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One of the wonderful things that happens to BahaiTeachings.org writers: we get to learn about the spiritual journeys our readers make.
In actual letters like the one below, we have the privilege and bounty of deeply connecting with people whose souls are walking the path of independent investigation and spiritual discovery.
I don't imagine that you remember me, as it is coming on a year since we last talked. But I had the realization recently that I never did send a thank you for writing articles on BahaiTeachings.org in response to several questions I had enquired to you about, so thank you! You really helped me out when I had been thinking a lot and getting overly stressed about some topics regarding religion and morality.
I did want to ask your thoughts about diversity of belief, even within one religion perhaps. I think that after all the thought I put into my faith I have established myself as some type of hybrid between a Catholic and a Baha'i. I pray as a Catholic prays, and it is the culture I follow what with holy days and observances, but in belief I would say I align more closely to a Baha'i. Perhaps this isn't the right conclusion to come to, but it's where I find myself right now. However, I ask your thoughts on the matter because, to be frank, there are things I simply cannot agree with in both the Baha'i and Catholic faiths. I know that the most conservative Catholics with the most literal interpretations of the bible would not see a Baha'i as a fellow believer, seeing the occasional biblical quotes referring to Jesus Christ as the only path to salvation or only mediator between God and man, and this I simply can't agree with. And then, on the flip side of this, I am afraid I truly cannot bring myself to see eye to eye with the Baha'i stance on war. I do certainly acknowledge it to be a terrible thing, but I also see it is something that is inevitably a necessary thing in some circumstances, and I cannot agree with the restriction of Baha'is from serving in the military.
I went a little bit longer than I intended there, my apologies for that, but I just wanted to reach out and give a long overdue thank you, and touch base once again.
I love getting letters like this—they’re so fascinating and inspiring. Here’s the response I sent:
Great to hear from you again!
I have a close friend here where I live who thinks of himself the same way you do, as a kind of hybrid between a Catholic and a Baha'i. Raised as a Catholic (which of course is a powerful early influence on any soul) he now believes in Baha'u'llah, but hasn't yet entirely left his Catholic culture behind. His wife is a Baha'i, and they constantly go to Baha'i events together, but he also goes to mass on Sundays.
This past Monday night we had a terrific meeting, a study group that reviewed the section of Abdu'l-Baha's book Some Answered Questions that deals with the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity. My friend listened carefully, participated enthusiastically and said he agreed with Abdu'l-Baha's point:
The reality of the Divinity is sanctified above singleness, then how much more above plurality ...
The Holy Spirit is the outpouring grace of God which was revealed and manifested in the reality of Christ. Prophethood is the station of the heart of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is the station of His spirit. It is thus evident and established that the Essence of the Divinity is absolute oneness and has no peer, equal, or likeness. - Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 127-129.
I suspect, after being married to his very wonderful Baha'i spouse for many years, that my friend is quite a bit closer to being a Baha'i these days—but of course his spiritual path is his own inner responsibility, not anyone else's.
We know that both Christ and Baha'u'llah taught love, compassion and unity, so there certainly is no real distinction between either Faith, from a Baha'i perspective:
Now is the moment in which to cleanse thyself with the waters of detachment that have flowed out from the Supreme Pen, and to ponder, wholly for the sake of God, those things which, time and again, have been sent down or manifested, and then to strive, as much as lieth in thee, to quench, through the power of wisdom and the force of thy utterance, the fire of enmity and hatred which smouldereth in the hearts of the peoples of the world. The Divine Messengers have been sent down, and their Books were revealed, for the purpose of promoting the knowledge of God, and of furthering unity and fellowship amongst men. ...
That the divers communions of the earth, and the manifold systems of religious belief, should never be allowed to foster the feelings of animosity among men, is, in this Day, of the essence of the Faith of God and His Religion. These principles and laws, these firmly-established and mighty systems, have proceeded from one Source, and are rays of one Light. That they differ one from another is to be attributed to the varying requirements of the ages in which they were promulgated. - Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 12-13.
That's what I tell my friend when we talk about his bifurcation of faith—if you're happy spiritually practicing both Faiths, then more power to you!