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"Gettin' Religion"

The title "Gettin' Religion" was used by Dizzie Gillespie in his autobiography "To Be or to Bop," in the Chapter he devoted to his own spiritual journey and eventual conversion to the Baha'i Faith.

I am a Baha'i. And like Dizzie I haven't always felt comfortable talking about "Gettin' Religion."

I became a member of the Baha'i Faith in August of 1977 in Long Beach, CA when I was almost 31 years old. The main reason I became a member is I firmly believe in Progressive Revelation (one of the basic principles of Baha'i beliefs). This is something I came to in my own way and was amazed to hear it articulated by an actual "organized religion."  If you are unfamilar with this religion don't feel bad, though widespread all over the globe, at only 160 years old it is still relatively new. 

I do have a link on the sidebar to the Website of the Baha'is of the United States, and encourage it's use since there is more accurate historical information than mine.  

What is Progressive Revelation? The belief that there is only One God (something the major religions agree on - honestly), so Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Mohammed,  all came from the same source and have the same basic Spiritual message, for the most part only the social teachings and laws change between messengers (or as Baha'is call them - Manifestations of God - which is literally what they are, think about it!), based on the period in time and location on the planet that they appear.

Christ said  (and I probably paraphrase) "...if you knew Moses then you would know me, for as he was, I am." (Yeah, and I know he also said -the only way to the Father was through him, and during his "dispensation" that was true).

And we believe that since the mid 1800's there have been Two more Manifestations sent to Man to bring a renewal of God's message to his creation. And that their "dispensation" (or period of time before a new Manifestation will appear) will last 1000 years (or about 850 more).

They both appeared in the area of the world formerly known as Persia. Now Iran & Iraq among other parts of that war torn region. The first was known as "The Bab" which means Gate. and he was merely a Forerunner, whose sole mission was to prepare people for "One whom God will make Manifest." And that next Manifestation did arise and is the Prophet-Founder of the Baha'i Faith and was called "Baha'u'llah," which means The Blessed Beauty. Both of these Manifestations created a body of Divine Literature which can be read and investigated, and that is what I did.

One of the Truths God has voiced through his various Manifestations is that we have a purpose, and Baha'u'llah voices it thus ...

"The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His Laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of his creation."

I first heard the word Baha'i in 1971 while I was being a surf bum on the Caribbean Island of Tobago. There was a Couple from California living on the opposite end of the Island who I met a few times who told me they were Baha'i Pioneers. At that point in my life I was not at all religious and I assumed that they were there to take advantage of the locals in some way. But ironically I  was also on the 1st steps of a spiritual journey and had been reading of Yogi's, Buddha, Krishna, and a lot of Metaphysical topics. After returning to Long Beach in Southern California in 1972 and going to a local college I met a young lady who introduced me to a Man our age who was a brand new Baha'i, so that strange word again. I got to know him and some of his friends over a few years and I went to a few social activities with him in the San Fernando Valley. During this time I was often invited to something they called firesides, and always declined, afraid I would be pounced on and berated for my non-religious ways. I was still not all that interested in "gettin' religion" because it would probably mean some major changes in my life. But when I was 30 I lost my Father who was only 61 and I suppose that got me started thinking about my own mortality. Long Beach Calif at the time had a Baha'i Center and had public meetings on "What is The Baha'i Faith?" and I started going on my own without telling my Baha'i friend (or anyone else). So I met some of the local Baha'is and got books to read (Baha'u'llah and the New Era was one, The Hidden Words another), my friend found out and gave me a book by William Sears called "God Loves Laughter," which I read I think in one sitting,  and I finally went to a fireside, and then another, and another, etc. After a month or so of firesides and after much hemming and hawing, I realized I was convinced, and that even though I felt like I really would have preferred to just keep on with my life the way it was. I also felt that if I really and truly believed this, then to preserve my soul, I had to make the leap and commitment of joining an "organized religion."  And only those who knew me then, or of my life prior to August 1977, or who have also made a major lifestyle change, can fully appreciate what that meant. 

The bottom line for me was that I felt the spiritual impact of Baha'u'llahs words, it seemed obvious that this was guidance from God revealed through him, and not just inspired writing of someone with an ulterior motive.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and I have been truly blessed to remain a Baha'i, even if I might sometimes stumble along on the "Spiritual Path."  I have had a family everywhere I've lived and traveled, made great friends, and  don't have any regrets.