A Baha'i Mother Needs Some Advise


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Roseville, Ca

Let me give a quick introduction; my name is Dana (will happily go by Starrfyre here in the forums) and I've been a Baha'i for 19 years. Initially, I was very active in the Faith, but my participation has waxed and waned throughout the years. I've gone from being a member of an LSA, to seriously questioning my faith to the point of nearly "giving up" on it.

I have 2 children; my daughter is 14 and my son is 12. Their father and I are divorced and they live with me and my new husband. My husband isn't a Baha'i, and I am currently not active in my community.

My issue/problem/challenge is this; I've fallen down in my duties to my children in providing a sound and secure basis in the Faith. My daughter is leaning towards being a wiccan/pagan and my son is leaning towards being a Christian.

I am, admittedly, a Baha'i with strong Wiccan sympathies; we have a very good friend who is a Druidic priest and has spoken with my daughter openly about his choice of beliefs. While there are other factors to her leaning in this direction, I think she finds it attractive because of some of these discussions. (Please note that I have always been aware of these discussions and have participated in most of them).

As for my son, he has an attraction to the cross/crucifixes (what I personally consider a strange attraction; but that's another story). Last year in school, he was invited and allowed to go to a weekly Awana's club meeting. After these get togethers, he'd come home and my husband and I would talk to him about what was discussed at the meetings. I would give him a Baha'i perspective and my husband would talk to my son about different alternatives to what was taught that night. (My husband isn't a Christian, either.)

And just recently, my son encountered some Mormons on the way home from school and struck up a conversation with them. A few days later, the Missionaries came by our apartment (they happen to live in the same complex we do) and asked to sit down and talk with us (anyone who wanted to be in the conversation) about the Mormon religion. They even asked me to sign a card stating (since my son is underage) that I gave permission for them to teach and baptize my son in the Mormon religion.
I signed the card, but vigorously scratched out the baptize part, explaining that we aren't Christian, but I'm more than willing to learn about your religion and have no qualms with my son learning about it either. This instance was fairly recent, and we have yet to sit down and talk with the young gentlemen.

(In addition, the other night my daughter blurted out that her brother had actually said he is a Christian. He denied it, and said he was joking, but I'm really not sure he was.)

In both instances, I was giving my permission in order for my children to get a better, broad view of what other belief systems are out there. In general, I've been trying to temper all of this other faith/religion exposure with the Baha’i' perspective.

While I want my children to have a healthy respect for other faiths, I also want them to be Baha'is. They both have a clear grasp that what they do after they turn 18 is out of my hands, and almost seem overly eager to turn of age in order to out and out state their independence from their Mother's faith.

I've been spending the last few days trying to mitigate the circumstances I've found myself in as a mother, and have been met with both hostile and passive resistance. I'm feeling very frustrated and ashamed of the situation I've found myself in and am seeking help from other Baha'is in this.

I have looked into what my local Baha'i community is like, but compared to other communities I've been in, I can't seem to find any enthusiasm for it. Not to mention there is virtually NO junior youth in this area. A portion of my concern is that how can I expect my children to be enthusiastic about learning their faith when I can barely muster up any myself (for/in this community)?

Please help!

My issue/problem/challenge is this; I've fallen down in my duties to my children in providing a sound and secure basis in the Faith. My daughter is leaning towards being a wiccan/pagan and my son is leaning towards being a Christian.


While I want my children to have a healthy respect for other faiths, I also want them to be Baha'is. They both have a clear grasp that what they do after they turn 18 is out of my hands, and almost seem overly eager to turn of age in order to out and out state their independence from their Mother's faith.

Apologies for not giving a Baha'i point of view, but isn't the best a parent can do to be a good guide to helping their children decide their own faith, rather than insist they follow one of the parents? The latter sounds like a great way to instil rebellion!

Would you think it's fair if anyone demanded you leave the Baha'i faith on account that your husband is not one?
I ditto Brians response. And if I may Kahil says it so much better than I could.

On Children
Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
As for me, I want my children to find a comfortable relationship with all that is....
I don't think you've failed too terribly, if both your children have a lively interest in religion! Count that a rare success.

Perhaps you need to hook into the online Bahai community more, to get the stimulus and support you miss locally. Try Planet Bahai
ww w. planet bahai. org

and Bahai Parenting

ht tp: / / Baha'i Paren ting /
(you will have to reconnect the urls, I'm not allowed to post working links)

Maybe your children would also like to join in Planet Bahai: a place they can ask the questions and express the opinions about Bahai, that they might not feel comfortable asking or telling you.

Hmm . . . No junior youths in the area, eh? While I was reading your post, I see this as the reason you express for the lack of interest your kids have in the Baha'i Faith. I don't know if there are any Wiccans in your area, but Christian youth assemble in large portions of the United States. Maybe your son feels left out as a Baha'i from religious gatherings, so he is looking into Christianity for acceptance?

As has already been said, online would be a great place to start. Ever heard of SoulPancake?

SoulPancake | Chew On Life's Big Questions

Basically it is a social networking site, just like Facebook or Myspace, but its main function is discussing the "big questions of life." Rainn Wilson, a Baha'i, came up with the site idea. I'm sure some Baha'i youth of their age are there somewhere.

I thought Rainn Wilson would a good example here because he left the Baha'i Faith and came back to it. Here is what he had to say about that topic:

Q: You stepped away from the Baha'i Faith in your 20s and returned to it 10 years later. What happened in that decade?

A: I was in New York City, going to acting school, and I was going through a rebellious phase. I didn't want anyone telling me what to do. I was disenchanted with things that were organized. It was a spiritual journey I was on. And this is reflected in and supported by one of the central tenets of the Baha'i Faith, which obliges every spiritual seeker to undertake an individual investigation of truth.

I started at ground zero. I decided I didn't know if there was even a God. I read religious books of the world. I asked myself, "If there is a God, how do we know what He wants us to do and what He wants for us? Do we read books? Do we buy crystals? Do we follow certain gurus? Do we sit under a tree? Because surely this omniscient creator has some kind of plan in store for mankind."


I would encourage them in their undertaking of the "individual investigation of truth."
hello dana as a mother l can relate to the guilt engendered by feeling responsible 'beyond the call of duty', especially at the age they're at, one foot in the door one foot out. The responses and links are great either for you or them. Not being religious myself l didn't inculcate any belief system, only basic mutual respect for others, coupled with their own natural intelligence is my faith for their future; good luck.

In your position i would be tempted to strongly discourage any further contact with the Mormons

I'm new here so I can't post a link but if you google

mormon conversion ancestors dead

and follow the links to the 'baptising the dead' you may be surprised.

It's true that you can't do anything after they are eighteen however, there's a reason that religions target the young.

In my opinion teaching religion to a minor should be prevented/banned - yes even by parents.

In your case I would be proud that my children have turned out to be - from what you say - well behaved loving and caring people. Why would you seek to change/destroy the good work you have both done.

Be happy that they aren't following some weird cults.

Make sure they really question anything that is asserted about beliefs regardless of who is doing the talking, including yourself.

You wouldn't hesitate to caution them about someone offering them sweets on the street. Not all 'sweets' come in shiney wrappers IMHO.
Well Dana Allah'u'Abha! and welcome to the Baha'i Forum.. I hope you'll stick around awhile and post some more..

I think your situation resonates with many.. We Baha'is are basically still a minority in larger communties and so are often pulled in various directions..

I sense that you feel maybe some guilt feelings perhaps because you yourself haven't been practising the Faith much in your recent life and so perhaps haven't been say an example for the children in recent years...

As our children mature we do have an important responsibility to see that they are exposed to the values and virtues of our Baha'i life. I know from being a parent that I intentionally exposed my kids to the various churches and temples where I live.. We visited Buddhist temples, Hindu temples, Sikh temple, Synagogue, Swedenborgian church, Baptist churches and so on... I presented these experiences to them along with exposing them to Baha'i values and the virtues. My wife and I prayed with our children and talked about our Faith pretty often. We would fast and observe the Holy Days.

As you know fifteen is the age of maturity in the Faith and all you can do is provide them with what you can of the teachings and allow them to arrive at their own conclusions.

Saying that I would not advise you to grant permission for the missionaries to teach your children.. If you have already done so I would urge you to rescind that permission. Missionaries have one goal in mind conversion to their way of thinking and life.. They themselves have what I would call a very regimented style of spiritual life. I would approach the children if they were my own with the idea that they are as yet under age and should make up their own minds after their fifteenth year but for now should not be exposed to the missionaries.

- Art:)
Loving Greetings to All!

Firstly, let me say thank you to everyone who has responded to my post. I understand these are public forums and that anyone of any faith/religion/belief system/philosophy may reply. So, I expected to get a variety of replies. (In other words, Brian, please don’t apologize; I welcome all points of view.)

Secondly, while I know that my original post was long (for someone who is so new to this particular forum), I was trying to keep it as brief as possible. I also knew that there was no way I would be able to address every aspect of this (probably personal) conundrum.

Thirdly, to give a bit of background here, Baha’is (most specifically mothers) have a twofold duty to their children when it comes to the teaching of religion. The first is that Baha’i parents are ~supposed~ to teach and give a good strong foundation in the Faith. While (I don’t think) it’s not specifically written, children that grow up in a Baha’i household are expected to be Baha’is as adults. No one is going to go out and shanghi a person because they grew up a Baha’i, but didn’t remain one, though. The second is that Baha’i parents are enjoined to teach their children independent investigation of the truth, along with religious tolerance.

I just seem to have come a bit further down on the side of religious tolerance and have left the others out. At least that’s my perspective.

(Baha’is, if I’ve gotten anything wrong here, please let me know.)

Soooo, on to my replies to your replies. J

Yes, I AM quite happy that my children have an interest in spirituality, whatever form it takes. And I ~do~ understand that I have to tread very lightly considering my kids age and exploring their personal beliefs. I wouldn’t quite say that I’m demanding my children to change any beliefs they have right now, I only want them to have a deeper understanding of the Faith they were born into before making a decision.

I also want to state right here and now that no matter what, I will love my children for who they are, no matter what choices they make; now or in the future.

Wil, I absolutely LOVE that particular passage from Kahlil Gibran! I have a copy of The Prophet and it’s one of my favorites! Having nearly grown children, that particular passage makes me very weepy now.

Ahanu, you made a good point about the youth gatherings throughout the U.S. A telling remark my daughter made a few days ago was that the Baha’is don’t have any celebrations or holidays. She pointed out that our friend that’s a Druidic priest has celebrations for their holy days all the time. (As a Baha’i side here, yep, OUCH! I think you can see where I’ve fallen down here. For those non-Baha’is reading this, I’ll put it into a bit of a perspective. I think it would be like a Christian child saying that they want to be Jewish because they {meaning Christians} don’t have any celebrations while the Jewish people have Chanukah. Well, that’s simply not true; Christians have Christmas! And I only use that because of the time frame, not that that’s the only Christian holy day and celebration. I ~did~ assure my daughter that, yes, Baha’is have holy days/holidays and ~do~ have celebrations for them.)

Ohhhhh nativeastral! You said it! Even though there is a little over 2 years age difference between my kids, they both defiantly exhibit the one foot in the door and one foot out! Beyond this particular aspect of life, that terrifies me more than a little.

For TheEndIsNigh, thank you for reminding me of the ‘baptizing the dead’! I had totally forgotten about that. And without googling that right now, I seem to recall hearing something about a group of Mormons doing just that in respect to someone WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION! I was personally outraged when I heard that. I’m reluctant to not speak with them, but this defiantly gives me something to think about. And yes, they are generally well behaved, almost always very loving, and usually generous people. I really don’t have any complaints about the quality of their spirit or soul. (Yep, I put the qualifiers in there because I’ve seen them behave poorly, but frankly, it’s usually to each other. *put upon mother’s sigh*)

Specifically for the Baha’is; thank you for the links and suggestions. I didn’t know about either of those websites and I’m looking forward to reviewing them.
Well, gee, Arthra! I go and type up a long reply letter and come back to find you've gone and posted, too! And I have to key in another reply! ;)

You've pretty much hit the nail on the head as far as how I'm feeling goes. I won't say that I haven't been instilling Baha'i virtues in a round about manner by trying to be a good person, giving them strong senses of right and wrong, giving them guidance and punishment when necessary. And I can't say that it's not like they don't KNOW they were born into the Baha'i Faith; they do. As well as, there have been times when I would "pull out the Baha'i card" (metaphorically) and tell them that this is the Baha'i perspective.

I just feel some things have been lost in the translation...and that makes me feel at a loss.

I must say that I'd forgotten that 15 is the age of maturity for Baha'is; probably because I was 21 when I declared myself. My daughter is fast creeping up on 15 (her birthday is in December). This may sound like a stupid question, but could you spell out (in tiny words if you have to) ;) just exactly what that means as far as she and I go? I don't think she is aware of that particular fact, and with the way our relationship is right now, I have to say that I'm reluctant to inform her. She's reached the age (again) where her automatic response to anything I say is negative. It's VERY frustrating!

As for the Mormon question, I will give that some serious thought, consideration and prayer. I wasn’t terribly happy about the situation when my son came home and told me about it, but I didn’t want to give a knee jerk reaction to it, either. I’ve personally met these Mormons before, and they’re nice kids (always makes me laugh when I give them the honorary of ‘elder’. Elder to whom?).

Thanks for your welcome and thanks for your reply; and again, thank you to all who have been so kind and generous. I hope to stick around a while. I miss this sort of interaction.

well, some don't have a choice in other countries unless they really want to upset their family/community? and look what happened here

thankfully here in the UK we don't have which seems to be the incessant fear of proselytizing our youngsters by various religions knocking the door. Tell me, is there a peer pressure over in the states to be in some religion for the children [not quite like having the latest model mobile but you know what l mean]?
Tell me, is there a peer pressure over in the states to be in some religion for the children [not quite like having the latest model mobile but you know what l mean]?
I'd say it depends on where you are. Different parts of the country have differing religious cultures. The big cities for the most part are devoid of that type of influence....however a small town if you don't take part in some church there may be no social event other than hangin in a bar.

Some churches actively seek kids thru AWANA or Young Life type programs, running fun events and meetings that kids get together with for the gathering aspect and then get the teachings incorporated... (I joined one when I was a kid....cause there were lots of girls...)

That football team issue was fairly unique I'd say....
Actually, 17th Angel, it took me several years before I told my parents that I became a Baha'i because I was fearful of their reaction. I was raised in a Christian Science household, but we weren't very religions; when my father started to commute to San Francisco on the weekends for his PhD in education (from Sacramento area), we pretty much stopped going to chruch. And we'd only been going for perhaps a year or so anyway.

Be that as it may, I KNEW my father would blow a fuse, and he did when I finally told him. I tried to educate him on the Faith, but he ended up being pretty closed minded about it. He only finally stopped making derrogatory remarks about my Faith around the time I moved back into their home during my divorce (tho he did make one or two remarks after the kids were in bed).

Was I free to choose? Certainly. I paid for it though. So, just how free was my choice?

IF my children choose a different religion after careful, intelligent consideration I will accept it without criticizm.
Yet you believed your faith to be truth and had a deep value and meaning for you, personally..... And excellent, you know how it feels..... So IF.. (lol loving the caps) IF you children choose a different religion you're willing to accept it? Then isn't that all that matters? :)
Thanks for your response starrfyre..

A baby can be considered a Bahá'í; 15 is merely the age of maturity for fasting, marriage, etc., and in the case of America, a declaration at that age is invited from the youth in order to protect them, at a future date, from being forced to do active military service."

(Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 64)

While we don't necessarily have perhaps fear of draft at this time it's also been our practise that many still invite a declaration at that age.. If our children choose not to declare they're wishes are respected..

Another reference:

"...the way in which Bahá'í children should be registered upon reaching the age 15 is within the discretion of each National Spiritual Assembly; there is no objection to using for this purpose the general enrollment card, if such a card is adopted, or a new and separate one specially for Bahá'í children attaining the age of fifteen. It is important, however, that whatever method of enrollments is used or card adopted, it is clear to such children that they had been Bahá'ís up to that time, and that on attaining the age of spiritual maturity they are reaffirming their belief in Bahá'u'lláh.

(Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 155)

Reaching the Age of Maturity -- Fifteen

Upon attaining the age of fifteen a child becomes spiritually mature and is responsible for stating on his own behalf whether or not he wishes to remain a member of the Bahá'í community. If he does not then reaffirm his faith, he must be treated, administratively, as a non-Bahá'í.

Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, dated December 12, 1975

(Compilations, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities)

Dealing with the missionary situation I think it's pretty clear that up to the age of maturity, i.e., fifteen years of age the parent(s) does have a great responsibility to see that the children are instilled with the values of the Faith.. and permitting missionaries to attempt to convert them would it seems to me be a lapse in your duties.

They are viewed at the age of (spiritual) maturity to be able to determine whether or not they wish to remain Baha'is or want to take another path.
All in all, yes, that's all that matters. However, the issue at hand (for me) is trying to figure out how to impart the tenants of my faith to the point that they can make an informed decision. And I'm trying to figure out how to communicate with teenagers! I don't want them to make ill-informed decisions.

I heard directly out of my child's mouth just this week from the question, "So, what is it you don't like about the Baha'i Faith?"

"I dunno. I don't know anything about it."

Not the makings of an informed decision.

thank you so much for your newest post. That clears a lot of things up for me concerning this particular issue.

Let me clarify my position about the Momon missionaries. I NEVER intended for them to convert either me or my children. I only wanted to have the opportunity to have a discussion about the Mormon religion and what we (mother & step father) think about it; perhaps use it as an oppertunity for teaching my son (& daughter if she were in on the discussion) about the Faith.

I wasn't seeing it as "permitting missionaries to attempt to convert them". I was trying to keep an open dialogue on religion.

However, in the light of this information, you say one of your daughters is 14. Do you think that in less than a years time, regardless of your faith, that she is mature enough to make these decisions in her own right.

I know, at that age, my sons were quite incapable of deciding which shirt to wear never mind what faith to follow. They had their beliefs, which were similar to mine as it turned out, though I never deliberately sat them down and said "believe this". The only contact they have had with religion is at school in multi faith religious lessons.

I myself at that age knew my beliefs (from 12 actually) Had someone said to me "sign here and commit to that for the rest of your life" I would have signed, yes. The problem is that at that age I had no grasp of what "sign here" would mean. Legal contracts were not in my experience. How could I make a legal lifetime commitment when I didn't know what putting your name on any document meant.

This is why I would ban religious indoctrination for everybody until the age of consent (18). I believe that if you are going to find faith in any belief system that it should be done as a personal quest, free of external influence.

just for clarification, my daughter is 14, my son is 12 (I also happen to have another son who is 20, but I gave him up for adoption when he was an infant; I was only 19 when he was born and had NO familial support whatsoever. We are in contact now, so all of my children know each other. The ironic thing is that my first born was raised in a very conservative Christian household, going to a Christian junior high school and senior high school. I suspect some of my second son's deep Christian leanings have to do with the fact that his older brother is VERY Christian.)

In any event, just because my daughter is going to be turning 15 in December doesn't mean that I am going to simply abandon her "religious training".

And while Arthra was correct that some of my desire stems from being distant from the Faith for a long while, I still believe it's my duty as their mother to give them the best education I'm capable of, and that includes instruction in the Baha'i Faith.

I think that this is probably a point in which we'll have to agree to disagree; and I'm good with that.

As far as signing a declaration card, (from everything I understand about it) it's not entering into a binding legal contract; simply a formalized ascertation of your belief and devotion to the Baha'u'llah and the Baha'i Faith. A formal, public, social recognition, if you will. There's probably some paperwork involved on the LSA side of things, but I'm not familiar with that.