Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Baha'i Faith Is 'Prophetic' Religion

(Photo of Professor Cornel West, courtesy of the College of Charleston)

I recently reread my favorite chapter from Cornel West's newest book, Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism. I love it when a writer uses the word imperialism. When I was in college I had this bumper sticker on my satchel that read "I'd Rather Be Smashing Imperialism!". Those were the days. Anyway, the chapter I read is called The Crisis of Christian Identity In America. As a fellow believer in Christ, I do a lot of reading of Christian writers, especially African American philosophers and theologians. There are frequent references to 'prophetic Christianity' and its importance in addressing the need for social justice in America and around the globe. West makes this comment on page 158, regarding the African American expression of 'prophetic Christianity':

"Black prophetic Christians-from Frederick Douglass to Martin Luther King Jr.-have eloquently reminded us of the radical fissure between prophetic and Constantinian Christianity, and King's stirring Christian conviction and prophetic rhetoric fueled the democratizing movement that at last confronted the insidious intransigence of the color line. In fact, much of prophetic Christianity in America stems from the prophetic black church tradition. The Socratic questioning of the dogma of white supremacy, the prophetic witness of love and justice, and the hard-earned hope that sustains long term commitment to the freedom struggle are the rich legacy of the prophetic black church."

The Baha'i Writings explain that, "The Cause of Bahá'u'lláh is the same as the Cause of Christ. It is the same Temple and the same Foundation". Not surprisingly, an investigation of the Baha'i Writings reveals that the Baha'i Faith is also 'prophetic' in its orientation. Commenting on the exalted station of a true believer, Baha'u'llah states that:

The station which he who hath truly recognized this Revelation will attain is the same as the one ordained for such prophets of the house of Israel as are not regarded as Manifestations 'endowed with constancy.' (Quoted in, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 111)

This verse is referring in Baha'i terminology to prophets such as Isaiah, Micah, or Elijah, who did not have the same station theologically as Abraham, Moses, or Jesus. What West and others, such as Jim Wallis, describe as 'prophetic Christians' is captured in Baha'i terminology by the description of a "true Baha'i":

Let your actions cry aloud to the world that you are indeed Bahá'ís, for it is actions that speak to the world and are the cause of the progress of humanity...Therefore strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers. Turn towards God, and seek always to do that which is right and noble. Enrich the poor, raise the fallen, comfort the sorrowful, bring healing to the sick, reassure the fearful, rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless, shelter the destitute! This is the work of a true Bahá'í, and this is what is expected of him. If we strive to do all this, then are we true Bahá'ís, but if we neglect it, we are not followers of the Light, and we have no right to the name. (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 80)

Thus, just as the Baha'i Faith is 'Holy Spirit Religion', it would be accurate say that it is an expression of 'prophetic religion'.