“The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” – Bahá’u’lláh
Did you know that the second most widespread religion in the world is one you may have never heard about? Though you can find several books on the subject in the basement of the LA Beeghly library, members of this religion tend not to advertise. This fact peaked my interest, thus inspiring my further research into the Bahá’í Faith.
It was in 1863 when Bahá’u’lláh declared His Mission as the Great Teacher promised in Holy Scriptures. Bahá’u’lláh became one of the most significant leaders of the Bahá’í Faith, creating thousands of writings giving advice on practically every topic one could think of.
Campus Ministry associate and Professor Emerita of Biology Dr. Debra Kirchhof-Glazier spoke with me a little about the Bahá’í Faith. She is particularly fascinated by the insights and quotes of Bahá’u’lláh, and how the wisdom of the Faith has the potential to solve many of the world’s problems. “
“I think one of the problems of our modern society is that we’re not aware,” Kirchof-Glazier stated. “We are really bombarded by all kinds of distractions and…you know, demands and crises and different things like that…The problems with the world, I think, are a result of that lack of awareness, and also an old-order mindset, where it’s the tarnished golden rule where you who has the gold makes the rules, and that’s not the real golden rule. So… humanity right now – and actually, I heard this from the Bahá’í perspective, and I think it really sums it up nicely, is that we are in the adolescent phase of humanity. Which is a very distracted kind of phase.”
Kirchof-Glazier first discovered the Bahá’í Faith in the 1980s, when she was a proud Christian who was not intending to find another religion. “I used to play my guitar for community functions, and the Bahá’ís asked me to play for one of their events,” she explained. “And I didn’t know what Bahá’ís were, but I went and played for their event. And then I asked them what they believed in, and when they said ‘all the religions are one’, my antennas went up. They explained what progressive revelation was — God comes at different times in history and gives us a message of the day, and the one thing that stuck in my craw though was that they said that Bahá’u’lláh was the Promised One of all religions. And I was like, wait a minute, does that mean he’s the Second Coming of Christ?”
Though she had some reservations about this idea, she believed that “if it’s true that Jesus said he was gonna come again – then, I thought, I have an obligation to check this out… So for two years, I spent investigating the Bahá’í Faith, and I finally came to the conclusion, for me, that if I rejected Bahá’u’lláh, I would be rejecting Jesus, and as crazy as it sounds, I believe that I became a born-again Christian by becoming a Bahá’í.”
Although the Bahá’í Faith could be described as a mix of all religions, it has its own unique characteristics. The symbol displayed is known as the ringstone symbol, an important Bahá’í symbol designed by Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of Bahá’u’lláh. The top and bottom line represent God’s world and our world, respectively, with the middle horizontal line representing the Manifestations of God, and the two stars representing the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. The vertical line represents the Holy Spirit connecting all planes of existence.
Another important symbol in the Bahá’í Faith is the number 19. The Bahá’í Faith has its own calendar inaugurated by the Báb, divided into 19 months of 19 days, each month with the name of an attribute of God. On the first day of each of these months, members of the Bahá’í Faith will gather to pray and to establish connections with other members of the Faith, called the Nineteen Day Feast.
Kirchof-Glazier told me that she represents the Bahá’í Faith on campus because, to her knowledge, there are no other active Bahá’ís within an hour’s journey. However, this does not seem to bother her, as she is able to help others on their spiritual journey, regardless of their religious beliefs. “In fact, one of the things I like about the Faith is, we say we don’t convert people, we discover them.”
Kirchof-Glazier explained, “One of the principles is independent investigation of the truth… as far as a sanctioned interpretation of Bahá’u’lláh’s writings, that is done by what we call the Universal House of Justice… In the Bahá’í system, we have international, national, and local levels, and they are all elected without any kind of campaigning. You just pray and think who’s the best person to be on this, who’s the most spiritual, and the people with the most votes get it. It’s very different. So on the international level, the Universal House of Justice will interpret the writings for that particular time… Since the Bahá’í Faith is for unity, the unity of God, the unity of humanity, and the unity of religion, we have to have unity, so there will never be a sect of the Bahá’í Faith. So this is what we interpret Bahá’u’lláh’s writings to be, and if you don’t believe it, you can accept it or not, but at least there’s one authorized interpretation.”
“The other thing is, the prayers are just totally awesome,” she added. “There is a prayer for everything. It’s just amazing… And there is a principle in the Bahá’í Faith that could fix everything you could ever think of, either 100% or 90%.”
The Bahá’í Faith creates unity, accepts and respects differing beliefs, builds and nurtures relationships, and instructs its believers to start their own “independent investigation of the truth”, while also providing eye-opening advice. It may be one of the youngest religions of our world, but it is also one of the most widespread and fastest-growing – one that certainly deserves looking into.
“The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.” – Bahá’u’lláh