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This week, like many Baha’is with family from a Christian background, I found myself celebrating Christmas, whistling “Jingle Bells” (despite living in the tropics of Australia), eating a much-too-large baked ham, and negotiating all the tinsel and decorations around the house that manifest themselves every December.
When my local Hindu Uber driver and I wished each other a Merry Christmas, I found myself reflecting on how much Christmas is a cultural institution here in Australia, almost more than it is a religious one. This year, perhaps more than most, I encountered scant mention of Jesus Christ the whole season long.
I often feel like our society has collectively decided to eschew religiosity. I know someone who says he often waits until he knows it’s “safe” before he discloses to people that he’s Catholic, fearing eye-rolls and disgruntlement. When he told me this story, he had a big grin as he pulled out a cross he wears around his neck that is usually hidden.
Another time I recall talking to someone who said, “The great thing about our house is the gate is far enough away that when religious types come calling, there’s no way they can tell if you’re home!” I giggled as I myself have had the experience of hiding behind a curtain when uninvited guests appear at the doorstep. But then, I felt sad as I realised, “Wait, I’m one of those religious types!”
Which brings me back to Christmas. How do we change the mindset about religion— both in wider society, but sometimes even for ourselves? Perhaps we can look to Abdu’l-Baha. Based on accounts from H.M. Balyuzi and Shoghi Effendi we have some beautiful vignettes of Abdu’l-Baha at Christmas, and this year we’ve put them into a little video you can watch. It’s striking how perfectly Abdu’l-Baha’s spirit of generosity, charity and neighbourliness fits in a Christmas themed story.
The Station of Jesus Christ in the Baha’i Faith is beautifully summed up by a quote from Abdu’l-Baha who says: “…to be a Christian is to embody every excellence there is.” And with that in mind, I find myself thinking that perhaps our best route to changing the world’s mindset about religion is to do it through example, just like Abdu’l-Baha did. Not so easy to do, but a worthy goal!
On Instagram, a favourite video this month pauses on another quote from Abdu’l-Baha found in Star of the West, the larger version of which says:
“The Bible and the Gospels are most honoured in the estimation of all Baha’is. One of the spiritual utterances of His Holiness Christ in his Sermon on the Mount is preferable to me to all the writings of the philosophers. It is the religious duty of every Baha’i to read and comprehend the meanings of the Old and New Testament.”
Quite amazing really!
As Baha’is, we seek not just truth in the Christian faith, but truth found in all the world’s great faiths. That’s why we are excited to debut a new collection on Baha’i Blog about World Religions & Inter-faith Resources where you’ll find lots of great content—with more to come!
To seek those truths enshrined in the world’s great religions requires us to embody certain characteristics. This month Nahal Haghbin reflects on 35 Qualities of a True Seeker drawn from Baha’u’llah’s Tablet of the Truth Seeker. It’s a marvellous, if daunting, list! I hope you enjoy reading and reflecting on it as much as I did!
Hi I’m Collis! I live in Darwin, in the Northern Territory. I’m a Baha’i, designer, entrepreneur, climate tech angel investor, and engaged in philanthropy to support First Nations young people in Australia. I’ve been working on Baha’i Blog since its inception in 2011!