December 9, 1997
[Editor's note: In conjunction with the recent symposium on Great Religions of the World, The Harbinger has solicited articles on other traditions than the mainstream religious faiths practiced in Mobile. The series continues in this issue with the Baha'i faith.]
by Daniel Day
The Baha'i Faith is among the fastest growing independent world religions according to the World Christian Encyclopedia. The 1992 Britannica Book of the year shows the Baha'i Faith as being second to only Christianity in its geographic spread, having significant communities in 205 countries.
Locally, there are Baha'is in Mobile, Prichard, Daphne and Fairhope. Area Baha'is are preparing for the Centennial of the Baha'i Faith in the Southern States to be held May 8, 9 and 10, 1998 in Fairhope. The teachings were first carried to the Southern States by Paul Kingston Dealy in 1898 when he moved to Fairhope attracted by the single-tax structure. Fairhope and Mobile are among more than 120,000 localities where Baha'i is now reside. "More than 2,100 different ethnic and tribal groups are represented" according to The Baha'is: A Profile of the Baha'i Faith and Its Worldwide Community.
The message of the Baha'i Faith is that there is one God, one race (the human race) and one religion (the religion of God). The religion of God has been carried to humanity by a series of Divine Messengers who include Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Muhummed, the Bab, and most recently, Baha'u'llah. During the middle of the last century, Baha'u'llah, whose name means the Glory of God, taught that the purpose of human existence is to know and love God and to carry forward an ever advancing civilization.
In order that human civilization continue advancing, these Divine Teachers, or Manifestations of God, brought teachings that renewed spiritual devotion and provided the social teachings necessary to the particular region and for the particular time in which it was delivered. These social teachings include such things as what food may be eaten, guidelines for marriage and divorce, and the particular Holy Days which are observed.
Baha'u'llah announced "He Who is your Lord, the All-Merciful, cherisheth in His heart the desire of beholding the entire human race as one soul and one body." The human race is likened to a single human being. As the child grows, the information required increases and the level of responsibility increases proportionately. Baha'u'llah teaches that humanity is in the stage of adolescence -- about to pass into adulthood. In the past, humans allowed others to take responsibility for their spiritual development. The Baha'i Faith has no clergy because in this day each person is responsible for his or her own spiritual development. Each must independently investigate spiritual truths to determine the validity of the message.
In the absence of clergy, the affairs of the Baha'i community are handled by an administrative order that has its national offices in Illinois and its world headquarters in Haifa, Israel. The members are elected without campaigning or electioneering. A system of consultation is used assuring that the opinions of each member can be heard without judgment. There are now National Spiritual Assemblies in more than 170 countries of the world.
In order for humanity to move into adulthood, it must recognize that there is one God; there is one humanity; there is one religion. It must come together by eliminating all forms of prejudice, firmly recognizing the equality of women and men and eliminating the extremes of wealth and poverty. We must provide universal education, not only in this country, but in every country. We must recognize that there can be only one Truth so religion and science must agree. We must learn an auxiliary language, a language in addition to our native language that is universally used, so that we may improve communication and understanding among the people of the world. "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established," Baha'u'llah asserts.
The purpose of religion is to bring the people of the world together. In Spanish God is pronounced Dios. In Arabic God is pronounced Allah. In English God is pronounced God. But there is one God regardless of the language used to praise Him. When we recognize that we all worship the same God, we will be far more accepting of each other.
God's message is continuous. For those of Jewish background, Baha'u'llah has come to teach the people how they may "beat their swords into plowshares." For Buddhists, He is the promised "Maitreye," the Buddha of universal fellowship. For Hindus, He is the "Tenth Avatar" or Most Great Spirit. For Christians He has come "in the Glory of the Father." To Muslims he is the "Great Announcement." The prophesies of all the world's religions point to the One who will bring an end to hatred and violence and bring the people together. "There shall be one fold, and one shepherd" we are told in the Bible. "Know thou assuredly that the essence of all the Prophets of God is one and the same...," Baha'u'llah reaffirms.
As we look to the new millennium, some feel fear, some anxiety, and some feel anticipation that change is in the air. Baha'is are actively working to establish the "Kingdom of God on Earth." As humanity comes of age, it must establish the foundation of a world civilization. The Baha'i Faith is the Divinely revealed blueprint for such a civilization. The development of such a social structure requires the spiritual transformation of the individual members. The teachings of the Baha'i Faith offer the personal guidance on issues of trustworthiness, honesty, chastity, purity of motive and that work done in the spirit of service is worship. These teachings can provide the power to transform the individual sufficiently for them to have a transforming influence on society.
"The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem...The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which the subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements." -- Baha'u'llah.