April 21, 2019 represents an unusual day in that today is both Easter and the first day of Ridvan. This is a convergence of Christian and Baha’i holy days. These holidays are arguably the most holy days for the Christian and Baha’i Faiths. For me, personally, I don’t regard either holiday as holy, even though I have deep respect for Jesus and Baha’u’llah.
The explanation for the Baha’i Faith is easier for me. The festival of Ridvan, starting April 21 and lasting for twelve days, represents the moment Baha’u’llah and his family spent in the Garden of Ridvan prior to his exile to Constantinople. It was here that Baha’u’llah declared himself to be a Manifestation of God and that no other Manifestation of God would surface for another thousand years.
Baha’is thus believe that Baha’u’llah is the prophet for this day and age. But I don’t. I considered myself a Baha’i betwen 2007 and 2014, but ultimately, I saw too many flaws in both the Baha’i Faith and Baha’u’llah’s own writings to believe him to be a Manifestation of God. I go more into my beliefs about Baha’u’llah and prophets in this post,
So what about my feelings about Jesus Christ? I have deep reverence for Jesus Christ, what he taught, and the examples that he set. To me, that is much more important than the crucifixion and resurrection that Christians celebrate on Easter.
What many Christians communicate is that the crucifixion was the moment that Jesus died for our sins, and that if we believed in Jesus Christ as our lord and savior, our sins would be forgiven, too.
I don’t know whether the resurrection of Jesus occurred or not. I wasn’t there. But to me, it doesn’t matter because the most important aspect of Jesus was not the notion that he died for our sins. In fact, I believe that the moment this became emphasized and made central to the Christian faith, Christianity lost its way.
What is most important is what Jesus taught humankind. His determination to meet with people regarded as sinners and the kindness he showed them is an example that more people in this world need to follow. His admonition “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” is a powerful statement that even today is not fully understood by millions of Christians.
The moment that the crucifixion became a central part of the Christian faith, it invariably elbowed aside Jesus Christ’s most important teachings. It became more important to declare oneself a Christian than to learn from Jesus’s example. The history of violence among Christians shows how far many Christians went to enforce their beliefs on others, even on other self-described Christians. In fact, the crucifix–the image of Jesus on the cross–is, to me, a symbol of what many Christians have done to Christianity. Even before I had a better understanding of Christianity, the image of the crucifix is deeply unsettling.
I believe that religion does very little to define the moral character of a person. The most important measure of moral character is in the actions of a person. Thoughts are also important to the extent that they can influence actions. As such, there are many, many Christians and Baha’is who are inherently good people and who embody the notion of “love thy neighbor” through their words and actions. These are the spiritual people I take most seriously. And they can be found in all other religions as well as among spiritual and non-spiritual people. This is something that both Christianity and the Baha’i Faith deny. But I have observed this to be true.
On this day where Easter and the first day of Ridvan converge, let’s use this time to reflect on the role of religion and holy days, the nature of prophethood and the reason why we are here as human beings. As we face dark and challenging times ahead, it is important to go back to our inherent love for the world, as it will be needed more than ever in the coming years.