Bahai faith teaches universal acceptance of God
12/30/00 3:48 PM
SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- As the 20th century passes into history, Christians celebrated Christmas the same week as Jews celebrated Hanukkah and Muslims celebrated Eid Al-Fitr -- a rare event that followers of the Bahai faith say symbolizes the universal nature of religion.
"We believe that the spiritual teaching of all the major religions are the same," said Rachel Greco of Dallas. "God is the same regardless of what you choose to call him, whether it is Yahweh, Allah or God."
Members of the Bahai faith meet weekly in Monmouth to share their desire to learn from all religions.
Greco says Bahais teach the importance of abandoning all prejudice, encouraging reason and pursuing scientific knowledge.
They recognize the equality of women, and the unity and importance of all religious truth while trying to eliminate the extremes of poverty and wealth.
They also consider Bahaullah, who lived from 1817 to 1892, the last of a line of prophets that included Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed.
Local Bahai communities are coordinated by nine-member spiritual assemblies.
Nicole Weathers, 24, is a member of the Monmouth Bahai Spiritual Assembly and a lifelong practitioner of the faith.
Although the faith has no clergy and members are cautious of head-swelling titles, a decision made by the nine-member panel is considered binding on the local assembly, Weathers said.
The panel is charged with operating the business of the assembly, whether it is locating a meeting site, selecting a service project or resolving other issues, she said.
"Any religion and faith should not just be a part of your life, what you do once a week," Weathers said, "it should shape every decision you make and how you view life."
As the follower of a so-called "new religion" based in the Middle East, Weathers said, she can remember times as a girl when parents did not want their children playing with her, "because I was going to Hell."
But the values of other people were just as important to her as her own, she said.
"Because I am of the Bahai faith, I was a 'good girl,' never did drugs, didn't drink, and hold family values as very important to me," Weathers said.
As her peer group has grown up, people her age are more accepting and interested in learning what her faith is all about, she said.
Greco, who owns a Dallas quilt shop, said she was introduced by a neighbor to the Bahai faith while she was living in Naples, Italy, when her ex-husband was in the Navy 27 years ago.
One of her early teachers was Barbara Hale, the actress who portrayed Della Street on TV's "Perry Mason."
"I try to live up to those teachings on a daily basis and to follow those precepts of the oneness of God, the oneness of religion and the oneness of mankind," Greco said.
©Copyright 2000, Oregon Live (Associated Press)