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When Dad Accepted a New Religion

Barron Harper | Aug 13, 2023

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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Barron Harper | Aug 13, 2023

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

In January of 1967, when my dad wrote that he had accepted the Baha’i religion, I felt completely nonplussed. What was this new religion I had never heard of before, and why did my father join it?

When he added that Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, was the latest prophet from God, I was sure this had something to do with Cassius Clay joining the Nation of Islam and changing his name to Muhammad Ali. Hats off to him. But at the time, my suspicions were aroused. Besides, I thought Christ was the only way. 

Sometime later that year, I reached out to Baha’is so I could learn more, and went to a meeting in the home of the CEO of the Chrysler Molding Plant in Kokomo, Indiana. Receiving a warm welcome, it surprised me to find the gathering racially integrated. Until then, I had never experienced integration in any church or spiritual gathering. 

RELATED: What My “Yes” to Baha’u’llah Means for My “Yes” to Jesus

Why did integration matter? Well, I spent some of my childhood in Odessa, Texas which, in the 1950s, was segregated such that the Blacks, the Hispanics and the Whites generally only saw each other in the city center. Otherwise, each group had their own neighborhoods, restaurants, and schools, and rarely crossed the lines that separated them.

When my mom moved us to Dallas, I remember seeing signs for separate restrooms, restaurants and water fountains. Being precocious, I had to compare their restrooms and water fountains with white’s only. On the trollies, the Blacks were seated in the back. I remember upsetting a trolley driver by planting my 6-year-old self in the back among the Black folks. I was just plain curious.  

Fast forward 15 years when, on Sundays, my wife and I would attend the Church of the Nazarene in east Fort Worth. One Sunday during the invocation, I left the auditorium, marched to the pastor’s office, fetched a phone book and telephoned a Baha’i number. My curiosity about the Baha’i Faith was rekindled, and again I found Baha’i meetings integrated. Convinced that a religion which attracted and accepted all religions and accordingly all peoples had to be true, I enrolled as a Baha’i. I could, after all, just withdraw at any time. 

I soon understood that Baha’is believe in one God, one religion and one humanity. 

By one religion, the Baha’i teachings mean that God has manifested His light through a succession of messengers to humankind. Their comings enable peoples to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. Among these “manifestations” were Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Christ, Muhammed, the Bab and Baha’u’llah. The Indigenous peoples also had their prophets and messengers, the Baha’i teachings explained. The greatest proofs of their revelations are their lives, their teachings, and their fruits. 

It struck me that this concept provides another way of looking at the trinity: The rays (Holy Spirit) of the sun (God) are reflected in the mirrors (messengers). Which is why, in John 14:10, Christ proclaimed: “… I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works – saying to the Jews that he was the revealer of God’s Word.  

At the time, the Jewish leaders could not grasp the truth of Christ’s relationship to God. They accused him of blasphemy, thinking he made himself equal with God. When they sought to slay him, he replied: 

The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do. …

For I have not spoken of myself but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 

I learned that Christ never claimed to be God. Rather he restored the light of God’s revelation to the Jewish people as their Messiah. Later, when God was declared triune at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., Christ was thereafter proclaimed by the church as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. 

Yes, Baha’is believe, Christ was the son of God – but symbolically and not literally.

So the Baha’i teachings say that there is one religion, revealed through a succession of great teachers. Which, in part, is why parent religions have always rejected the next religion born in their cultures. Their prophetic expectations being awry, history shows that each messenger and his early followers were persecuted by the parent culture before his teachings were gradually accepted. 

I later found remarkable promises of the return of the prophets in the scriptures of all religions:

In Hinduism, from Krishna 5,000 years ago in the Bhagavad-Gita: 

Know thou this, o prince. That when the world declineth in virtue and righteousness, and vice and injustice mount the throne, then come I, the Lord, and mingle as a man among men. Then by the power of my word do I re-establish virtue and righteousness. Many times have I come, and many times shall I come again.

From Buddhism: 

I am not the first Buddha who came upon Earth, nor shall I be the last. In due time, another Buddha will arise in the world – a Holy One, a supremely enlightened One, endowed with wisdom in conduct, auspicious, knowing the universe, an incomparable leader of men, a master of angels and mortals.

In Judaism, found in Deuteronomy 33:1-2: 

And this is the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. And he said, The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them: he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.

From Christianity, in John 14:16: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter …” and John 16:12-13: 

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

And from the Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 11:4:: 

For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

The Baha’i teachings reassured me that God does not leave humankind comfortless – instead, He manifests His Light again and again and again.

RELATED: From Black Baptist Preacher to Baha’i Teacher

Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah is the Spirit of truth foretold by Christ. Baha’u’llah’s revelation consists of some one hundred volumes of scripture numbering over 5,000,000 words – scripture that has so far been translated into over 800 languages. His Faith has spread around the world embracing all cultures, races, and peoples. Announcing his new and yet ancient revelation to the peoples of the Earth, Baha’u’llah proclaimed: 

The time foreordained unto the peoples and kindreds of the earth is now come. The promises of God, as recorded in the holy Scriptures, have all been fulfilled. … Happy is the man that pondereth in his heart that which hath been revealed in the Books of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.

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