McMullen, “The Bahá’ís of America”

In November, NYU Press will release “The Bahá’ís of America: The Growth of a Religious Movement” by Mike McMullen (University of Houston). The publisher’s description follows:

The Bahá’í Faith had its origins in nineteenth century Shi’ite Islam, but embraces Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad—among others—as prophets, each seen as a divine messenger uniquely suited to the needs of his time. The Bahá’í community has spread to become the second most geographically widespread religion in the world. It has a 120 year history in the United States, where members have promoted their core belief that all people are created equal.

American Bahá’ís have been remarkably successful in attracting a diverse membership. They instituted efforts to promote racial unity in the deep South decades before the modern civil rights movement, and despite lip service to fostering multi racial congregations among Christian churches, over half of American Bahá’í congregations today are multiracial, in comparison to just 5 to 7 percent of U.S. Christian churches. This level of diversity is unique among all religious groups in the United States.

As the story of a relatively new religious movement, the history of the Bahá’ís in America in the 20th and early 21st centuries offers a case study of institutional maturation, showcasing the community’s efforts to weather conflict and achieve steady growth. While much scholarly attention has been paid to extremist religious movements, this book highlights a religious movement that promotes the idea of the unity of all religions. Mike McMullen traces the hard work of the Bahá’ís’ leadership and congregants to achieve their high level of diversity and manage to grow so successfully in America.

Sergeev, “Theory of Religious Cycles: Tradition, Modernity, and the Bahá’í Faith”

In September, Brill will release “Theory of Religious Cycles: Tradition, Modernity, and the Bahá’í Faith” by Mikhail Sergeev (The University of the Arts, Philadelphia). The publisher’s description follows:

In Theory of Religious Cycles: Tradition, Modernity and the Bahá’í Faith Mikhail Sergeev offers a new interpretation of the Soviet period of Russian history as a phase within the religious evolution of humankind by developing a theory of religious cycles, which he applies to modernity and to all the major world faiths of Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.

Sergeev argues that in the course of its evolution religion passes through six common phases—formative, orthodox, classical, reformist, critical, and post-critical. Modernity, which was started by the European Enlightenment, represents the critical phase of Christianity, a systemic crisis that could be overcome with the appearance of new religious movements such as the Bahá’í Faith, which offers a spiritual extension of the modern worldview.

NYC Bar Association Event on Religious Minorities in the Middle East

The New York City Bar Association sponsored an interesting panel this week on “Religious and Ethnic Minorities in the Middle East.”  The panel discussed the current plight of minority groups like Copts, Kurds, Baha’is, and Jews.  Ashraf Ramelah, Founder and President of the Human Rights organization “Voice of the Copts,” began by discussing the Coptic community in Egypt.  Ramelah highlighted recent attacks on the Copts and expressed concern for their future during this period of transition.  He stressed the importance of fair and unbiased news regarding Copts, something he said has been lacking in Egypt for some time.

Anthony Vance, Director of U.S. Baha’i Office of External Affairs for the National Spiritual Assembly, highlighted the dangers faced by the Baha’i community in Iran.  Vance insisted that much of the Iranian population has been desensitized by media propaganda and the lack of a free press.  He discussed ways that the United States, and the international community as a whole, could help Baha’is and other oppressed minorities in the Middle East, the most important being use of the media and internet to stop the spread of misinformation.

Abe Greenwald, Senior Editor of Commentary, discussed the Kurdish population in Iraq.  He explained that although the overwhelming majority of Kurds are Muslim, there are Christian and Jewish Kurds as well.  He spoke of Iraq’s long history of exploiting Kurds.  Although the Kurdish community is relatively safe now, they face serious threats once the American military leaves Iraq. Read more