Providing answers to oft-asked questions of Baha'is
by Ted Slavinpublished in St. Catharines Standard
St. Catharines, Ontario: 2009-08-15
I was giving a goodbye hug and kiss to my daughter one morning at her day care when she turned to her caregiver and blurted out, "I went to Feast!"
"What did you do?" came the confused reply.
"I went to Feast!" said my daughter with even more enthusiasm, accented with a jumping pirouette. Usually our daughter's caregivers call on their superior ability to interpret her most obscure grammar-defying expressions into logical statements with such ease that leaves us in humble awe. This was one time, however, where the interpreter needed some help.
I explained that the Feast is a Bahá'í gathering every 19 days that, besides being a time for prayer, consultation and socializing, meant that our daughter could stay up a bit past her bedtime.
It was after this episode at day care that I thought about the lingo and patterns of activity that make each religion unique. I am always interested in learning about religions and many people have asked me why I'm a Bahá'í. There's a real joy that comes with these episodes of sharing one's faith and, in that spirit, I've answered the three most frequent questions I've been asked:
What do Bahá'ís believe?
The list gets long pretty quickly, but here are the highlights: there is one God and all the world's major religions have come from God. Bahá'ís believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the most recent Messenger from God. He taught that all humanity is one family, that women and men are equal, that science and religion are in harmony and that all prejudice (racial, religious, economic, etc.) is harmful.
How can Bahá'ís believe that all the major religions come from one God?
Bahá'ís believe in progressive revelation. I often use the example of teachers when I explain this. Children at school start at kindergarten and progress on up through the grades. Each teacher will teach similar subjects, like math and language, but each new lesson the student learns is based on what was learned from teachers before. For example, before teaching a student to read, the student must first learn the letters of the alphabet. Once a student can read, he can be taught with new books to help him reach an even higher reading level than before.
Humanity's spiritual development through history has been similar. It evolves and grows with the coming of each Messenger of God every thousand years or so.
Each Messenger builds upon lessons taught before in ways appropriate for the conditions and maturity of civilization at that time.
Why are you a Bahá'í?
The teachings of Bahá'u'lláh always made perfect sense to me as the remedy for society's ills and it's through their logic that I've always considered myself a Bahá'í. But it was a glimpse of a red compact's rear bumper that confirmed my heart and sealed the deal.
I was a lonely 13-year-old, touring on a bus in Ireland. I was separated from my friends and felt terribly homesick; all until a little red car passed us with a bumper sticker that read "One Planet, One People, Please." This phrase calling for world unity was common amongst Bahá'ís at the time, but seeing it in Ireland made Bahá'u'lláh's vision my reality.
With barely a clue of where I was (on many levels), I suddenly found myself at peace, knowing that there was a community in that land who would offer help if I needed it; welcome me, because they consider the world's peoples as their family with a clear plan to confirm its unity; and, if my timing was right, invite me for the celebration of the Feast. Consider feeling this love and optimism in almost every country, in cities and towns with Bahá'ís, and you will understand what it feels like to be in the vanguard of an "ever-advancing civilization."
You will understand why I'm a Bahá'í.