A critique of “Letter to the World’s Religious Leaders”

In a short series of posts over the coming weeks I will, God willing, discuss some points made in the document “Letter to the World’s Religious Leaders,” published by the Universal House of Justice in 2002. I believe this letter illustrates some of the flaws in the Baha’i worldview that will prevent the Baha’is from achieving their goal of world peace and universal brotherhood. That’s not to say these are not worthy goals – they are. They’re wonderful goals. But the way the Baha’is are going about it is all wrong, and results – inadvertently – in promoting prejudice against the existing religions.

Let’s begin with the first sentence, which shows as much a false sense of history as a false understanding of the religions Baha’is pretend to unite:

The enduring legacy of the twentieth century is that it compelled the peoples of the world to begin seeing themselves as the members of a single human race, and the earth as that race’s common homeland.

It should go without saying that the awareness of a single human race has been with us much longer than 100 years. In Christianity, both Scripture and Tradition simply take it for granted that all men were created by the one God and are a single people.

In the Bible, God creates Adam and Eve and they become the progenitors of the human race. The scope of the story later narrows to focus on the Covenant between God and Abraham, which extends through his later generations as they become the People of Israel. Yet even though the main story of the Hebrew Bible is the relationship between God and the Israelites, there are times when the vision of the text widens and you see all of humanity included in God’s plan. You see this, for example, in the Prophets who reveal oracles meant for the gentile nations. The book of Jonah is the story of a prophet called to preach, not just to a non-Israelite people, but to an ancient enemy of the Israelites.

In the New Testament this inclusion of all the peoples of the world becomes complete, and the Apostles and their successors scatter to all parts of the world to preach, to bring all nations, kindreds, tongues and peoples into the Church. Consider the stories that have passed down to us about the lives and martyrdoms of the Apostles. Peter and Paul go to Rome, Jude to Armenia, Thomas to India, Matthew to either Ethiopia or Parthia, etc. Some of these stories are reliable; some are legendary. The point though is that early Christians recognized that the Gospel was for all people, and all people constitute a single race called to a relationship of love with God. As Paul says in the Letter to the Galatians,

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

But to hear Baha’is talk you’d think this is a novel concept. They’re certainly aware of these teachings in other religions. In fact they’ll point them out as evidence of their common root. But they sometimes give the impression that the followers of those religions hadn’t been aware of this before, and it took the Baha’is to make them aware of it.


4 Responses

  1. 200+ years ago, if a man lived in Virginia, he identified himself as a Virginian. It was not until after the Civil War that people thought of themselves as Americans. Now, that is the primary way that people living here think of themselves — Americans; just as people living in France primarily think of themselves as Frenchmen, and so on. This is the primary sense of identity; and humanity and a sense of world citizenship comes second. Some centuries ago when Europe’s cities were walled, those cities reflected the frame of mind of the people — they were citizens of that city, whose residents they trusted; and as for anyone else, well, those other cities were foreign. The world has progressed since the tribal and city state notions. And while it is true that there is religious literature which speaks only in terms of God and man, the primary identity of most Americans today, is that they are Americans first, and human beings living on the planet, second. We are criticized as “one worlders.” And that is changing, and that is what the Universal House of Justice is reflecting on– the universal sense of the oneness and interdependence of humanity. This sense will be increased by suffering. I respectfully disagree that the scriptural sense that God created all humans, amounts to the same thing. People did not think of themselves, during all of these past centuries, as belonging to one common fatherland. National rivalries and wars are abundant enough evidence. I would hope that you would read the letters of the House of Justice, not with a critical eye, but with an open and unbiased mind. Also you might read the short letter, “The Promise of World Peace,”
    http://info.bahai.org/article-1-7-2-1.html . I will address this, and some of the themes in Pacem in Terris, in my next posting.

  2. You’re confusing two different concepts – (1) political loyalty to a government, and (2) recognition of our common humanity.

    200+ years ago, if a man lived in Virginia, he identified himself as a Virginian.

    Did he believe that he and people from other states were members of a single human race?

  3. Well, I think Brent is should I say obfuscating the issue baha’u’llah did not say that Yeshua did not teach tat humanity was one In fact he does not claim he is the first to say this he points out in fact that both Muhammad and Yeshua said this In fact many religions either say it directly or indirectly Baha’u’llah simply emphasizes in his message that revelation is progressive, which it clearly is, unless, you believe that God only revealed himself once which of course He did not. Besides isn’t there an intrinsic contradiction in claiming that all humans are one and sons of the creator and saying that only Christians have the true doctrine from God? So the Omnipotent, Omniscient and All Wise could only reveal himself to one religion at one time in history through one message?

  4. No Ashavan, this is not a contradiction, Christianity is for everyone, not just for those who come from a certain geographical area.

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