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Recently I posted this quote from Abdu’l-Baha on Facebook, about the oneness of all created things:
Were one to observe with an eye that discovereth the realities of all things, it would become clear that the greatest relationship that bindeth the world of being together lieth in the range of created things themselves, and that co-operation, mutual aid and reciprocity are essential characteristics in the unified body of the world of being, inasmuch as all created things are closely related together and each is influenced by the other or deriveth benefit therefrom, either directly or indirectly. – Abdu’l-Baha, from a tablet to an individual Baha’i.
Thinking of it as very profound, beautiful, and benign, I was surprised when a couple of my high school alumni made sarcastic retorts–one about the truth of that quote was as valid as his beach front property in Arizona; the other said he was sticking with “Jesus, the Way, the Truth, the Light.” A third colleague sighed, “If only we all had such an ‘eye’!”
I was surprised by the two negative comments, and it made me remember my days in the Christian church where I grew up. In my heart and mind, I’ve never left Christ—that I made sure of, before becoming a Baha’i.
I believe in Christ, but I also believe the claim of Baha’u’llah to be the promised one of all ages. In fact, Baha’is don’t believe in the real separation of religions, or that one is better than another. Instead, Baha’is believe that religion is continuous, and that God has promised never to leave humankind alone or without guidance. Baha’is call this concept “progressive revelation,” and believe it upholds God’s fulfillment of His covenant.
In London on 30 September 1911, Abdu’l-Baha confirmed:
The Reality of the divine Religions is one, because the Reality is one and cannot be two. All the prophets are united in their message, and unshaken. They are like the sun; in different seasons they ascend from different rising points on the horizon. Therefore every ancient prophet gave the glad tidings of the future, and every future has accepted the past. – Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 28.
Baha’u’llah taught, that Religion is the chief foundation of Love and Unity and the cause of Oneness. If a religion become the cause of hatred and disharmony, it would be better that it should not exist. To be without such a religion is better than to be with it. – Ibid.
So is it better to be without a religion if they can’t get along?
To answer that, we need to think about why religions and their followers seek to elevate themselves over others. By doing so, they encourage disunity and even hatred, violence, or terrorism. Is God so small that He will only accept a chosen few?
… In what manner shall we deal with the people of this age, who have each chosen to follow a different religion and who each regard their own faith and religion as excelling and surpassing all the others, that we may be shielded from the onslaught of their words and deeds? – The Tabernacle of Unity, p. 59.
Baha’u’llah answered that question this way:
O lion-hearted one amongst men! Regard the afflictions endured in the path of God as comfort itself. Every affliction suffered for His sake is a potent remedy, every bitterness is naught but sweetness and every abasement an exaltation. Were men to apprehend and acknowledge this truth, they would readily lay down their lives for such affliction. For it is the key to inestimable treasures, and no matter how outwardly abhorrent, it hath ever been and will continue to be inwardly prized. We accept and affirm what thou hast said, for the people of the world are indeed bereft of the light of the Orb of justice and regard it as their enemy. – Ibid., pp. 59-60.
Then Baha’u’llah advised:
If thou desirest to be freed from affliction, recite thou this prayer which hath been revealed by the Pen of the All-Merciful: “O God, my God! I testify to Thy unity and to Thy oneness. I beseech Thee, O Thou Possessor of names and Fashioner of the heavens, by the pervasive influence of Thine exalted Word and the potency of Thy supreme Pen, to aid me with the ensigns of Thy power and might, and to protect me from the mischief of Thine enemies who have violated Thy Covenant and Thy Testament. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the Most Powerful. – Ibid., p. 60.
So will there ever be real unity amongst the religions? Abdu’l-Baha responded positively to that question to a group of professors, clergy, and theological students in Paris in 1913:
His Holiness the Christ sacrificed his life, not that people might believe the doctrine that he is the word of God; nay, rather, he yearned to bestow the consciousness of continued existence. That is why he said, ‘Jesus, the son of man, is come to give life to the world.’
His aim has been entirely obliterated and the doctrine of the father, son and Holy Spirit has been fabricated. Christ said, ‘If one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’ Is there any relation between this commandment and the bloody events of the nations of today?”
The religious dissension between the Catholics and Protestants has caused a deluge of bloodshed. Has this any bearing on the statement of Christ when he addressed Peter: ‘Put thy sword into the scabbard’? When we hold fast to the foundation of religion, differences will disappear. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 156.