Bahai News -
Personal faith fuels Baha'i
Saturday, September 16, 2000
Photos by Lauren McFalls/For The Olympian
Members of Thurston County's Baha'i community Joyce Baldwin
(left) of Tumwater and Dariugh Khaleghi of Lacey commemorate a holy day
for the Baha'i, the date that a founder of the faith was executed for
his teachings in 1850.
Vicki Armstrong-Lewis (left) and Caryn Gayfield, both of
Olympia, participate in services.
Personal faith fuels Baha'i
LORRINE THOMPSON, THE OLYMPIAN
"I suddenly could accept people of all other faiths. I could have a
love for the other messengers that I couldn't have before." --
OLYMPIA -- Driving in Olympia recently, David Lynch saw a bumper
sticker that concerned him.
It read: "My God can beat up your God."
Meant to be humorous, the bumper sticker still reflected the divisive
and competitive nature of many organized religions. It also reflected
one reason Lynch and others became interested in the Baha'i faith, a
growing worldwide religion that has about 250 members in Thurston County.
The faith teaches that all major religions spring from the same God,
and messengers such as Mohammed, Jesus and Buddha all came from the same
source with similar teachings.
"There's nothing that divides us from anybody," said Char Robley, a
member of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'i of Tumwater.
"We're so connected that we don't even know how connected we are,"
said her husband, Don Robley.
The Robleys and Lynch say that though the Baha'i faith is growing in
the county and around the world, many people don't know what it is or
what it stands for.
"We're not out banging the drums like a lot of other religions,"
Lynch said. "There's a lot of lack of information about the Baha'is."
The Baha'i of Thurston County meet in six assemblies. They meet in
homes and have no paid clergy. They welcome members of the public at
their fireside meetings and holiday and specials events.
Lynch said he was attracted to the Baha'i faith particularly because
it encourages followers to investigate for themselves.
"It didn't demand a blind, unreasoning faith," he said.
Lynch had grown up in a Protestant home, with a Lutheran and
Methodist background. "I found a lot of people saying one thing and
doing another," he said.
A particular turning point came when his pregnant wife became ill
during a church sermon and was told by a church member she should have
stayed home rather than disrupt the service.
"But that wasn't the reason. It was a growing away. It didn't meet my
needs spiritually. It didn't answer the questions my soul was searching
for," he said.
He studied Buddhism and other faiths in a search for what felt right
for him, and when he found the Baha'is, "it was like coming home."
Women and people of all races were deemed to be entirely equal,
followers were encouraged to explore the truth on their own, and the
religion was run as a democracy with elections and no all-encompassing
The Baha'is don't solicit or require donations from members.
"It's all secret. I could donate a penny or $50,000. There are no
special promises or glory or deals (based on donation amounts)," Lynch
Questions lead to answer
Char and Don Robley also were attracted to the faith when they began
questioning their own -- both grew up in Methodist families.
"I was always questioning. I didn't just take what was told me in
class," said Char, who attended a Methodist university in California.
"The main thing that didn't make sense to me was excluding all the
other people in the world. I wasn't even allowed to date in other
religions," she said. "All these good people were cut off from each
other. It would make me weep."
Don and she had already met, were dating, and were Methodist when
they married. But he, too, was questioning his faith.
"I couldn't quite grasp what they were telling me," Don said. "I
wondered what God did with all these great people who weren't
He met a black seaman of the Baha'i faith on an aircraft carrier
during the Vietnam War. "I wrote Char about this great thing and scared
her. She wrote back and said, 'But what about Christmas?' "
They both laugh at the memory.
The change did not happen overnight, but "it was a beginning for me,"
Don said. "There was this knowing inside that I had changed."
When he returned from the Navy, he began attending Baha'i fireside
meetings and bringing home books. Char would attend Methodist sermons,
then look up what the Baha'i writings said on the same subjects.
Finally, at a Baha'i fireside in 1968, both came to separate
decisions that they wanted to join the faith.
For Don, a slide show of people of different races in different
countries studying Baha'i writings struck him with its message that all
people really can come together.
Char was moved by the realization that "I didn't have to hate
anybody," she said.
"It was a wonder to me. I suddenly could accept people of all other
faiths. I could have a love for the other messengers that I couldn't
have before," she said. "I have a love of Christ that I didn't have as a
She could talk to Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and Christians and know
that they all belong together and are working toward the same thing.
If any one word was used to define the Baha'i faith, it would be
"unity," Lynch said.
People of all other religions are welcome at their meetings, and
indeed, do not have to relinquish their beliefs in order to study Baha'i
People of all religions are connected, Lynch said, "We just choose to
Lorrine Thompson covers health and lifestyles for The Olympian.
She can be reached at 754-5431.
The Thurston County Baha'i community is sponsoring free Sunday
classes featuring the Virtues Project, a non-denominational program
highlighting 52 virtues such as honesty and kindness that can be taught
and shared by youth and adults.
Classes run from 10 a.m. to noon and begin Sept. 24 at the Tumwater
Old Town Center, 215 N. Second Ave. For information, call 704-4470, or
e-mail Don and Char Robley at firstname.lastname@example.org
All Baha'i fireside meetings and holiday observances are open to the
public. To learn more about meeting schedules and other events, call
David Lynch at 754-6697.
The central principles of the Baha'i faith include:
- All major religions and messengers spring from the same God.
Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus and Baha'u'llah were all primary
messengers sent at different times to bring God's word and advance human
- Humanity is growing just as an individual grows. Humankind has
gone through its infancy and childhood and is passing through its
adolescence now, heading toward a mature and united future. As humans
have advanced, God has sent new teachers along the way to guide them.
- Absolute equality among men and women, who are equally capable
of reflecting the virtues of God. God is neither male nor female.
- Absolute equality among people of all races, and the abolition
of all prejudice. This is needed for humanity to become united.
- The essential harmony of science and religion, which are two
sides of the same truth. Baha'is are encouraged to independently
investigate the truth.
- Education and a universal auxiliary language are needed to help
unite all of humankind and bring about peace.
©Copyright 2000, The Olympian
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