Reconciling the Other

The Baha'i Faith in America as a Successful Synthesis of Christianity and Islam

{josquote}The Bahá'í Faith is more than a Christian-Muslim syncretism.{/josquote}

A number of scholars have commented on the Islamic elements of basic Bahá'í theology and practice as found in Europe and America. In fact, the study of the Bahá'í religion, even in the West,continues to be thought of academically in terms of Islamic Studies. And yet, the Bahá'ís themselves, in the United States and elsewhere, are quick to deny that their religion is Islamic. Indeed, many ordinary Bahá'ís are even unaware of the Islamic roots many Bahá'í teachings, and they experience them instead as the fulfilment of Christianity.It appears then that the Bahá'í Faith in America, at least, has developed historically as a successful synthesis of Christianity and Islam. In fact, this may be the only successful synthesis of the two traditions which exists as a living religion. Naturally, a reductionist argument is not being made here: The Bahá'í Faith is more than a Christian-Muslim syncretism. Nonetheless, basic elements of both religions have been harmonized in current Bahá'í thinking and practice. This paper will seek to identify some Muslim elements in the Bahá'í religion as it is practiced in the United States and demonstrate how these elements have been Christianized in Bahá'í practice. It will comment on the power of religion to achieve one of its fundamental purposes— to dissolve contradictions and reconcile the unreconcilable.

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