Baha’i’s strongly believe in home visits. You might call them a fellowship, a study session, or just a get-together. Whatever you want to call the home visits, I walked into a home full of Persian hospitality. My hostess, Hayedeh, comes from Iran and it was reflected by her home. As I got out of my car, she called out a welcome from her carport. I was the first to arrive. She walked me into her house, through the kitchen, and into a living room with a raised ceiling. Couches and chairs sat in a rectangular shape on top of a crimson, patterned Persian rug. In the center was square coffee table with pink orchids in the middle. Beside it was a bowl of green pears and oranges along with fine china plates.
Hayedeh’s husband, Wayne, was sitting in one of the chairs as I walked in. He stood up, shook my hand with a friendly smile, and introduced himself. We talked about the assignment at hand briefly and Hayedeh explained that we were waiting on another person to show up, and Mrs. Marcus arrived very soon after that. For this particular home visit, there would only be four of us.
Hayedeh read from the Kitab-I-Aqdas, the most holy book of the Baha’i. She had asked what I wanted to talk about and told her my paper would be over the concept of salvation so the passages focus on that. We each took a turn reading. Hayedeh then stepped out of the room and returned with a full tray of tea. I mean the complete works – sugar bowl, saucers, beautiful tea cups, and tea spoons. I was nervous that I would spill cause a mess or break something! It was hot so we mostly held onto it while we discussed concepts together.
We began to discuss the passages and what salvation was within the Baha’i faith. Instead of a personal salvation that gets one into heaven, Baha’is believe that salvation is a process and that it is for humanity as a whole. The goal is equality, love, and peace for all men and women on earth, regardless of any constraining social setting he or she may have. Wayne told me that there is a concept of heaven, but that it is not the same as I may think about it. All of creation is temporary; everything is impermanent. History is progressing towards the perfect creation that God intended the Earth to be. Heaven and hell are not physical locations, but states of nearness to God (1).
As we finished our teas and moved onto other topics, Hayedeh brought out vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberry puree she had made that day. It was delicious! The group of us began to discuss the influence of science on religious thought, especially creation. I mentioned how much I loved the photograph, Pale Blue Dot, and how it makes me really appreciate how small and yet important we humans are. We also discussed the newest Baha’i Temple built in Santiago, Chile. Hayedeh and Wayne had a Baha’i magazine with pictures of the building. One from night time is the featured image and the one below is from the day time.
Each Baha’i Temple has nine doors, they told me, one for each major religion. Inside, there is one common meeting room, which represents how all of the faiths merge into one. Naturally, this led me to ask about their structure and normal services. Baha’is strongly encourage home visits because of the personal nature of them. There are no clergy and Baha’i Centers are used for community events. Really, Baha’is can meet anywhere and it is up to the organizers to decide what takes place.
Hayedeh took up the crystal dishes after we finished the ice cream. But she wasn’t done yet! Next, she brought up freshly cut pineapple. I took a few, but had to insist that I was full at this point. The conversation shifted to personal matters such as what jobs we had and about the recent snow that had temporarily shut down our area. Wayne asked me a few questions about my personal beliefs and told me his story of conversion from Christianity to Baha’i. He attributed the old preaching of “hell fire and brimstone” in his youth as a strong reason he left Christianity. Baha’i offers hope and a goal that everyone on earth can work towards – social justice and global salvation.
After about two hours, it was time to leave. I gave my farewells and began my half-hour drive back home. Hayedeh followed up with me in an email just the other day letting me know about future events in case I wanted to bring my wife to any of them. I think I’ll write back now. Thank you all for taking your time to read these posts. It has been an incredible journey exploring these different faiths first-hand. There are more faiths out there though and I hope I can add them to my experiences as well.
Special thanks for the Featured Image of the new Baha’i Temple in Santiago, Chile by Tiago Masrour – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53054032.
(1) “Heaven and Hell” What Bahá’ís Believe. http://www.bahai.org/beliefs/life-spirit/human-soul/heaven-hell. Accessed 13 February 2018.
Fascinating! I think it’s wonderful that you’re exploring all of these religions in such a practical way. I’m quite new to your blog. May I ask – are your explorations part of academic study, or are you experiencing these religions purely to learn more and nourish your understanding?
Peace and blessings,
Thanks for following the blog! These visits are part of my grad class, History of Religion. I opted to do some true visits to religious groups because I want to know these different people. I hope that going beyond my comfort zone will help others do the same. It’s also encouraged me to teach my children how to love other people no matter how different.
Sounds brilliant, David. Very inspiring! I’m looking forward to future posts.