Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Baha'i faith, an anecdote

A friend of mine recently converted to the Baha'i faith. If you've never heard of it, it's a unitarian faith the comes most directly out of Islam. It affirms that all the founders of each religion came from God, and that God progressively revealed more of his faith. Baha'u'llah, the Baha'i founder, was supposed to be the last prophet of this age who would draw all the religions of the world into one with his teachings. Baha'is see other religions as valid and correct, but theirs is the most correct and pure.

Such a poorly-known religion, with such tolerant principles and modern sympathies doesn't alarm the religious watchmen in the US. They would see it as either a useless outpouring of Unitarianism in disguise, or a secret way of injecting Islam into the culture. Baha'is are unlike Muslims, unlike Christians, unlike the rest. Their practice is distinct. It's a religion of its own.

But I noticed this: when my friend converted, her manners of speaking and writing changed. They seemed more mature; she used wonderful, beautiful flourishes when describing her thoughts on the world, humanity and the future. But as I read more of her writing I found these same phrases - like 'identity of all humanity' - used over and over. What had seemed special to me was actually lifted from Baha'i scriptures.

It made me uneasy in a gut reaction. I wanted to know why I reacted this way. It wasn't because I resented her conversion or disliked her religion or its teachings. It was because she constantly used these phrases and did not invent new ways of thinking. Her entire process was voluntary, but she stopped thinking so independently. I checked the books she had read; most of what she wrote was simply Baha'i teachings translated into language for people her age.

I was made uncomfortable because it looked a lot like brainwashing. But the process of acquiring language and ways of speaking is part of growing into a religion. You don't become a born-again Christian, for example, without talking about being born again, or salvation, or about faith.

Of course, there are people who convert or grow deeply religious, use a huge amount of their faith's vocabulary and still don't make me uneasy. It unsettled me the way my friend wrote because she was not one of those people; she'd been subsumed into the religious language and never came back out. Maybe in time she'll emerge a bit. I don't mean she should cool her faith, I mean that she may someday adapt the language she's using to say things with the variety she used to in her writing.

Isn't this better than a boring post about the Democratic Primaries?

1 comment:

praVeen said...

The Bahai's believe all religions are one revealed at different times based on the maturity of humanity, hence how can one "convert" from one religion to another? [when they are one!!],

It is based on Oneness, love and Unity.

explore @ www.Bahai.org