Introducing the Unitarian Bahai Association
As the website address indicates, this blog is written by UU Bahais. A UU Bahai is a Bahai within the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) – just as there are UU Christians, UU Buddhists, UU Pagans, etc. The UUA is an interfaith community of over 1,000 congregations based on a tolerant, open-minded, all-inclusive worldview.
The Bahai faith is now represented among Unitarian Universalists by a new organization, recently founded in the United States, called the Unitarian Bahai Association (UBA). Not all the members of the UBA are UUs, but most are, or at least have some connection with UU churches or are inspired by the philosophy of Unitarian Universalism in addition to Bahaism.
As the website of the UBA states: “Bahaism, often called the Bahai faith, is a new religious movement started in the late 1800s by the spiritual teacher Bahaullah, an exiled Persian nobleman who devoted his life to proclaiming a universal message of peace, human rights, interfaith harmony, and ever-advancing global civilization. … Just as Bahaism grew out of Islam, Unitarian Universalism grew out of Christianity, and both traditions emphasize interfaith reconciliation and world-embracing social principles. Bahaism and UUism are thus like two sides of the same coin, one from the East and the other from the West, and are a natural complement to each other.”
The Unitarian Bahai Association is much more liberal in its understanding of the Bahai religion than the relatively conservative Baha’i Faith organization based in Haifa, Israel, to which most Bahais belong. Significant differences include that the UBA is open and affirming of gay and lesbian people, allows women to serve on its international board of directors, emphasizes freedom of belief and conscience rather than obedience to ecclesiastical authorities, and does not prohibit its members from participating in political activism or running for elected office.
The Unitarian Bahaism of the UBA also is characterized by a focus on the ministry, writings and teachings of the prophet Bahaullah, and interpreting and applying his teachings according to present-day knowledge and needs. Unitarian Bahais believe Bahaullah was a human being who received divine inspiration, not a divine being — according to the Unitarian tradition we reject the notion that he, or any other great spiritual teacher, is the equivalent of God. Unitarian Bahais also disagree with the Haifan Baha’i belief in the supposed infallibility of Bahaullah’s successors and the “Administrative Order” (dogmatic and bureaucratic religious institutions) they created.
Many liberal Bahais leave organized Bahaism because they feel that the Haifan Baha’i Faith organization has become too rigid, conservative and authoritarian — contrary to the original progressive spirit of the faith, which began as a sweeping reform of Islam suitable for modern times. Many former Bahais discover the Unitarian Universalist church and join it as an alternative to the Haifan Baha’i Faith. Now, with the Unitarian Bahai Association, liberal Bahais and UU Bahais have a group they can support that speaks for them and seeks to advance their modern, progressive, all-embracing view of how the Bahai religion should be understood and practiced.
This blog is based on the idea that Unitarian Universalists and Bahais should naturally have much in common and may wish to worship and fellowship together in UU churches. The authors and editors of UUBahai.com are themselves both UUs and Bahais — belonging to the UUA and the UBA rather than the Haifan Baha’i Faith, and choosing to practice Bahaism within the context of the Unitarian Universalist church rather than in the HBF community. We believe there are many UUs who would be interested in the Bahai faith tradition and who may wish to practice it in a UU context. We also believe there are many Bahais who, once they are aware of the newfound existence of the UBA and the option of being a Bahai within a UU congregation, will prefer this option.