The Baha'i: The Religious Construction of a Global Identity

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9780813528366: The Baha'i: The Religious Construction of a Global Identity

The Bahá’í Faith is one of the fastest growing, but least studied, of the world’s religions. Adherents view themselves as united by a universal belief that transcends national boundaries. Michael McMullen examines how the Bahá’í develop and maintain this global identity. Taking the Bahá’í community in Atlanta, Georgia, as a case in point, his book is the first to comprehensively examine the tenets of this little-understood faith.

McMullen notes that, to the Bahá’í, Buddha, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed are all divinely sent teachers of ‘the Truth’, whose messages conform to the needs of their individual cultures and historical periods. But religion—which draws from the teaching of Bahá’u’lláh, a nineteenth-century Persian—encourages its members to think of themselves as global citizens. It also seeks to establish unity among its members through adherence to a Bahá’í worldview.

By examining the Atlanta Bahá’í community, McMullen shows how this global identity is interpreted locally. He discusses such topics as: the organizational structure and authority relations in the Bahá’í “Administrative Order”; Bahá’í evangelicalism; and the social boundaries between Bahá’ís and the wider culture.

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About the Author:

Michael McMullen is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Houston, Clear Lake.

From Library Journal:

McMullen (sociology, Univ. of Houston) deals frankly with the Bah '! religion as lived in Atlanta, GA. The Bah '! Faith was founded in Iran by Bah 'ull h (1817-92), who taught that one God has revealed His will through a series of divine messengers (among them Moses, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and Bah 'ull h) and that this is the age of the realization of the oneness of humanity. McMullen calls Bah '!s "situated universalists" whose international structure fosters global thinking with local action. He demonstrates that the social factors that typically influence religious belief (gender, race, education, etc.) are unrelated to how Bah '!s engage in personal and community spiritual obligations or adhere to Bah '! principles, a finding that appears unique among religious groups. Instead, the grounding of elected Bah '! institutions (e.g., the Universal House of Justice, national and local spiritual assemblies) in the religion's scriptures makes loyalty to them a spiritual necessity, which is consistently practiced. Unfortunately, the book has some weaknesses in methodological points, the treatment of controversies, and occasional historical inaccuracies. Nonetheless, this work offers fresh insights and useful findings about a new religious approach to globalization. It will complement the few existing published sociological treatments of the Bah '! faith, especially Peter Smith's The B h! and Bah '! Religions (1987. o.p.), and Will van den Hoonaard's The Origins of the Bah '! Community in Canada (Wilfrid Laurier Univ.,1996) and is recommended for academic collections on the sociology of religion.DWilliam P. Collins, Library of Congress
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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