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The Difference Between Godliness and Fanaticism

Maya Bohnhoff | Jun 6, 2024

PART 1 IN SERIES Baha’is the United Nations and World Unity

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

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Maya Bohnhoff | Jun 6, 2024

PART 1 IN SERIES Baha’is the United Nations and World Unity

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

In this final part of my reply to an opinion piece from an interfaith website, I hope to correct the author’s misinformed reading of The Promise of World Peace from the Universal House of Justice. 

In 1985, the democratically-elected global leadership body of the Baha’i Faith, the Universal House of Justice, issued an important statement about the achievement of peace in the world, summarizing the Baha’i teachings on peace and asking the planet’s people to do everything they could to implement those spiritual and social principles. The hopeful first paragraph of that statement says:

The Great Peace towards which people of goodwill throughout the centuries have inclined their hearts, of which seers and poets for countless generations have expressed their vision, and for which from age to age the sacred scriptures of mankind have constantly held the promise, is now at long last within the reach of the nations. 

RELATED: Debunking Misinformation: A Baha’i Defends Her Faith

Summing up what she gleaned from The Promise of World Peace (which I urge everyone to read), “Jen” wrote:

The statement closes by saying that ‘until the religions of the world renounce fanaticism and work wholeheartedly to eliminate it from within their own ranks, peace and prosperity will prove chimerical. It is they who must raise their voices to end the hatred, exclusivity, oppression of conscience, violations of human rights, denial of equality, opposition to science, and glorification of materialism, violence and terrorism, which are perpetrated in the name of religious truth.’ How very tolerant! Oppress someones conscience, have the nerve to believe the Bible is the only absolute truth, or claim there is only one path to God, and you will be eliminated.

Whoa! In response to this stunning and completely baseless assertion, I asked Jen: “Do you really believe that oppressing someone’s conscience or hating them enough to commit violence against them is compatible with belief in Christ? Do you think it would be acceptable to Christ to oppress, hate, or attack someone simply because they did not believe as you do?” 

“You’re entitled to that opinion, but please understand that Baha’is do not equate your belief in the exclusivity of Christ with a violation of human rights — unless you seek to spread that belief through violence, which is counter to the very teachings you’d be trying to spread. I’m sure you’re aware of the historic precedent for this type of violence.” 

The Baha’i teachings hold that everyone does not have to be the same in order for the world to be at peace. The goal of the Baha’i Faith is not uniformity, but unity in diversity. In fact, the Baha’i teachings clearly state that: “Though its waves be many, the sea is one; diversity is not an obstacle to unity.

Personally, I have worked with an interfaith council alongside Christians who believe Jesus of Nazareth is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” exclusively for all time, but who also believe the end of that statement: “if you really knew me, you would know my Father.” In their love of Christ, they are capable of being like Christ — showing love even to people with whom they disagree in matters of faith. They do this for the same reason I do because the Lord requires it of us. 

The end of Jen’s deeply misinformed statement — ”you will be eliminated” — passively implies, without clearly stating it, that Baha’is will somehow seek to “eliminate” those who believe as she does. Please forgive me if I’m wrong about this, I told her, but this seems like an attempt to make your readers afraid of Baha’is and to plant the idea that Baha’is will persecute Christians who hold particular beliefs. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. For Baha’is to act in that way would be tantamount to a rejection of everything that both Christ and Baha’u’llah taught. Baha’is believe in peace and are opposed to violence or oppression.

In fact, Baha’is are forbidden to take up arms against those who would persecute us for our beliefs, just as we are forbidden to force those beliefs on others. Baha’is have been subjected to intense persecution for over a century in Iran; over 20,000 died in the first wave of pogroms, and hundreds more have died since the revolution in 1979 — men, women, and children. Baha’is are forced to carry papers that show they are non-Muslim. This severely impacts their civil rights and affects whether they can buy or sell property, go to school, marry, or hold jobs. 

I reminded Jen that she had written, early in her essay, that the Baha’i quest for unity brings to mind the Antichrists future financial system in which no one will be able to buy or sell without the mark of the Beast.” What she calls a “financial system” is described in these verses from Revelation 13:16-17, which says that “The Beast”:

… causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 

RELATED: The Baha’i Faith, Christian Prophecy, and the Promised Peace

This passage offers a window into what the Baha’is of Iran have had to endure since the birth of their Faith in 1844, and as I write this, Baha’is are still being eliminated for their beliefs — literally.

My final message to Jen (who, so far, has not responded) was this: I understand your love for Christ. I share it. I even understand your fear and hostility. I once shared that, as well. But I beg you, don’t let it cause you to purposefully misrepresent the beliefs of others. I am hopeful that you will be moved to edit out the factual errors in your essay. I’m hopeful because I know you possess a sincere love for the King of Truth who spoke these words, recorded in John 18:37, to Pontus Pilate:  

You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.

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