A lot of ye heathen have a favorite phrase whenever the question of God, man and the meaning of it all comes up: "I'm not religious. I'm spiritual."
Granted, ye only say this when accosted by a Jehovah's Witness or downing a Natural Light in the drowning hours of night. But good on ya anyway, fair pagans. Alas, if you truly are spiritual, and looking for a house of worship where the only person who is wrong is the one who believes he alone is right, the ol' OCeeker has a place for you, oh man of weak conviction: Baha'i Center in San Clemente.
Just off the 5 Freeway
and next to a box of apartments, the dowdy brown building in which the Baha'i meet is home to a group of warmhearted believers in things greater than themselves, each on their own road to God, and evidently more welcoming than any sanctuary desecrated by the OCeeker's presence.
Your favorite armchair theologian was among just 10 of God's children, mostly elderly folks making up a little bag of Skittles (white, black and Middle Eastern), in the spacious meeting hall, furnished sparsely with a refreshments table in the back and a circle of chairs up front. Framed photos of Baha'i temples hung on the yellowish walls, as well as a TV.
Upon receiving a welcome by a gracious elderly woman and a kind old man, the OCeeker saw quickly that this would be an informal meeting and he would, at some point, be put on the spot, as the new and handsome fella. Now, no man does the center-of-attention thing quite like the OCeeker, so, as is his wont, he picked the most comfy seat in the joint--a faux leather seat with wide armrests--and spread his legs wide in Alpha repose. Later, he read a prayer for the group.
"One, oh one, the only way is one" -- St. Scott Stapp of Tallahassee
The Baha'i faith burst onto the scene in the 1800s when a Persian prophet named Bab, kinda like John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus, lubed up the religious for a cool cat named Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the faith, whose name means "glory of God". Bahá'u'lláh's earthly sojourn was from 1817 to 1892, and he tried to become the Lennox Lewis of religion by unifying all the major faiths of the world around himself. Good luck with that hombre, when you teach that Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammad were lesser lights in God's great marquee than you.
In our little circle of faith, peopled with three ladies among us, an older gentleman, aka OG1, pulled out an iPod and played a couple of faith tunes through a speaker. Worship tip: meditation time is a great way to fake the sacred and catch up on some sleep.
We then commenced to reading prayers and devotions from books of our choosing. After the OCeeker, to no avail, scanned a table for some Uncle Remus, he settled upon a book titled "Prayers for Peace."
Waiting patiently for his turn, tuning his voice to the key of molasses, the OCeeker--with the conviction of Kennedy, the cadence of Vincent Price, the charm of Clinton, the oratory power of Dolf Hitler--thus spake a Baha'i prayer:
"Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity. Be fair in judgment and guarded in the speech. Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness, and a home to the stranger. Be eyes to the blind and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be a breath of life to the body of mankind, a dew to the soil of the human heart, and a fruit upon the tree of humility."
Can I get an amen, ye heathen?
During a timeout, another elderly gentleman, aka OG2, took the time to share some insights into the Baha'i faith. He led the OCeeker into a tiny bookstore and gave a brief summary of the life of Bahá'u'lláh, and introduced him to others in the group. Fine people. Indeed, it was a refreshing change from the cold clique-ishness of most churches. But perhaps being so small, we were a clique unto ourselves.
Back in the circle, we read some Baha'i teaching, with a focus on how God has chosen mankind above all creatures as an instrument to manifest his attributes. Lots of happy talk about love, kindness and even justice. But the OCeeker fancies a wrathful God too, and wondered when the ass-kicking attributes of the deity would come up. He's still wondering.
The 45-minute discussion illumined some truths of the Baha'i faith, with OG2 pontificating much on God's free will reflected in man's sovereignty:
"Each one of us is potentially capable to mirror the image of God...he made us in his image, possessing his names and attributes...free will is given to us to be able to say OK, this is a mirror of my heart; I am polishing it to reflect the names and attributes of God, or I'm going to close it and reflect whatever else..."
A nice experience overall, when it comes to theological sex, the OCeeker does it dogma-style, and felt as though he had to strap on an ecumenical Trojan-Enz
to to romp with the Baha'i.
Baha'i Center meets every Sunday at 10:20 a.m. at 3316 Avenida Del Presidente, San Clemente, (949) 369-9278; www.bahaicenter.com
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