March 15, 2013
Article By: Matt Reinschmidt
With all the commotion of this new election of Pope Francis after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI I have encountered several people who have tried to pull me back into the ranks of Catholicism and who have themselves really subscribed to the Catholics Come Home movement. All of that is fine and good but I think now is a very good time to explain just why I became a Baha'i and why I will never, ever EVER return to Catholicism.
This is NOT going to be some rant against Catholicism because I do not believe in the merits of attacking other religions no matter what sort of news is going on concerning them, although I must say as someone who was an alter boy and deeply involved with the giving of Mass as an adolescent in the Catholic Church, this repugnant, criminal child sex abuse scandal seriously degrades if not permanently compromises any social value to Catholicism until a whole lot more people end up in jail for a very long time. I only mention this in my post here because I was there and could easily have been one of the victims because no one at the time had any idea such dark, uspeakable things were transpiring all over the Catholic system.
I think the best way to explain my being Baha'i is to ask a question: what is the point of any church? Is it to seek any means needed to perpetuate it for millennia ad infinitum, or is it to be a conduit through which the stated, promised return of it's Creator would be facilitated? Believing in the first one severs you from any requirement to keep your eyes open and your ears out for the Lord's return, although I do not think this is the same as relieving or absolving you from the responsibility of keeping watch for His promised return because He said you must do so to be faithful to Him. If you believe in the second, then you believe that everything Jesus said was the truth - including what He Himself said concerning His Return.
So, I will get right to it: Baha'u'llah is the Return of Jesus Christ Himself. You may think I am nuts for thinking this, but the Baha'i Faith has survived a bloody, murderous persecution for over 140 years by Islamic clerics hell-bent on destroying it and yet it continues to survive and indeed expand worldwide. Between that fact and the fact that Baha'ullah Himself passed away in 1892, well over 100 years ago, the Baha'i Faith is most certainly not any cult. No cult survives all that the Baha'i Faith has for as long as the Baha'i Faith has much less surviving all that and continuing to grow. The Baha'i Administrative Order, under the Universal House of Justice on Mt Carmel in Haifa Israel (yes, that would indeed be the mountain of Isaiah...) would, and indeed has, done itself harm before it will preserve itself if that preservation involves harm or upset to any group of people. Truly, that is the mark of a system that Christ would have created if the world could have supported it 2,000 years ago.
Where is the Armageddon you may ask then, because surely Jesus' Return must be with the Apocalypse as foretold by Revelation? The more I researched exactly what the Book of Revelation and the Book of Daniel attempt to communicate about this matter the more it became clear to me that so many word choices in translation and basic language use between Aramaic (a dead language), Ancient Greek (a dead language), Ancient Hebrew (a dead language) and into Latin (a dead language) then Old English (a dead language) and now English are questionable at best, the more I realized all Christians have fallen into a trap from which there is no escape: the prophecies they read nowadays have been so corrupted by translation choices and "signal loss" as it were, either due to time or deliberate interference over the centuries from 2,000 years ago, that as they are commonly understood today none of the prophecies could ever come true. The most glaring example of this, although not technically a Catholic belief, is that of the so-called "Rapture". Read the entire Bible and find anywhere in it where that scenario, that was created by two ministers out of thin air in the 20th century, is mentioned. You can believe anything, and you can add inferences and extra interpretation to modify how passages may read, but that alone in no way makes something true and it for sure does not make it Divine unless you think yourself a Prophet. The Rapture NEVER will happen, nor will stars which are 100,000+ miles wide and thousands of degrees in temperature on their surface come down onto the Earth which is 8,000 miles wide and 53 degrees in temperature (average) on it's surface. Something else was meant by the metaphor and poetics of the prophecies, something which Baha'u'llah fulfilled and the time since the 1890's have signaled with deafening volume.
Consider this: the 20th Century was 100 years of the biggest, most calamitous disasters, wars, upheavals and technological advances that the world has ever seen in all history. The automobile, the airplane, space travel, the radio, the TV, the computer, the internet, the cellphone, modern medicine, nuclear energy, nuclear weapons, World War I, World War II, hundreds of millions dead due to war, the Great Depression, the Moon Landings, deep sea exploration, the end of ALL of the European Empires, the end of the British Empire, the end of the Russian Empire, the end of the Ottoman Empire, EVERYTHING short of meeting E.T. happened in the 20th Century for either the first time or on a massive scale that had never been seen before. You want an apocalypse, as in the ending of an age, that was it. And now, in 2013, everything about how we live our lives is utterly changed from how it was in 1913, and much before 1913 you'd find as common the exact same patterns and flow to life as you would in 5,000 B.C. Sure the industrial revolution began in the early 1800's but at first even this was not too far out of order from where ancient China or Rome were in their abilities to produce massive scale of goods and ship them to all corners of the world. But in the 20th century, the scale of everything went an order of magnitude higher than this, and it continues to advance forward now in the 21st century at an even faster pace. This type of hyper economic/technological evolution has never happened before.
Baha'u'llah's claim is that He is the fulfillment and end of the Adamic Cycle beginning with Adam and including Krishna, Abraham, Zoroaster, Buddha, Moses, Jesus Christ, and Mohammed. How else could you end a 6,000+ year cycle of history but with an era, comparatively quite short, wherein everything common to society for the past age is either drastically modified or replaced altogether with completely new modes and methods? Baha'u'llah says that now the world must find a way to become united in action and remove all prejudice which includes many of the things that nations used to use to break themselves away from other groups and which would also cause the endless wars humanity has been plagued with. Now, according to Baha'u'llah, the world must work differently and we must forge a new type of society where genocidal, ethnocidal war no longer exists. Believe it or not, despite recent terrorism, by and large the world is finally calming down and walking away from war as compared to overall population: that is, the number of people involved in war compared to the number of people there are now has never been so low. It is not that we now have the Universal Peace - something Baha'u'llah also directly states as the primary mission for civilization now - but in the absence of modern media giving us 24/7 access to the latest violence, in eras gone by the world would get much, much more violent and involve a much higher percent of humanity directly in fighting. The sort of fighting we would today call genocide - that was the norm for much of society all through the millennia since Adam but today, not so much. The United States is a very powerful country militarily, a country very active in military campaigns all over the world and yet out of it's 300,000,000 + inhabitants fewer than 10,000,000 alive today have ever seen any actual war or the equivalent of about 3% of the total populace. Only 1,400,000 at most have been involved in all the combat military actions of the United States since 2001 which is not even 1% of the country. That is a striking reality. For many nations, this ratio is even much smaller still. Today for the first time ever, Dictators who ruin nations and cause human disasters stand a reasonable chance of being prosecuted by a 3rd party, world-wide justice system that while still imperfect marks a dazzling departure from all prior centuries where anyone in power could do anything and never fear an actual justice system trying to get hold of them for it.
This process of forming the Universal Peace does indeed harken back to Jesus but it also hearkens back to ALL the old Prophets but not until now was such a thing even possible because not until now was humanity possessed of the capacity to function on a global level in a united way - the 20th century at long last, despite the destruction of all that was of old, bestowed that on humanity.
Baha'u'llah gives us the direct, specific means and guidance to accomplish this goal, it is not left up to prophecies for a distant future nor to all the phantasmic miss-interpretations of those prophecies nearly every Christian is trying to follow or ignore today. As an aside the official Catholic position that Revelation and the End Times prophecies simply cannot be understood and so we should not waste time trying to interpret or understand them is most definitely not at all what Jesus Christ told us to do.
So I am Baha'i because I believe that Jesus Christ did Return, Baha'u'llah is the Return of Jesus Christ, and that this ever changing, hyper-active global human civilization we are all struggling with was the result of the promised apocalypse. And one more thing, the devil is indeed tied up now because Baha'u'llah has revealed that there is no such a thing as a Dark Spirit that fights Almighty God and competes for our souls. To believe such a thing with an educated mind is to believe in glaring contradictions and suspend all logic and rationality which is an insulting thing to ask anyone to do for the sake of a religion - there are many things which are mysterious and not readily grasped by the mind and the Baha'i Faith is replete with these mysteries but there is a big difference between mystery, where you are expected to use your rationality and logic but with an understanding that some things have not been figured out quite yet, and superstition which shuts off reason and logic from ever having a say in the matter. That type of belief, where for the sake of societal instruction beliefs which kill the rational and block the logical is all a relic of past ages where the means of understanding were fundamentally different. Theologically, the turning of yourself to God and taming of the animal instinct is how Baha'is conquer evil because evil truly begins with the turning away from God and becoming remote from Him deliberately. There is no actual Dark Lord out there trying to corrupt you, that is a massive cop-out and misrepresentation of what the truth of existence is as we understand it today with the benefit of a robust rational, scientific education and mindset. If you must disregard science and rationality in order to accept a religion - and again, this is not saying disregard mysteries and the undiscovered because both science and religion very much state that man does not now nor ever will know everything - then that religion is really a superstition doomed to get ever farther away from relevance which is a real lousy choice to set up as being necessary. The Baha'i Faith believes that science unchecked by religion is materialism (hardly a prescription for happiness as we all know) and that religion that must limit or ignore science is superstition (an equally unsatisfactory and ultimately useless state of affairs).
One more thing: many Christians are terribly put out when they discover that the Baha'i Faith has no clergy and does not go to any type of mass or service on Sundays. Since Jesus left zero instructions detailing what a mass or service was to be except very general statements about breaking bread together and that wherever a few Believers assemble He is present there, and did not say one should all go to a service on Sundays at 11 am or Wednesdays at 5 pm nor genuflect nor kneel or stand or sing hymns or listen to priests lecture, Christ's Return most certainly never included Him coming back and saying to all Church-goers that they are doing exactly what He wanted and they should just keep on doing the same things. Obviously, the entire world cannot be changed and transfigured if the exact same modes and methods and structures simply continue on as though nothing happened. No, Christ's Return - the Revelation of Baha'u'llah - implicitly means everything changes including Church going. A brief look at the last 120 years of history clearly shows this level of transformation bordering on chaos at times but still an ongoing process of an entire new world being created. The expectation of God coming to humanity on humanity's terms is hubris in the extreme and is exactly why Jesus got crucified the first time - expecting the Return to be convenient and easy is surely folly on a grand scale - hopefully this brief posting gives some impetus to clearly think about what the whole point of Christianity and any Church really is. The Baha'i Faith as such automatically means the fulfillment of the true mission of Church and the putting away of all that was to make way for everything He has now instructed us to build.