17 Qudrat 167 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head: Kiltarten Road, “Carol Of The Field Mice”
Three years ago I walked up to the edge of Lake Monona, offered a prayer, meditated a little bit on my spiritual path up to that point, and signed a white card with blue printing declaring myself a Baha’i.
To be honest, I was actually a bit numb when I signed the card. but looking back, it was a very precious time, a time of anticipation, longing and chain-reaction change. Some of the best writing I’ve done occurred during that month, and the November air that month often felt charged, as if magic was occurring.
Three years later, I’m at my computer writing with the lights off except for the Christmas lights I have on in my room and the glow of my monitor. I can say that I feel more at home in the Baha’i Faith and more sure about the Faith than I did three years ago.
The last post I made about the Birth of Baha’u’llah certainly sounds like someone with certitude. I must confess that sometimes I look at my last post and think, “Am I really that sure about the Baha’i Faith?”
There has always been a bit of a skeptic within me, and that’s not a bad thing. I grew up seeing religious conflict within my family when my mom and her sister chose to leave the Catholic Church to the chagrin of their mother. My mom was always a strong believer in mixing religion with common sense. She was good about exposing me to religion without indoctrinating me, and I’m grateful for the full freedom my parents gave me to explore and choose my own religious beliefs. (I also like the fact that Baha’is are obligated to give their children the same level of freedom I had to explore my beliefs.)
I have certitude about God and the existence of God. I feel like God has been guiding me through much of my life, and has given me a much more interesting and magical life than I would have dreamed up myself. Too many wishes fulfilled that were too good to be true, and too many wishes denied that opened up yet other doors. And far too many coincidences.
But why religion? Can’t I just have my own experiences and be content with that?
Of course, many ungodly things have been done in the name of religion, and having contended personally with religious fanatics in my own life, I fully understand why people prefer to say, “To-may-to, to-mah-to, let’s call the whole thing off.”
Nevertheless, I’ve seen too many good things come out of religion. Religion has challenged me to be the best, most loving and most positive person I can be, and when it hasn’t done that, I’ve left the religion behind and gone elsewhere.
It’s not that religion makes a mess of people, it’s that people make a mess of religion. Just as we humans made a mess of a whole bunch of things in this life, resulting in starvation, the mass extinction of species, toxins in our air, water, and soil, global warming that threatens to make our planet unlivable, and stockpiles of weapons numerous enough and strong enough to wipe out billions of people. For a while, I thought that getting involved in politics could make a difference, but I’ve come to believe that this is akin to trying use mud to wash out an ugly stain. Why wouldn’t religion become tainted in such a world?
The path of this Different Drummer has been to look for the alternative to all this. I’ve wandered off the more traveled path in search of a whisper of gentle voices and hearts beating amid the screaming and the chest-beating.
The Baha’i Faith seems to fit that bill the best, with its exhortations for humanity to unite and for the religions to agree, for an end to war, racism, prejudice of any kind, and even backbiting, for the equality of men and women, the end to extremes of wealth and poverty, recognition of the unity of science and religion, and for the independent investigation of truth.
Sure I’ve had my doubts. Earlier this year, in an effort to be more certain about my beliefs one way or another, I began to really focus on the writings of Baha’u’llah in a way I hadn’t before. That has made a difference, and I feel stronger about the Baha’i Faith than before.
So, as I begin my fourth year as a Baha’i, I need to start thinking more about how I can contribute to the Faith and what my appropriate role within it is…