This is my favorite unprinted column. I was trying to decide whether to become a Baha'i or not. When I finished the column, I'd made up my mind, then sent in other columns about current events and joined the Faith, making this one moot.

The Faith of a Father

I wonder if I can be a holy man. Not a prophet like Moses or Jesus or Muhammad, but a person who believes in God and shows it through his daily actions. I'm thinking of joining the Bahá'í Faith, but am afraid I won't pass muster.

I have no doubts about the beliefs of the religion nor the validity of the Founders. My doubts are personal. After being raised within the Christian religion, Protestant variation, United Church of Christ sect, I explored many ways of interpreting reality and understanding consciousness including self-hypnosis, fasting, mathematics, meditation, psychology, cosmology, and quantum mechanics. I've studied Zen and Sufiism, read many of mankind's holy books, and attended various ceremonies and rituals including a Quaker Friends meeting, a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist group chant, and a Native American peyote ceremony.

I discovered the Bahá'í religion fifteen years ago while researching a term paper when I first started my college career. Carl Sagan's book Cosmos had a paragraph about how amazing the 6th century BC was with the appearance of Buddha, Zoroaster, Lao Tzu, Confucius, and Pythagoras. As a math major, I decided to investigate and see if there were any other historical ties between science and religion. After matching Islam with Algebra, and tying Protestantism, Sikhism, and Analytic Geometry together, I came to 1844 when the Millerites gathered on mountain tops in America and Texas to await the Second Coming, Mormonism started in New York, and the Bábí religion began in Persia. The disappointed Millerites dissolved into various Adventist groups, but the ecstatic Bábís became Bahá'ís with the declaration of Bahá'u'lláh in 1863.

After I turned in the paper, I quit prospecting for religion. I knew the Bahá'ís were correct about each prophet having both an eternal message of love and a contemporary one geared to the level of civilization. Christ didn't mention science because it hadn't been invented yet. Ancient tribes needed to learn to cherish their own before they could cherish others. But I didn't join the Bahá'í Faith then. Now I have children and my wife began taking them to the Methodist church. I'm sure the religion is okay. Each Prophet has the same eternal message, it's just couched in terms people of the times can understand. However, I can't tell my children I believe in Bahá'u'lláh if I'm not willing to lead by example by actually joining the church.

It shouldn't be hard. The fundamental beliefs in scientific inquiry, education for all, equality of men and women, multiracial unity, and good tenancy of the planet resonate with me. But I can't merely join by showing up for sermons. Christianity was never supposed to be that easy either, but Bahá'u'lláh has banned clergy in this Dispensation.

He says we have to worship through our daily acts by doing a good job (and actually having a job), treating everyone with justice, and having good thoughts. It sounds pathetic but I'm not sure how well I can live that life. I get mad easily, don't concentrate fully on tasks, and am not always empathetic with others. The less fortunate are easy. I have a hard time peacefully accepting the more fortunate snobs, irritating know-it-alls, and drivers who cut me off in traffic. But I'm going to try to relax, to be nonjudgmental in everyday situations. And I'm not waiting to join the Faith until I'm perfect -- infinity won't last that long. Hopefully, hanging around with like-minded people will help me handle my personal shortcomings better. And ultimately, that may be a better gift to my children than any specific religious instruction I provide.