A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Other religions - belonging to

A student of the modern methods of the higher criticism asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá if he would do well to continue in the church with which he had been associated all his life, and whose language was full of meaning to him. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá answered: “You must not dissociate yourself from it. Know this; the Kingdom of God is not in any Society; some seekers go through many Societies as a traveller goes through many cities till he reach his destination. If you belong to a Society already do not forsake your brothers. You can be a Bahá’í-Christian, a Bahá’í-Freemason, a Bahá’í-Jew, a Bahá’í-Muhammadan. The number nine contains eight, and seven, and all the other numbers, and does not deny any of them. Do not distress or deny anyone by saying ‘He is not a Bahá’í!’ He will be known by his deeds. There are no secrets among Bahá’ís; a Bahá’í does not hide anything.”
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 97-98)


As he has already informed you, the Guardian feels that the time has now come to ask any ministers still affiliated with churches, but who consider themselves practising Bahá’ís, to withdraw from the church openly. This is following the example of the Hand of the Cause, former Archdeacon Townshend, who courageously defied the opinion of his fellow clergymen, his relatives and the public, and stepped forth from his high office as a Bahá’í. When the friends realize that many of the first to accept the Báb were priests and suffered martyrdom for their act, it does not seem to be asking much that they should rally openly to the Kingdom of the Father which they believe in and for whose advent they cannot very well go on encouraging people in their churches to pray.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 160)


As to the age of maturity, voting rights in the Bahá’í Administrative Order are acquired when a believer becomes 21 and you might well make that point the period for severance of those religious ties which members of the Bahá’í community cannot maintain. The main point is that while, for the sake of family unity, the concession has been made to youth on the matter of withdrawal from church membership, every effort should be made to encourage all believers, as well as Bahá’í youth, to observe requirements of Bahá’í membership even at the cost of some hardship or inconvenience.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 161)


Concerning the membership of Mr. ... in the synagogue; as this concerns his non-Bahá’í Jewish wife and means a great deal to her - even involving the place of her burial—the Guardian does not feel it is right to request him to take a step which would deprive her of her own religious rights. On the other hand,he sees no reason why Mr. ... should not write a letter to the appropriate authority in this 161 synagogue, explaining that he is a practising Bahá’í, but is keeping his synagogue membership for the benefit of his wife and children.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 160)


If a person is registered as a member of a church or similar religious organization he should withdraw from it on becoming a Bahá’í. In the case of new believers, it should be made clear to them in the course of teaching them the Faith that one cannot be a Bahá’í and also a member of another religious organization. This is simply a matter of straight-forwardness and honesty. A great part of the teaching of Jesus Christ concerned His Second Coming and the preparation of His followers to be ready for it. The Bahá’ís believe He has come. No Christian Church believes this; on the contrary, they either look for Him still, or have ceased to believe that He will come. For a Bahá’í to be a member of a community which holds such beliefs is disloyalty to Christ and hypocrisy towards the Christians. You should not formalize the method by which the withdrawal from the church is to be made, and certainly nothing should be added to a declaration form, if you use one. It should be left to the Local Spiritual Assembly which is accepting the declaration to satisfy itself, as it deems best in each case, that the new believer has already resigned from the church, or does so within a reasonable time of his declaration. In regard to the old believers, your Assembly should tactfully, and in a kindly way, make the Bahá’í position clear to them and gently persuade them to resign from their former churches. This is a matter for great tact and discretion. If such a believer remains adamant you will have to consider depriving him of his voting rights.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 159-160)


In reply to your letter of January 26th, we feel that while it is important to be flexible in requesting new believers, particularly youth who may encounter parental opposition, to withdraw from membership of other religious organizations, such flexibility cannot be allowed to extend to compromising Bahá’í law. Two Bahá’ís, when getting married, cannot have the religious ceremony of another Faith.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 161)


In the case of new believers, it should be made clear to them in the course of teaching them the Faith that one cannot be a Bahá’í and also a member of another religious organization. This is simply a matter of straightforwardness and honesty… . You should not formalize the method by which the withdrawal from the church is to be made, and certainly nothing should be added to a declaration form, if you use one. It should be left to the Local Spiritual Assembly which is accepting the declaration to satisfy itself, as it deems best in each case, that the new believer has already resigned from the church, or does so within a reasonable time of his declaration.
(Universal House of Justice, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities)


It should also be remembered that the weaning away of the Bahá’ís from customs and traditions, which have been established among communities for centuries, takes time and is a gradual process. Therefore, while the National Assembly should avoid rigidity in these matters, it should also not compromise when the interests of the Faith and its integrity and independence are at stake.
(Universal House of Justice, 26 May 1982, to a National Spiritual Assembly)


No Bahá’í can any longer dissimulate his faith and practise the laws and ordinances of a previous Dispensation and call himself at the same time a believer. No compromise, no vacillation can any longer be tolerated. We must have the courage of our convictions and preserve the integrity of our glorious Cause.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 159)


The first case is that of the elderly Catholic woman who is suffering from severe heart disease and is thus liable to die at any time. In this case, as also in that of suffering believers, the Assemblies, whether Local or National, should act tactfully, patiently, and in a friendly and kindly spirit. Knowing how painful and dangerous it is for such believers to repudiate their former allegiances and friendships they should try to gradually persuade them of the wisdom and necessity of such an action, and instead of thrusting upon them a new principle to make them accept it inwardly, and out of pure conviction and desire. Too severe and immediate action in such cases is not only fruitless, but actually harmful. It alienates people instead of winning them to the Cause.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 162-163)


The friends should by all means be encouraged to withdraw from church membership and be made to realize that, though we as Bahá’ís are ardent believers in Christ, we do not and cannot support, church institutions and doctrines, when Christ has come again and brought new laws for the world today and it present need; to adhere to forms, mostly man-made, and now out-moded and no longer needed, is meaningless. This does not mean they should no longer associate with the church members; they should cease to be registered members of it.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 160)


The other point concerns the advisability of contributing to a church. In this case also the friends must realise that contributions to a church, specially when not regular, do not necessarily entail affiliation. The believers can make such offerings occasionally and provided they are certain that while doing so they are not counted as members of any church. There should be no confusion between the terms affiliation and association. While affiliation with ecclesiastical organizations is not permissible, association with them should not only be tolerated but even encouraged. There is no better way to demonstrate the universality of the Cause than this. Bahá’u’lláh indeed, urges His followers to consort with all religions and nations with the utmost friendliness and love. This constitutes the very spirit of His Message to mankind.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 162-163)


There are some exclusive religious ceremonies in which Bahá’ís should not participate, in order to safeguard the independence of the Faith. In this regard, the beloved Guardian has given the following advice to an individual believer: “In these days the friends should, as much as possible, demonstrate through their deeds the independence of the Holy Faith of God, and its freedom from the customs, rituals and practices of a discredited and abrogated past.” In observing this principle, the House of Justice advises the Bahá’ís to maintain a balance between their adherence to the Cause and obedience to its laws on the one hand, and their role in society on the other. When an individual becomes a Bahá’í he acquires, as you are aware, a wider loyalty to the Manifestations of God. Having found this new way of life, he should be careful not to isolate himself from his family and his people, and he should show respect for his former religion. The Bahá’ís should, of course, avoid performing any acts which could be considered as implying their membership in another religion or which are contrary to Bahá’í Principles. There is a clear distinction between participating in festive and cultural events, as opposed to performing religious ceremonies and rituals.
(Universal House of Justice, 26 May 1982, to a National Spiritual Assembly)


We, as Bahá’ís, must not have any affiliations with churches or political parties. But he feels certain that when you meditate on this matter you yourselves will see the wisdom of it. We, as Bahá’ís, can never be known as hypocrites or as people insincere in their protestations and because of this we cannot subscribe to both the faith of Bahá’u’lláh and ordinary church dogma. The churches are waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ; we believe He has come again in the Glory of the father. The churches teach doctrines—various ones in various creeds—which we as Bahá’ís do not accept; such as the bodily Resurrection, confession, or in some creeds, the denial of the Immaculate Conception. In other words there is no Christian church today whose dogmas we, as Bahá’ís can truthfully say we accept in their entirety—therefore to remain a member of the Church is not proper for us, for we do so under false pretences. We should, therefore, withdraw from our churches but continue to associate, if we wish to, with the church members and ministers. Our belief in Christ, as Bahá’ís, is so firm, so unshakable and so exalted in nature that very few Christians are to be found now-a-days who love Him and reverence Him and have the faith in Him that we have. It is only from the dogmas and creeds of the churches that we dissociate ourselves; not from the spirit of Christianity.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 158)


When a person becomes a Bahá’í, he gives up the past only in the sense that he is a part of this new and living Faith of God, and must seek to pattern himself, in act and thought, along the lines laid down by Bahá’u’lláh. The fact that he is by origin a Jew or a Christian, a black man or a white man, is not important anymore, but, as you say, lends color and charm to the Bahá’í community in that it demonstrates unity in diversity.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 68)


Your letter of 25th October, has been received and we fully appreciate the problem, posed in the case of youth who accept Bahá’u’lláh but whose parents strongly oppose their withdrawal from the Church. In such cases where the parents oppose their withdrawal and insistence upon it by the youth would undermine the unity of the family it is permissible for the withdrawal to be postponed until the youth attain the age of 21. This would not, of course, in any way affect his acceptance into the Bahá’í community. As you mention, this is the very time at which such a newly-declared believer needs all the deepening and confirmation he can receive.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 161)