Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Thoughts After a Jehovah's Witness Visit

Baha'u'llah told us to, "Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship." As a result Jehovah's Witnesses seem to think visiting me is awesome.

There's one older fellow who's been stopping by once a month for several years now. I'm amazed he keeps coming, given that I've shown no signs of wavering in my own faith, but as he said last month, "I've encountered a few Baha'is and at least you can have a conversation with them!"

He came around today. We got talking about Thief in the Night, which I gave him quite some time ago, and he ask me what Baha'is believe about the end times. He said he hadn't finished the book so I stumbled around a bit for an answer. The truth is I gave him the book because I was too much of a chicken to be too direct about this sort of thing.

Me: "Well, um, we interpret a lot of the prophecies in a less literal way that some churches."

Him: "Uh huh."

Me: "For example, there's that whole idea of a day in the Bible being interpreted as a year. So we don't expect everything to happen all at once."

He nodded.

Me:  "But we believe in a time of great upheaval, and a crumbling of the world as it was, followed by what we call The Most Great Peace. That's what you probably call the Kingdom of God on earth."

Him: "Yes, of course! We believe this too. It's in the Bible. And you know, some of those things have already happened."

Me: "Uh, yeah."

It's always been a bit weird to me that conversations around this topic are so hard to have. I understand why it would be awkward for most people, but this was literally the kind of thing that convinced me I wanted to be a Baha'i. I had grown up in a Baha'i family but didn't decide I wanted to be Baha'i myself till well into adulthood. In the end it was looking at how all the prophecies from different faiths fit together so well, like pieces of a puzzle, that did it for me.

So many stories of people becoming Baha'i revolve around knowing in their heart it was right or being attracted to the warmth of the community. Some people talk about liking the teachings on oneness and unity. None of that really mattered to me. I don't care how things feel, I wanted to know if it was right or wrong and what the evidence was regardless of emotion. Looking at the prophecies of the past all pointing in the same direction made logical sense. It was based on that that I decided to follow Baha'u'llah, and it's because I follow Baha'u'llah that I bother caring about things like unity and oneness.

In theory, it might look like I was timid about discussing prophecies today because the Jehovah's Witnesses are known for some pretty literal, and "out there," interpretations of the Bible. But that's not it. There have been many chances for this to come up in different settings and with different people. Talking about it is just something I haven't figured out how to do. Occasionally I'll get asked what Baha'is believe about prophecies and I just say I'll have to look it up. One time a friend asked me point blank why I was Baha'i and I dodged the question by inviting him to a Book 1 study circle. In retrospect it might have worked out better if I just gave him a direct answer.

You just don't get a lot of practice talking about this sort of thing in a Baha'i community. Even though it's part of our beliefs most Baha'i don't really care. We're busy talking about core activities and community building. Because I don't talk about it very often I haven't figured out how to talk about it without sounding batshit insane. But I think there are people this matters to and they need a better answer than I'm giving them. (Both in terms of what Baha'i teachings are and why I personally believe what I do.) Maybe that's why people like my JW friend keep showing up and asking me these questions. Maybe I'm being given the chance to practice.

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