Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Final Glimpse

This is the final blog I will post for my cross-cultural encounter for my introductory Anthropology class. I went into writing this blog, thinking simply that I would research something on the faith I had been brought up in and learn more about where it was derived and how the rules of the faith worked. Instead I learned so much more not just about the Baha'i faith but all religions in some way.
This blog did not just become a way to learn about the Baha'i faith, but it was a way to explore the ways people look at faith, the way people connect to faith, and the way faith is incorporated into people's lives. I think of all the things I learned about the Baha'i faith the thing I learned that seemed to connect to greater facets of the world is the need for individual exploration that is key to the Baha'i faith. I was reading through my comments and someone posted a very insightful and interesting comment on the blog I wrote about the man who was an ex-Baha'i turned Christian. They said how it was true about the Baha'i faith as seeking individual exploration but it wasn't only about that. I think this is true, there is a social aspect to the Baha'i community, but I think the important thing about the individual exploration of faith is that you are able to explore those parts of faith that you most connect with and you can explore other faiths and in that way link the faiths of together where a goal of the Baha'i faith is the unity of religions.
I also never thought in my blog i would be able to connect so much of my learning from my anthropology class to my exploration of the Baha'i faith, but it was surprising how easily the two seemed to connect. I was able to use what I had learned an anthropologist would use to study a faith and in that way a culture.
I learned so much from doing these blogs, not only about one faith but many faiths and I think that is really interesting because the Baha'i faith tries to teach about faith as a whole and in a way it did that. I think I still have a lot to learn about the faith, but I believe strongly in a lot of what it strive for, equality for men and women, end of prejudice, unity of religion, and I am glad I chose to research the topic I did.
Note: I also wanted to add on a small note, a thank you to everyone who posted such thoughtful comments they really helped push me in my thinking and brought about new ideas for me to research. I appreciate it very much.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An Interview

I decided for one of my final blogs for this course, I wanted to here from someone who really felt connected to the faith. The person who I knew would have the answers was my mom. She was really the person who introduced me to the faith and the more I thought about it the more I realized I didn’t really know why she practiced or a lot about how she felt about the faith. So I set up a series of questions to ask her and conducted the interview over the phone. I wrote out the interview but I also made comments throughout the interview. (The comments, like the questions, are in bold.)

Q: What led you to the Baha’i faith?:

A: My exploration through different world religions and readings on philosophy and trying to find meaning in life and God.

Q: What attracted you most about the Baha’i faith? What set it apart from other religions:

A: That all religions try to get back to God and that every religion tries to get back together and that the Baha’i faith believes in every manifestation. That there are manifestations that happened before anything was written. Because God is forever.
It’s like you have to take algebra I to take Calculus. You can’t understand until you take the first one. (I thought this was a really interesting and insightful perspective, about having to understand how each follows the other to be fully knowledgeable) That the Baha’i faith for me was the next step that all the religions are going toward the same thing; to get close to God together. The Baha’i faith is interesting because it is independent investigation so you don’t have someone telling you what the religion is but you have to talk about it and read about it. And science and religion are one their not one or the other. Because I am a nurse so there is a lot of scientific elements we deal with. We don’t necessary believe in faith healing but faith can heal.

Q: How has the Baha’i faith affected you, how has it changed your life?

I’m still new to the religion, there are a lot of things I don’t do like follow the Holy days, but I try to. I think it made me more thoughtful in what I try to be and do. I feel more comfortable in the faith because I don’t feel like I am trying to live up to people’s expectations like I might in a church. I don’t know if it changed me that much. A friend and I once said it’s like coming home, like this is where I’m supposed to be so I guess it changed me that way.

(I think that is a really interesting feeling to have. I think within any religion it should feel right to you. I don’t believe that religion should be forced; it is something very personal, a connection people make on their own level. I never really thought about that feeling in religion though and made me think that when you have a discussion with someone about religion, you have to think about what how personal the feelings are about their religion. I may never have thought about it before like that.)

Q: What do you like best about being a Baha’i?

It embodies the things that I hold dear like equality between men and women, oneness of one kind, independent investigation of truth, universal peace upheld by world government, common foundation of all religions, the essential harmony of science and religion, elimination of prejudice of all kinds. Everyone gets an education, spiritual solution to economic problems, and a universal language.

(She reminded that these components of the faith hung on our wall of our house, and I was thinking of how interesting it is to sort of be surrounded by a culture but not immersed within it. We talk in class a lot about participant observation, where generally people who are outsiders observe a culture by participating in the culture, but can people of a culture be participant observers too? I mean can you live within a culture or relate to a culture but be further detached from it? I think you can, I mean I lived most of life in a house that read Baha’i prayers and had Baha’i writings on the wall and I told people I was Baha’i but I never truly connected on the level my mom talks about and it’s really interesting to see how you can consider yourself something yet not fully understand that something.)

Q: Is there anything you don’t agree with in the faith?:

(I told her how it bothered me that there seemed to be a contradiction in the faith that there should be an equality of man but people who are homosexual are wrong. She retold a story to me about two men she met at an educational teaching house called Green Acre.)

One of the men there spoke about his sexuality and said “In my faith I don’t have sexual relations with my partner, we live together, but we don’t have sex”, they can’t change who they are, they have a deeper spiritual connection they feel.
(Something else she said that bothered her was:)
You have to have both parents approval to get married, great idea, but some people’s parents are just not good people and don’t support or help the child or there is animosity between the families. In theory I understand why but in a way it bothers my sense of free will.

(It was funny, when I asked this question I expected a very strong opinion about how people who are homosexual should be as accepted as others and there are most definitely things she didn’t agree with but in actuality her answer was much tamer, much more considerate I think is the word I would use, of all perspectives. I would not hesitate to say there are things about the Baha’i faith that bother me and if they do I just won’t pay attention to them. But I think, if I can analyze a little of what she was saying, is that it’s not just I’ll follow this or I won’t follow this and I’ll ignore what bothers me. Accepting a religion is a lot like Anthropology. Anthropolpogists don’t look at a culture and say “well I don’t agree with this part of the culture so I’m not going to study or look at, I’m not going to include it as a part of the culture.” Anthropologists are supposed to look at all parts of a culture when they study it and it doesn’t mean they have to accept it but they have to see how something works within a culture. The same for religion if you choose a religion I don’t think you have to accept every part of it, I think all religions have flaws, but I also think you have to see how it fits within the religion, and even if you don’t choose to agree with it, you have to be aware that it is a part of it. It’s like what my mom said about the marriage concept, she understands the theory, but it bothers her some how, there’s a conflict between her sense of free will and her faith and that’s not wrong at all, she acknowledge that it bothers her and she’s aware of that. I think the more aware people are about everything not just religion the more perceptive, understanding, knowledgeable, and think more thoughtful people we will be.)

Q: Do you believe you can be a Baha’i if you don’t follow all the rules?

I think that is a really good question. For myself I don’t follow the faith strictly and that’s not keeping with my faith, but I still call myself a Baha’i and I struggle with behavior before being Baha’i. But who’s kicking you out of the faith the people or God, when it comes down to it it’s between you and God.

(I thought this was a really good point, about it being between you and God. I believe there is a God, but I don’t necessarily believe that talking to God through a specific prayer will have him/her hear me any better. I think religion is a foundation for which people make a connection with God. Sometimes when I think about all the rules of religion I think what a hard life it would be to try and follow every single rule, and I think people for themselves need to make the decisions in their religion, what makes them feel most connected.)

Q: What do you find when you explain that you are Baha’i:

A: Everybody wants to know what it is. Even world religion classes do not teach that much they have off shoot and say it comes from the Muslim faith. I remember your father had a conversation with someone and explained the faith and the guy said isn’t that a cult and your father said well wouldn’t that make every religion the cult and the guy said oh I guess you’re right. How do you determine what a cult is?

(My mom thought this was a really interesting point my Dad brought up too about the cult. My Dad never signed the card that made you an “official” Baha’i, I remember to him it seemed like he shouldn’t have to sign his name to participate in his faith. That was a lot of the reason I never signed either, I really felt in a way I was defending my dad, but more so I think I felt the way my dad did, that I shouldn’t have to sign my way into my faith, I should be able to practice or not the way I felt most connected. My dad has an interesting way of thinking about religion and he’s really someone to think outside of the box, both my parents are and I think it’s interesting to see the way they both view their faith. The whole cult idea basically sparked an idea for me that I think you can’t put one religion up against another and say this one is more like this and this one is more like this, I think for each individual it has to be an exploration and a connection they make on their own.)

After the interview was over, I couldn’t believe I had never asked my mom these questions about her faith. She gave such insightful answers and it was interesting that she seemed to still be exploring the faith as much as I am. The odd thing was it seemed like all of the information I had gathered over these past few months of researching and reporting on the blogs, this interview seemed to sum up all I had found. The faith is meant for exploration but I think more then that is brings a sort of hope that people can find themselves through their faith.
I think the interview was a good second to last blog for the course. Not only did it allow me to connect a lot of the ideas we learned about in class to my blog in abstract ways, but it also really helped to cement a lot of what I learned about in studying the Baha’i faith and helped me to understand more of how my own culture, in a sense, was.

Note: Thank you to my mom for such earnest and open answers to my questions. You added a great deal to the exploration of my cross-cultural encounter.

Joan Baxter, interview by Kyla Baxter, phone, Norton, Massachussets, 30 Apr 2008


Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Hollywood Baha'i

I was doing more research on the Baha'i faith, I was actually trying to find some information on the Baha'i teachings and children's classes when I stumbled upon a very surprising and exciting interview. Tons of people love the show "The Office" myself included, and I think one of the characters that makes the show so funny is Dwight Shrute, played by Rainn Wilson. But did you know he was also a Baha'i? I had no idea and it was really interesting to here someone so notorious talk about the faith so openly and articultly. I think a large part of it was I know a lot of people don't know a lot about the faith, so to have someone with such notority be associated with the faith was almost a surprise in a way.
Wilson talked about how he was brought up Baha'i and how he left the faith in his 20's because he wasn't sure he believed in God. However he returned to the faith almost 10 years later when he decided he did in fact believe there was a God. He said, "I couldn't conceive of a universe without someone overseeing it in a compassionate way." I think his most interesting answer however was the answer to the interviewr's question, "Rainn, what was it like to grow up in the Baha'i Faith?" His reply was very honest and intriguing. "When you grow up with a spiritual foundation that asks you to be conscious of the fact that all races are created equal, that men and women are equal and that all religions worship the same (God,) it helps you see the world as one family and not get lost in the traps of political, social and economic belief systems that can lead you astray. I always think of myself as a world citizen. It's a powerful thing."
I think the most intersting thing about this response was it wasn't a really about faith as much as it was about the unity and love for all mankind. Even though this is what the Baha'i faith strives to develope, I think it is a really important thing for anyone to strive for, no matter what your religion is. I think what I'm trying to get at is it doesn't always have to be about what faith you associate yourself with, it's about how you see yourself in the world and how you work to change the injustices and bring a unified peace to society.
Wilson says, "So much about religion has to do with rigid, sacrosanct preciousness. I don't live my life that way" he believes that God wants him to lead a full and rich happy life in service to God and the human family. This ties too one of my previous blogs where I talked about how people choose their faith and to what extent they practice according to what is best for an individual. Wilson didn't neccesarily choose a strong fundamentalist approach to the way he practiced because that wasn't how he believed. Many people believe differently, even if a person doesn't believe in God the point is they still believe and they still make their own investigation and that, as I have learned, is a what the Baha'i faith is so much about.
You can access the Interview with Rainn Wilson here: (

Baha'i faith. Rainn Wilson: Hollywood’s funny guy talks straight about being a Baha'i. Electronic Document,, accessed 20 April 2008

Another Side

Throughout my research, I kept stumbling upon the same website time and time again and as I was looking for different views on the Baha’i faith, the same website appeared again. The website was entitled “The Baha’i Faith: An Ex-Baha’i Christian View.” it was written by Rev. Eric Stetson who was a Baha’i from 1998 till 2002 and is the founder of Ex-Baha'i Discussion & Support and The Christian Universalist Association. He talked about his purpose of creating the website; he said he wanted to show why he left the faith and he said “question the claims of the Baha'i religion and think critically about it for themselves.” He also wanted people to look at the differences between the Baha’i faith and the Christian faith, and he hoped that people would see the Christian faith as a more sure path to God. He asks this question at the opening of his website, “Should you accept Baha'u'llah and the Baha'i Faith or Jesus Christ and Christianity? Can you accept both?” and says,
"I hope that through my story, other Baha'is perhaps may decide to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and put aside the contrary religion of Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri, Baha'u'lla"
I read through his article and I tried not to have a bias opinion about something he said even though I relate to the Baha’i faith as my own since that is what I grew up with and from what I have read have become further intrigued. But I wanted to try and read the website as a person who knew nothing about either the Christian or Baha’i faith and/or had no connection or hard set belief in either. However as I read through there was one common theme throughout. He said he became a Baha’i in his freshman year of college because he was attracted to the faith because of it’s ideals of unity and how he was welcomed in by other Baha’is on campus. He said all around him he saw drugs and alcohol being used and he couldn’t find a social outlet that he felt like he fit into, but then he found the Baha’i faith. He goes into an overview about the Baha’i faith, relatively unscathing and then he talks about what he found to be wrong about the Baha’i faith. He says,
“As I got more deeply involved in the Baha'i community, my illusions about the Baha'i Faith as an open-minded and tolerant organization were shattered. What I found instead was an authoritarian, narrow-minded group hiding behind the rhetoric of universalism. And sadly, for a few years I myself was a Baha'i fundamentalist, an ideological fanatic trying to convert everyone to my Baha'i religious opinions in order to save the world.”

The interesting thing was this is what he kept saying over and over about the faith that was wrong with it. However as I read it I thought well I think every faith has a fundamentalist side and a more moderate side and then everything in between. He talks about the Christian faith being a more perfect path to God and I do not say the Christian faith is better or worse then the Baha’i faith it just is different. Just as both the Christian and the Baha’i faith are different from the Jewish or Catholic or Buddhist or any faith. The Christian faith has a fundamentalist side too and I think you have to choose in faith what is right for you and what you believe. A lot of faiths say don’t drink or have sex before you are married or think homosexuality is right and a lot of people practice one part of the faith but choose to part take in something that might not be considered appropriate or is against the rules. I think it isn’t about the rules, faith is about the connection to God and your own personal connection to God. There are certain things in the Baha’i faith I don’t necessarily agree with but I don’t feel like I am nay less connected to God because I don’t agree to everything in the faith.
I think that Stetson maybe only got one side of the Baha’i religion and what is about. I grew up with a totally polar opposite view of the faith and I also saw lots of in betweens. But I think the point is his article goes to show that just because there is one side to something; it doesn’t mean there isn’t another side as well and as individuals we have the right to decide for ourselves what is best and the right to investigation of the differences. No faith is right or wrong if you feel connected and fulfilled and you don’t bring harm to others but instead you give respect.

Stetson, Eric. The Baha'i Faith: An Ex-Baha'i Christian View.
Electronic Document, accessed 20 April 2008.


Super Baha'i Girl

I watched this video on YouTube at: ( called “Super Baha’i Girl”, which was a movie geared towards children to educate them about the Baha’i faith if they are interested to learn. The movie had a very interesting premise; it was acted by teenagers and although an amateur film, encompassed the central point and goal of the Baha’i faith. Super Baha’i girl was a superhero who was holding a discussion session with various other religious super heroes, Super Christian Man, Super Hindu Man, Super Buddhist Woman, Super Jewish Girl, and Super Islam man. They were all there to discuss what the Baha’i faith is and how it works and to all discuss their own religions. I was confused at first at who the girl who was playing the “evil” part was but I realized later she was supposed to represent the peer pressure surrounding children in life and specifically in their choices of religion. The evil peer pressure villain made all the religious super heroes believe they couldn’t get along or have a civil discussion about their religions because they had different faiths. All the super heroes went to fight crime when they would fight with each other because they believed their super hero power could save the day better. Their fighting was increased by the attack of peer pressure villains. In the end Baha’i girl speaks words of the Baha’i faith and makes all of the super heroes including the villain believe that they can all cooperate and learn something from each other. The message was really interesting and I think was done in a way that children who were trying to understand the message and goal of the Baha’i faith would be able to understand.
The idea behind the movie was sometimes our faith is a way to separate people. People practice different faiths and those different faiths often have different ways of praying, different ceremonies, different rules etc. and sometimes that can feel like it might put distance between people. The idea of the movie was about peer pressure and sometimes how on children and adults alike, there can feel like there is peer pressure to remain strictly within the boundaries of your own religion and a feeling that no one will understand the practices of your own faith and that makes you all too different. However, as I have learned more and more the Baha’i faith stresses the unity of all religions and that more is accomplished as unified religions then it is as divided. Also the movie showed how by the unity of faiths, people can overcome the pressure to be divided. I thought the movie had a strong message about what the faith is about and though it was geared towards children, I think anyone trying to get a better understanding of the Baha’i faith, children and adults alike, will get something from the unified theme within this film.

Super Baha’i girl. 8min 51sec. Youtube. accessed 20 April 2008.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Voice of One will Speak for Many

One particular story about the Baha’i faith still sticks out in my mind today and I think really encompasses a great deal about what the Baha’i faith is really about. The story of Táhirih still remains with me today and every time I hear her story I am so moved and empowered by what she did. Táhirih was a Persian woman who traveled through Persia attempting to encourage women to rid themselves of the oppression they lived under and teaching the cause of the Bab to all she could. Each town she traveled to she was therefore banned from and stoned repeatedly.
Her cause ran so deep and she was so impassioned by it that she proceeded to do something so daring and ultimately fatal. At the 1848 Babi conference, which was the meeting of the most widely notable religious scholars, Táhirih removed her veil exposing her naked face to all the men in a symbol of women’s freedom and equality, something no woman ever did in the presence of a man. Because of her brave actions.
Táhirih was ordered to be put to death the same summer that the Woman’s right movement took place in Seneca falls in New York. She was executed August 1852 when she was taken to a garden wearing a beautiful white wedding-like dress. The men ordered to commit the act could not do so they had a slave in a half drunken stupor strangle her to death. It was there it is said that she spoke these famous words, “You can kill me, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women.”
Táhirih became known as one of the most scholarly woman of her time and even men and woman who did not agree with her message believed they had not yet seen such a woman like her and her eloquence and power of her speech left most astonished.
I am so empowered when I hear what she did not only for her faith but really for woman every where in the world. The interesting thing is she is revered as a heroine within the Baha’i faith. I found an interesting quote on in Early Baha’i heriones it read:

“The Bahá'í writings offer a potent vision of the qualities for which women must strive and the changes they can effect in the world; and the history of the Bahá'í Faith offers many examples of outstanding women who serve as models or paradigms of this "new womanhood."

I am learning more and more as I study the faith that the Baha’i religion truly believes in a new age of religion. A time when humanity will be one race and there will be equality or all and Baha’i’s of all ages, races, and genders have to play an active role in working towards this goal because the Baha’i is really the religion to bring about this age. It was so interesting to hear about how woman have to strive to achieve the qualities of Táhirih and become strong and active women in not only their religion but within fighting for equality of all. I think the other thing that just fascinates me completely is that she was so motivated by the Baha’i teachings that she could fight so ferociously for the needs of others and could risk her life knowing she was dying for her cause.
I was so incredibly moved by this story when I was younger and revisiting it now I just am so motivated and encouraged by her fearlessness and dedication. The passion she invoked in people and the passion that came from herself is really what I think symbolizes and embodies what the Baha’i faith is trying to encourage within the love and unity of humankind they know will one day occur.

Information found from:

2003 Tahirih Justice Center: Promoting Justice for Women and Girls Worldwide. About Tahirih. Electronic Document,, accessed March 26, 2008.

Lehman, Dale. 2001 Planet Baha’i. Electronic document,, accessed March 26, 2008

2008 Baha’i faith: a fitting role for a changing world. Electronic document,, accessed March 26, 2008.

Quote from:

2006 Baha’i topics: an information resource of the baha’i international community. Early Baha’i heroines. Electronic document,, accessed March 26, 2008.

Images from google image:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Symbols

I know how important symbols are within all religions and within our culture as a whole and so I thought I might use this blog to learn a little bit more about the symbols of the Baha’i faith. I had always known about the nine-pointed star, which is one of the most important symbols in the Baha’i faith but I had never truly known all that was the meaning behind it. I even had necklace given to me for Ayyam-i-Ha, the Baha’i Christmas, but I never felt fully comfortable wearing it because I didn’t think I could really explain what it meant or even what it meant to me if asked. So I did some research and was greatly surprised that what I thought it represented was not quite so.

I found that the Nine-pointed star represents fulfillment and completion as nine is the highest single-digit number and also Bahá'u'lláh received His mission in the dungeon in Teheran nine years after the of the Báb, (meaning “The Gate”) who was the forerunner of the Baha’i faith, appeared in Shiraz. Though I had always believed that the Nine-pointed star represented the nine prophets of the Baha’i faith I was interested to find the difference.

The Ringstone symbol which was called this because it was worn on the rings of many believers was designed by `Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá’u’lláh’s eldest son and appointed successor, and made by His friend and main calligrapher in Persia. The first level of the symbol is the world of God, the Creator, the second level is the world of His manifestations, and the third level is the world of man.

The vertical line through them joins the three bars in a representation of the way in which God’s Divine messengers link the world between Man and God.

The two five pointed stars on either side represent the Bab and Bahaullah.

The Greatest Name symbol ("Yá Bahá'u'l-Abhá") can be translated to O ‘Glory of Glories’ or ‘O Glory of the All-Glorious’ glory meaning Baha’u’llah when translated.

Symbols within a culture, especially that of a religion, is a real way for people to connect themselves with their faith and with their beliefs. Before when I would see the nine-pointed star I knew it represented something, but I had no real connection I could make to it and I didn’t feel any real attachment. Now that I better understand what it stands for and how it works within the context of the faith, I can better understand the importance.

All the information on symbols came from and was excerpted from The Bahá'ís, a publication of the Bahá'í International Community:
1997 Baha’i faith. Electronic Document,, accessed March 18, 2008.