I had the privilege last night of meeting several practitioners of the Baha’i faith. Let me tell you, it was most interesting. My family background of civic service and construction not withstanding, the video of the construction of their shrine on Mount Carmel in Haifa was very interesting. But the more interesting facet of my evening with the Baha’i wasn’t construction or a seriously involved discussion of the problems plaguing our farce City. It was a single statement the woman giving the presentation made before she ever started. They were forbidden to proselytize.
I was floored. Here I was, invited to a house to hear a discussion of the construction of the Arc Project, and they weren’t going to try to convert me?! Forgive me if I become a little suspicious of the water. But it was so refreshing! Living in the neo-facist, Bible-Thumping, God-Is-A-Rich-White-WASP South, I didn’t know what to say! And one of the most amazing things happened: I listened!
I think that’s the valuable lesson for the evening, and one that our politicos and our President would do good to learn: when you’re not trying to convert someone to your cause–be it God or Country, they are more likely to listen to your reasons, your logic, and your ideas.
A stark contrast to my Baha’i experience was the drive home. I passed three signs, two billboards, and a man on a street corner–all proselytizing. No kidding. Twenty-five degrees outside and the man is standing, in the middle of the night, preparing the way of the Lord. Nevermind the fact that Jesus would have enough sense to not stand out in the freezing cold (Garden cave, anyone?) and would not shout at passing cars who, for all intents and purposes, have things other than listen to him scream. He’d pick INTERESTED people. Hey, wait! That’s what he did.