affairs. At the risk of sounding like a nutter, I will tell you about two very profound experiences in my relationship to faith:

Abdu’l-Baha stood next to me at one of the Holy day events. There is no explaining how I knew it to be Him, it just was. He stood so close I could feel the static on the hairs of my one arm.

At a point of great desperation and challenge to my faith, I stayed up until midnight to submit a serious of v"potent" prayers; during a saying of the Tablet of Ahmad, I dropped the prayer book and exclaimed “You want absolute sincerity and I do not even know that you exist!” At that moment, my mind was wiped clean, like a blank slate. For the next moment I was not aware of anything at all except the “voice” that said “I AM”. At that moment all doubt was taken away. I was filled with peace and assurance. For a very long time I would never talk about these experiences. I greatly feared what I knew to be true would have others believe I might be schizophrenic.

It has taken me 20 years to get back to a place that even approached that degree of certainty. I have been through to much to play judge among my fellows but I do feel I have been judged and found wanting. So, I still do not know how to “come back”.

jenniferatemple
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Re: Returning to Faith

Postby jenniferatemple » Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:05 pm

I signed my card 42 years ago. Prior to accepting the truth of Baha’u’llah I was a devote Christian from a very early age. No others in my family were true to the Christian faith. They attended church on Holy days, held celebrations that had very little to do with faith and went through the motions of baptism, confirmation, marriage and death rituals. It was all, more about community acceptance than any relationship to God or the teachings of the manifestation.
Sadly, in recent times I am seeing a similar type of behavior among some Baha’is. It may seem difficult to remember in our bureaucratic part of the world that signing a card, being on a list or having an ID. Number does not, in fact, make us a Baha’i. There is no particular blessing or magic attached to these administrative functions. Working toward becoming a Baha’i is a lifelong endeavor. Anyone who announces with surety, I am a Baha’i is likely misguided.

I signed a card at 15. I have been working at becoming a Baha’i ever since. I had been serving an L.S.A. for over 20 years when Dr. David Smith, came to visit our community, looked at me and asked, “When did you become a Baha’i?” After watching me go through the mental contortions of trying to decide if I even was a Baha’i yet, he smiled wryly and said, “We all feel that way, when did you sign your card?” Yes, we should all “feel that way”.

Being true to faith and God seems easy for a great many people. I can only assume the ”tests and difficulties” have not been too harsh. It is through the hard tests that we learn to be a Baha’i. Lack of tests makes it easier to pass judgement when we watch our fellows, but it is not our right to judge. We have no concept of another’s trials or their capacities. At best, we can offer kind guidance and moral support as people work at faith and hope for the growth of both in the process.

It is true, I have not always called myself a Baha’i but I did find myself turning to the writings each time I found myself questioning the difficulties in my life or had a problem with others in my life. To the best of my ability I have lived by the principals set out by Baha’u’lláh and Abdu’l-baha. I have relied upon them for guidance even to non-Baha’is. I reject backbiting and gossip as a plague that still seems to poison much of humanity; Baha’is are clearly not immune. When my spouse not so very long ago was perpetuating a couple of rumors about some colleagues, I cautioned him. Within 24 hours he came to encounter both and by their actions, learned the gossip was not true. He told me about both events expressing the wisdom of the faith and his profound embarrassment at having perpetuated the lies. I thought, ‘Wow, God works fast!”.

I have written to many individuals who count themselves Baha’is when I wanted to return to community life and found only rejection. That IS O.K.! The one thing I am certain of, we are all in different phases of growth both as communities and individuals. The faith cannot be judged by the people who name themselves among the followers. Those who go absent and inactive may well be returning with a stronger and deeper understanding of both the writings and their relationship to Almighty,God. In Him is still my refuge and my comfort. Allah-u-Abha!

I do have faith in the wisdom of the N.S.A., and hope to hear from them soon.

Jonah
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Re: Returning to Faith

Postby Jonah » Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:03 pm

Thank you for sharing all this. You've had quite a journey. I look forward to others chiming in with some thoughts or suggestions.

iranpour
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Re: Returning to Faith

Postby iranpour » Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:06 pm

Hello Jennifer, You have written:

In my present life as a Baha'i, it's just me and God. No one else is welcoming or talking to me

Welcome BACK to the Baha’i Faith. I think sometimes it is natural for those who embraced the Faith themselves to hesitate on the truthfulness of what they believed, but I have seen that the episode caused them to get stronger in Faith and their BELIEF superseded by CERTITUDE.

I have seen some believers who when had confronted with inattention of other believers become shocked by their behaviors while men are liable to sin and make mistake and it is only the divine Manifestations Who have the Most Great Infallibility.

I love your following sentence regarding the subject of our discussion:

I have written to many individuals who count themselves Baha’is when I wanted to return to community life and found only rejection. That IS O.K.! The one thing I am certain of, we are all in different phases of growth both as communities and individuals. The faith cannot be judged by the people who name themselves among the followers. Those who go absent and inactive may well be returning with a stronger and deeper understanding of both the writings and their relationship to Almighty,God. In Him is still my refuge and my comfort. Allah-u-Abha!


The path of our journey has many upward and downward, acclivity and declivity, which one succeeded the other and we have to be steadfast as the mountain, you have written to your NSA and you have faith in their wisdom and decision. I pray and wish the best for you. :thumbs: With Baha’i love Iranpour

iranpour
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Re: Returning to Faith

Postby iranpour » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:16 am

Dear Baha’i friend, you have written:
I am disinclined to attend any future events with out a card. Though “Baha’i cards were not mandated by Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi, the cards were a created convenience for ease of administration. Not having one does not make one a non-Baha’i nor does the lack of a signed declaration card. (Though I did sign one) Are our conveniences becoming dogmas?

In my previous post I forget to mention that the tree of the world-embracing Faith of God, namely the New World Order of Baha’u’llah is an Organic Living thing.
The Root and the main Trunk is Baha’u’llah, then the Most Great Branch ‘Abdu’l-Baha grew, then the growth of “the primal branch of the Divine and Sacred Lote-Tree, grown out, blest, tender, verdant and flourishing from the Twin Holy Trees; the most wondrous, unique and priceless pearl that doth gleam from out the Twin surging seas”, Shoghi Effendi, the Beloved Guardian of the Faith and the Administrative Order including the Universal House of Justice and whatever issued from that infallible source. We have not belittle even the most apparently unimportant leaves like Baha’i identity card or the like. I remember when Mr. Forutan the dear Hand of the Cause of God told one of the Persian friends that the butcher sells GROSS MEAT WITH BONES ant not unmixed one! In the Qur’an also God refers to the subject:
“Believe ye in part of the Scripture and disbelieve ye in part thereof? (The Qur'an, 2:85).

c3ponds
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Re: Returning to Faith

Postby c3ponds » Sun Dec 15, 2013 2:02 pm

Dear Jennifer:

Welcome back, and welcome home. Your story is quite moving, but unfortunately not a gasping surprise. Jonah and iranpour left wonderful responses. Our individuals, communities, and institutions are still growing, and therefore some things get missed.

May your fellow community members soon remember this quote, "Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone. Let your hearts burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path." -Abdu'l Baha, Paris Talks.

And kudos to you for your patience. Best wishes on your personal journey!

jenniferatemple
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Joined: Tue Dec 03, 2013 11:10 pm

Re: Returning to Faith

Postby jenniferatemple » Thu Dec 19, 2013 6:07 pm

Many thanks to all the kind replies here.

It is the one board I have found that I would dare to trust! There is a lot of "Baha'i" garbage online now and I am suspecting many are not in fact Baha'is because many seem very close to covenant breaking with their bashing of the institutions. Worse, Baha'is that have resigned the faith are still wrapped up in "educating on line" about the faith! Scary stuff!

Perhaps I missed a message or two over time but I never heard that the UHJ had made ID cards mandatory and the last I had heard from the National was that they were required to vote. I have supplied my new "community" with three references from 3 different LSAs to assure them I am really a Baha'i "in good standing". I would have thought that enough to get me to feasts. As it still stands I need to travel 150 miles to attend any feasts. Not to mention that even with out references I should be allowed all but the administrative portion.

One other oddity. my old communities were astounded that this town worries about people posing as Bahai's because of "Our reputation for hospitality and helpfulness" This seems to me to be EXACTLY what Abdul'u-Baha spoke of in "Paris Talks! At no time did he ever suggest we should only treat other Baha'is with such kindness but rather ALL MEN!! All are God's people. That by showing the goodness of Baha'is we would be teaching and attracting people to the Blessed Beauty.

One of my distant friends laughed and asked me why they had not told the interlopers how easy it is to become a Baha'i? I could not answer.

Maybe I am a "test and difficulty" that God has sent my new community.

In the mean time I do "pray for patience in a hurry!" (I'm still waiting for a reply from the NSA.)

iranpour
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Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:52 pm

Re: Returning to Faith

Postby iranpour » Sat Dec 21, 2013 4:45 am

Hello jeniferatemple, you have written:
One of my distant friends laughed and asked me why they had not told the interlopers how easy it is to become a Baha'i? I could not answer.

I believe that Embracing the Baha’i Faith is an EASY BUT DIFFICULT job!

EEASY, if one had the qualifications revealed at the beginning of Kitab-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude). There, Baha’u’llah summarizes the necessary qualities for those who search after the Truth:

They should PUT THEIR TRUST IN GOD, SANCTIFYING THEIR SOULS, DETACHING FROM ALL WORLDLY things that is in heaven and on earth, CLEANS THEIR HEARTS FROM WORLDLY AFFECTIONS, their EYES FROM THAT WHICH PERISHES, their EARS FROM IDLE TALKS, their MINDS FROM VAIN IMAGININGS and CEASE TO REGARD THE WORDS AND DEEDS OF MORTAL MEN AS A STANDARD FOR THE TRUE UNDERSTANDING AND RECOGNITION OF GOD AND HIS PROPHETS.

DIFFICULT for THOSE WHOSE HEARTS ARE SULLIED BY WORLDLY DESIRES AND AMBITIONS AND CONSEQUENTLY ARE DEPRIVED OF THE ABOVE QUALITIES.

DIFFICULT FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT SEE WITH THEIR OWN EYES AND HEAR WITH THEIR OWN EARS:

“Unto every discerning observer it is evident and manifest that HAD these people in the days of each of the Manifestations of the Sun of Truth SANCTIFIED THEIR EYES, THEIR EARS, AND THEIR HEARTS FROM WHATEVER THEY HAD SEEN, HEARD, AND FELT, they surely would not have been deprived of beholding the beauty of God, nor strayed far from the habitations of glory. BUT HAVING WEIGHED THE TESTIMONY OF GOD BY THE STANDARD OF THEIR OWN KNOWLEDGE, GLEANED FROM THE TEACHINGS OF THE LEADERS OF THEIR FAITH, AND FOUND IT AT VARIANCE WITH THEIR LIMITED UNDERSTANDING, they arose to perpetrate such unseemly acts. (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 14)

jenniferatemple
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Joined: Tue Dec 03, 2013 11:10 pm

Why the need

Postby jenniferatemple » Sat Dec 21, 2013 11:21 am

My point was Why would anyone need to "pose as a Baha'i" to benefit from "our reputation for hospitality and helpfulness"! It should be there for all. Paris Talks does make that very clear, "In this way,even if what you first suspected should be true,still go out of your way to be kind to them - this kindness will help them to become better." This is the very first of the "Paris Talks". Later on November 6th, he goes into more detail about how he wants us to behave toward "every living soul" and clearly not to be demonstrated just toward other Baha'is! "Paris Talks" does seem to me to be an excellent guide book in plain talk. It is a favorite of mine.

Jonah
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Re: Returning to Faith

Postby Jonah » Sun Dec 22, 2013 4:10 pm

I can't find the quote, but I'm 90% sure I once read that ID cards were originally instituted to allow Baha'is to declare themselves "conscientious objectors" to avoid military service. As far as I've heard, cards have never been made mandatory.

Community practice and tradition, of course, might have a different approach!

MontanaDon
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Re: Returning to Faith

Postby MontanaDon » Wed Jan 01, 2014 12:13 am

The following is from Guidelines for LSA's -
BAHÁ’Í CREDENTIALS
All American Bahá’ís, adult and youth, should carry current Bahá'í Membership cards issued by the National Spiritual Assembly. The cards identify them as members of the Bahá’í Faith in good standing and entitle them to attend Nineteen Day Feasts, conventions, and other meetings that are for Bahá’ís only.

CHECKING CREDENTIALS
The Local Spiritual Assembly is responsible for checking the credentials of American Bahá’ís from other localities who wish to participate in community activities restricted to Bahá’ís. Checking visitors’ identification protects the community from those who have had their membership revoked or from anyone who may be hostile toward the Faith.
Since it sometimes happens that people will attempt to take advantage of the kindness and hospitality of the Bahá’í community, it is especially important that the Local Spiritual Assembly ask to see the Bahá’í identification of strangers claiming to be Bahá’ís and ask them to leave should they be unable to produce current Bahá’í credentials.
Those responsible for checking may ask to see some form of photo identification in addition to Bahá'í Membership cards or proof of Bahá'í membership from other countries. If the Local Assembly has internet access, the credentials of Bahá’ís from other localities can be verified through eMembership.

Local Assemblies Are Not to Provide Credentials
Local Assemblies are not to issue temporary identification cards for believers, nor should they write letters introducing them as Bahá’ís in good standing to immigration officials, other local, state, or Federal officials, or to other Bahá'í communities.
Official Bahá’í credentials can only be issued, processed or verified by the National Spiritual Assembly.
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Understood properly, all man's problems are essentially spiritual in nature.


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