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Born-Again to Baha’i: An Unexpected Journey

Caleb Gilleland | Jun 8, 2014

PART 1 IN SERIES An Unexpected Journey

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Caleb Gilleland | Jun 8, 2014

PART 1 IN SERIES An Unexpected Journey

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Welcome path

…thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. – Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, p. 3.

I grew up evangelical in the South. Jesus died for my sins and everyone else’s, I thought, and while I didn’t like the idea of non-Christians going to hell, I understood that our sinning nature meant that only accepting Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice could reunite us with God. I still remember being really worried when I found out one of my best friends was Catholic. My pastor taught that he would wind up in hell because he wasn’t “born again” like we were. Despite all this, I was still convinced that “God is love,” and that He sincerely wanted to have a relationship with everyone.

I was in the honors program at my high school, and it allowed me to take an experimental kind of class. I got to sit in the school library for a period each day and write a paper on whatever I was interested in. I decided to hash out a paper quickly on a subject I knew well (Greek mythology), but unfortunately, boredom eventually set in.

After some brainstorming, I figured that I could add in modern world religions since they filled much the same role today as mythology did in the ancient past. I thought I understood Christianity pretty well, so I decided to start with a faith I didn’t know very much about: Islam.

Honestly, at the time, I didn’t think that Islam and Christianity would have very much in common. After reading a bit, I was shocked. I really felt like Muslims cared as much about their religion as I did about mine, and that there seemed to be a lot in common between our faiths. Their understanding of Jesus seemed different, but respectful, and much of their idea of religious history was almost exactly the same as mine, from Adam all the way until John the Baptist. I wasn’t sure what to make of Muhammad, A Short Introduction to the Baha'i Faithbut he was clearly a momentous figure in world history, and one that I hadn’t really thought about much.

My questions only intensified when I decided to read some verses of the Qur’an. Growing up, I always sensed something different about reading the Bible. I don’t know how to describe it, but when I read the verses of God, something stirred in my heart. I could just feel that truth. Imagine my intense surprise when I started reading the Qur’an and got the same exact feeling. Obviously, it was time to take a big step back and evaluate this situation I had gotten myself into.

I wanted to be cautious but thorough, so I started doing research at the county library. I tried to read everything about Islam I could get my hands on, and I wanted to know what Christian apologists had to say about it. I tried very hard to be fair in my assessment. One night after I had come in to check out some books, a small volume fell over on the shelf in front of me: A Short Introduction to the Baha’i Faith. I felt like I knew a little about most world religions from school, but I had never heard of this. I picked it up, read the back cover to see what it was about, then tossed it in my basket. I remember reading a few pages in the car as my dad drove me home, but I don’t think I picked it up again until I returned the books a few weeks later.

Then I had a dream.

I don’t think I’ve had a dream like it before or since. I remember being perplexed over the questions I had about religion. I just wanted to follow God–I didn’t really want something that I had thought was so simple to be so complicated. Jesus was true, obviously. I knew in my heart that his death and resurrection connected us with God despite our sins. But I also felt like Islam somehow didn’t cancel that out. Did they somehow connect? I felt lost. Then I sensed a gentle, peaceful, but unmistakable feeling. I somehow knew it was God. Suffice it to say that he communicated to me: “Check out the book on the Baha’i Faith again, and actually read it this time, dummy.” I hoped the last part was playful.

The next day, I checked out the book from the library and actually read it through. What I found completely blew my mind.

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Comments

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  • Caleb
    Jun 10, 2014
    -
    You're most welcome. Good to know that I'm not the only one!
  • Glen
    Jun 8, 2014
    -
    My experience was very similar... Thanks for writing about yours!
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