Image: A colorized photograph of the Mansion of Bahjí in Acre, Israel.
Course: A Short Introduction to Bahá’í History (2020)
Faculty: Peter Smith, Moojan Momen
I was aware of the history of the Faith in a general way, but the depth of the information presented in the course readings has given me a much more comprehensive appreciation for it, and it is fascinating. This course helped me to better understand the violent reaction to the Faith from a cultural and social perspective – and gave me better perspectives on today’s conflicts and upheavals. It also helped me understand my own history.
My parents declared in the late 1950’s and many of the Bahá’í’s I grew up with were relatively new to the Faith – first generation Bahá’ís. My daughter and I have talked about how their own earlier beliefs shaped their understanding of the Faith. My mother, for example, grew up in a strict Lutheran environment. My father grew up in a devout Catholic family and attended the local Catholic schools. He was interested in more mystic questions while my mom was more pragmatic.
I’ve learned how these “half light” believers brought a mix of old and new ideas – until Shoghi Effendi moved people to consider themselves Bahá’ís and “…not to subscribe to the ‘obsolescent observances and doctrines’ of other religions.”
For me, there was no other reference than a common knowledge of Christianity and biblical Judaism. Most of my understanding of other religions (including awareness of them) is relational to the Bahá’í Faith. I see the likeness, the patterns, and the thread that is progressive revelation. Once in a while, I’ve learned that something I thought was from the Faith isn’t in the scriptures, but is some carry-over belief from my elders. Searching sent me back to the books. The Wilmette Institute course on Bahá’í history is a remarkable opportunity to place my life in context, and insightful on many levels.