Ba’hái Faith/Pronouns Matter
Church Hopping #13
To begin the new year, Jann and I chose to hop over to our neighbors at the Ba’hái Faith, that is only 2 1/2 miles North of my home (and only 1/2 mile from the Latter-Day Saints we had visited recently.)
I had no idea what Ba’hái Faith was before we visited but the sign on the door looked friendly and welcoming. And they were.
They meet on Sunday mornings for a “Public Devotional Program” which is followed by a pot luck lunch.
Their holy building is a partially renovated former Presbyterian Church and it is a lovely space. Jann and I were greeted by Boron, who stood at the sanctuary door passing out Devotional Programs. He was gentle and kind and young and asked if we lived in the area. We took a program and entered their big, beautiful octagonal-shaped holy place. Three bright stained glass mosaics covered three of the walls and this colorful light filled the room. The new and cozy pew chairs were arranged in a semi-circle around the small stage area. As lovely as the room was I gasped when I walked into this fantastic space, that could easily hold a few hundred patrons, and there were only 14 people scattered about.
I checked the time (the parking lot was also pretty vacant) and it was 5 minutes after. A few minutes later they began and a couple more people took their seats before Boron went up to the podium to announce the order of things for this devotional time.
It was quiet and I looked around at the group that appeared to be primarily Persian immigrants and their children and grandchildren(child). Evidently, this religion was started in 1844 by a young Persian merchant who claimed he was a “Manifestation of God” and called himself: “The Báb”, meaning “the Gate” according to Bahai.org. He taught his mostly former Muslim followers (including the female Poet Tahirih, poem below) about: “Unification of the entire human race” & “the emergence of a world civilization of spiritual and material prosperity”.
The back of their devotional program gives a list of what the Bahá’ís believe which includes: THE EQUALITY OF WOMEN AND MEN. I’d never seen that before! In a place of faith even! And for this religion that started in the mid-1800’s in Iran, to say that the sexes were equal? Wow, that’s exciting! The Ba’hái website said that the Poet Tahirih had a hand in: “raising the call to full equality between women and men.”
So, the service begins with people from the congregation going up to the podium (they have no clergy) and reading the prayers from the program from different Ba’hái texts. The second sentence of the whole service was: “Supplicate to God, pray to HIM and evoke HIM..” I’m pretty sure they could hear Jann and MY collective eye roll as they MISSED THE POINT.
I’ll have to send them a link to my blog so they can begin to realize that PRONOUNS MATTER. You can’t call a little girl; “He” all of her life. It’s the same, if you say our all-powerful loving creator is MALE, then where did all of the females come from? That’s not equal, that makes all females seem lesser and feel lesser and what does it do to the male folk?
This continued for 45 minutes, one of these fine people would take turns reading a quote (“prayer”) from their holy texts and after a few we’d listen to a recorded song. Near the end they asked children or anyone else that wanted to come up, to read a prayer (Jann ALMOST went up and she should’ve!) They gave a few announcements and thanks us, the visitors, for coming and that was it! They were lovely, peaceful people but that service was sad and lifeless.
Translated by Farzaneh Milani:
Kingdom, wealth, and power for thee
Beggary, exile, and loss for me
If the former be good, it’s thine
If the latter is hard, it’s mine.