KOBBI R. BLAIR / Statesman Journal
Bahais teach inclusiveness
BY HANK ARENDS, Statesman Journal
The gentle folks of the Bahai faith abhor prejudice but are the target of it, especially in the Middle East.
Members of the group that meets weekly in Monmouth also have their stories to tell of being slighted, but they prefer to dwell on the positive aspects of their religion.
“We believe that the spiritual teaching of all the major religions are the same,” Rachel Greco of Dallas said. “God is the same regardless of what you choose to call him, whether it is Yahweh, Allah or God.”
The inclusiveness of wanting to learn from all religions is one of the things that sets the Bahais apart. They also point to Bahaullah, who lived from 1817 to 1892, as the last of a line of prophets that included Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed.
Bahais distill the teaching down to the importance of abandoning all prejudice, the equality of women, recognizing the unity and importance of all religious truth, eliminating the extremes of poverty and wealth, seeking universal education, the responsibility of each individual to search for truth, developing a global commonwealth of nations and accepting that true religion harmonizes with reason and the pursuit of scientific knowledge.
Local 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, Weathers said, when the nine-member panel makes a decision it is binding on the local assembly. The panel is charged with operating the business of the assembly, whether it is locating a meeting site, selecting a service project or resolving 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. 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.”
As the follower of a “new religion” based in the Middle East, Weathers said, she recalled times as a girl when parents did not want their children playing with her, “because I was going to hell.”
As her peer group has grown up, it is more accepting and interested in learning what her faith is all about, she said.
Greco 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 of the practices and tenets of the faith 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.
She owns a Dallas quilt shop and believes she is furthering the equality of women by teaching that the art of quilting is a story of the empowerment of women.
“In no way are we saying we are superior,” Greco said of members of the Bahai faith. “The very fact of being a Bahai is to serve mankind. The highest station a Bahai can obtain is for someone to say they have truly served mankind.”
Hank Arends can be reached at (503) 399-6736 or harends@StatesmanJournal.com.
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