Thursday, March 5, 2015

Christianity that dogged me until college’

Jack Gordon, 30, is a Bahá'í in Washington DC who is the Producer of Faith In Action DC (www.faithinactiondc.com). Here he tells us about his religious identity. 

You could say I’m the product of an interfaith relationship that didn’t work out so well. My father and his family have a conservative Jewish eastern European background and my mother is from a Christian background, and there was a cultural clash in my household growing up. On my father’s side, based on the lamentable history that the Jews had at the hands of people who professed to believe in Christ, there was a distinct view that anything associated with Christianity was corrupt and phoney.

So I grew up with a very strong Jewish identity and a resentment of Christianity that dogged me until college. At college I got involved in community organising and started to re-examine the prejudices I had against Christians and Christianity and I began to open myself up a bit more. Part of that was due to a revelation I had at a Gospel concert I attended. Not that I became a Christian; I just realised Jesus was basically a really good community organiser, and that was something I could appreciate and value.

At the same time I was aware I had on my mom’s side a handful of family members in the Baha’i faith, starting with my grandmother who joined the Baha’i community in the Sixties. As I became more open to the spiritual side of things I decided to explore the Baha’i teachings. The more I read, the more I thought, ‘This is something I believe.’ It didn’t ask me to abandon my Jewish cultural heritage or identity; in fact, being a Baha’i has affirmed my desire to learn more about Judaism. It also encouraged me to be more open to Christianity because the Baha’i faith recognises Jesus as a divine messenger, just as it does Mohammed, Baha'u'llah and so on. It’s given me a totally different worldview about spirituality.

Representing a faith community that’s relatively obscure, I feel an imperative to explain my faith to others and strive to live a good example of the Baha’i teachings. There’s an explicit mandate in the Baha’i faith to commune with followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and to increase the bonds of cooperation. That has to start with trying to make peace in my own family, before extending it to my neighbourhood and the world at large.