Saturday, January 7, 2012

Heather Cardin

Hello and Happy Saturday!

First up I wish to thank Christopher Darren Horn for his wonderful interview of last week. Thanks so much for sharing with us Christopher!

Today we have a new interview so please welcome Heather Cardin. Heather is a Baha'i and I know you'll enjoy her interview as well!

Here Is Heather Cardin's Introduction:

I am a Canadian Baha'i. I am a wife, mother, teacher, and author. I have lived in several countries, travelled fairly extensively, and have a passion for knowledge. My prevailing attitudes, in my fifties, are of curiosity and gratitude.
And lastly, if you have a website, blog or whatever, that you would like me to link to, just let me know!

You are no doubt aware of the best source for information about my faith, which is I also have a blog but no need to link to it unless you wish to; I only write in it from time to time.

1) What religion do you practice?
I am a Baha'i.

2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
I was raised by Baha'i parents, who themselves had become Baha'is from Christian backgrounds. Although I have not always practiced the laws, I have always believed. Baha'i children and youth are always given the option of choice; it's never expected that they will automatically choose to be Baha'is. I have never doubted that Baha'u'llah, our founder, is the most current revealer of the Creator's message for today, but I have not always been successful at practicing the very high standards of the faith.

3)Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
Yes, and no. There are no formal differences, but the degree of observance is chosen by the participant. Since it is such a 'voluntary' type of faith, how much time and energy a person gives is entirely at their discretion, but there are people who are very "active" and those less visible in the Baha'i community but who still practice. Although there are no specific defining differences, I think that it is part of observance to conform to Baha'i laws as best as possible.

4)Within your religion what degree of observance are you ((ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal) ? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
I am currently actively observant, to the best of my ability. There are certain laws of practice. I think of them as the "visible" and "invisible" laws. I have always practiced the law of non-consumption of alcohol or other drugs, for example; it's a Baha'i law, but in this day and age it's also a really smart social choice. So I have never had alcohol or other drugs. This is a Baha'i law, but it also made a lot of sense to me: I don't know anyone who has not been touched, in some way, by alcohol and other drug abuses in their family or within their friendships, so following that particular Baha'i law was a no-brainer. There are other standards of behaviour which are much, much more difficult, ranging from chastity to daily Obligatory prayer to yearly Fasting to not backbiting to how one gets married or buried.

The law against backbiting is considered the most grievous of all to break, and is probably the most difficult to regulate in yourself. I am trying, at this stage of my life, not only to practice these laws, but to understand that the spirit of practice is to get your own "self" connected with the great spiritual laws of the universe. Baha'is don't believe that the God of others is different from ours; there is only one Creator. So to practice the faith is not just a question of law-abiding or community life, but is an intricate and in-depth mystical experience if you open yourself to its possibilities, nurtured with prayer. I am trying to attain that level of observance, but I understand that all spiritual development is found on a spectrum of progress, and one of the teachings of our faith that I am very grateful for is that God is the All-Merciful.

5)What is the Afterlife within your religion? For example: what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept)
The Baha'i belief is that each soul is on a journey towards the Creator. While we can't "know" God in a literal sense, we can be guided by the teachings of all of the great prophets, and in following that guidance (think of the universality of the Golden Rule, for example) we both develop our own spirit and contribute to the development of what is thought of as "an ever-advancing civilization." So the world beyond this one is a continuum of spirit, and one of our teachings, articulated by 'Abdu'l-Baha, who was the son of our founder and whom we consider to be a perfect Exemplar, is that it is "closer than [our] life-vein." In other words, that world is invisible to us but it is very close. We pray for those who have passed away, and are assured that they, too, pray for us; intimacy does not end with death, it simply changes form.

The analogy is made of a child in the womb being oblivious to the world he or she will come to when born into this world; in the womb, the baby develops the characteristics it will need to live here. Similarly, the purpose of this world, for a Baha'i, is to develop spiritual qualities which will assist when we are "birthed" to the next world. Our body dies, but our spirit lives, and it will be farther along the continuum of spiritual creation if the acts we have done in this life are virtuous. So kindness, love, and understanding, for example, are practices which will give us "arms" and "legs" and "vision" in the next dimension. Having said all of this, Baha'is believe that the next world is more glorious than we can imagine from here; the world we live in is said to be a 'shadow' world by comparison, and we also acknowledge that there is a tremendous mystery inherent in our thoughts about that world of spirit. Baha'i imagery about it focuses on light and beauty.

6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
This question made me laugh. I have no idea. For me to say who goes and who doesn't would imply that I am capable of making a judgment about someone else's spiritual development, and I just can't do that. Having said that, I believe in a merciful God, so I am hopeful that we all proceed after the physical world. I think if a person has been grievously behaved, their entrance to the next world might happen but they would probably not be as far along the spectrum of spiritual growth as someone whose entire life has been devoted to service of humanity, but only God can make those decisions. I emphasize, however, that this is only my own speculation; it's not a part of Baha'i Scripture per se.

7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
I think it's a combination of a number of factors; I am a logical person who is given to appreciation of a mystical element in life. The Baha'i teachings are both: they make a lot of sense and they also appeal to the part of my spirit that searches out mystery. Also, the Baha'i teachings are ecumenical; the oneness of mankind is very important to Baha'i theology. The elimination of all forms of prejudice is vitally important; Baha'is are involved in the life of society inasmuch as we choose areas of service, whether working towards race unity, or gender equity, or economic justice. Such social action is an important part of Baha'i practice.

A great example would be the Tahirih Justice Center, named for one of the heroines of our faith,, which is an initiative in support of women and girls, and which has Baha'i input. My faith encourages independent thought; simply being a Baha'i because your parents might have been is not enough, at least in principle. A Baha'i is a Baha'i from personal choice; the life of the mind is encouraged as connected to the life of the spirit. I would not do well in a faith which expects unquestioning blind adherence, and which includes teachings which are not inclusive of all people, regardless of culture or religious background. Baha'is are comprised of just about every nationality and religious background under the sun; I love this "unity in diversity."

The Baha'is are a very inclusive faith; that is not to say that we are accepting of an "anything goes" philosophy, because we are not, but we tend to be fairly broad-minded. I also like the grassroots nature of our administration; there are no "power" structures in the traditional sense within the Baha'i faith, at least as I understand it. We are all servants of the faith and servants of humanity; some are called to serve in elected ways, some through appointments, but none are viewed as better than anyone else through such a role.

I find that more comfortable than I would in a structure that permitted campaigning or electioneering; I like the democratic foundation of Baha'i structures.I think it's a good fit for me, also, because of the emphasis on the principle of Beauty. I don't mean the trite, fashion-model beauty of popular culture, but the true, deep, powerful principle of Beauty of the World. I wish I could explain this better, but the Baha'i Faith has a beauty to it that is about the peoples of the world, the blessings of the natural environment...oh, so many things. For example, there are some writings called The Hidden Words which are just magical in their beauty, poetry, and spiritual insight.

Also, I am very drawn to the ideals of justice which are central to the Baha'i teachings. The name of our international guiding body is "The Universal House of Justice." I find that compelling.

It's also a good fit for me because of vision and hope. I can't describe the implicit and explicit nature of how hopeful this faith is when you truly study it, but it helps to give a holistic perspective which allows me to keep from being discouraged by the state of the world. This is not naive optimism but relates to the writings by Shoghi Effendi, the great-grandson of our founder, who had a keen and perceptive understanding of the workings of the secular world, and left us books that help keep a balanced perspective on the times in which we live.

Finally, I think it's a good fit for me because I like history. Picture, if you will, a timeline which shows the development of religions over the thousands of years of human existence. Depending on geography, and period of history, you'll find Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Zoroastrians, Jews, Muslims...the list goes on. Probably if I'd been born in India, I'd have been a Hindu, or in China, an atheist, but Baha'i teaching holds that birth is not destiny, or at least as I understand it. This site does a service to all of us by exploring the different belief systems; at core, I really do appreciate understanding the idea of "Progressive Revelation" that is central to our Baha'i teachings, and which implies that all of us have a fundamental unity, whether we recognize it any given time or not.

Progressive Revelation is the idea that God sent us messengers, or prophets, over a long period of time, each connected with the other, yet each independent. So a Baha'i, in a broad sense, fundamentally accepts all of these teachings as valid, and understands that time is our friend: we can understand more of divinity each time such teaching is given. Baha'u'llah, our founder, is viewed as the most recent of these Divine teachers, and thus confirms the teachings of previous faiths but also expands upon them. Thus, there is no division or "better or worse" mentality in the Baha'i Faith. I like that, too.

8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
Holy Days, and "Feasts", are designated on the calendar throughout the year, and recognize things like Baha'u'llah's birthday, the birth of his forerunner, the Bab, and events such as Baha'u'llah's death, probably the "normal" things most religions recognize. Baha'i communities celebrate differently, and often according to their own cultural traditions, but I would think that something in common to all of these events is prayer. There is often music, also: the art of music is given a very high standing in Baha'i thought, and music is considered to be 'as wings' of the spirit. These events welcome all.

9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?

10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why.
I often have, and I often do. I am always delighted to be included in such events, and am happy to invite others to Baha'i gatherings if they want to come. Why? Because we are all one. I know we look different on the outside, but I just find that another form of beauty. I don't really see others as "other", in a spiritual sense. I don't think it's the name you give a faith that makes it important, but the essence of its teachings, and Baha'is view all faiths as being in unity with us.

11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
One of the central principles of the Baha'i Faith is the equality of women with men. So I think it is possible that as time goes on, "traditional" practices which have not supported such equality will have to evolve and change to accommodate this great principle. However, it is also very difficult to separate such traditions from cultural practice, and I think great sensitivity is needed to not make sweeping judgments about such ways of life. Patience and understanding are needed; I think justice is going to change shape all over the world, in time. It has to, doesn't it? We can't continue indefinitely to have a world which creates and perpetuates oppression in any form.

I appreciate many of the teachings of Islam, but I am not sure that all of the current cultural practices of some countries are truly found within the Holy Quran. This is not an area where I am a scholar, however, so don't think I'm speaking for Baha'i doctrine here. I don't even think there is unity about this in the Islamic cultures themselves, so will be curious about how time will change practices in any religion which finds ways to designate that women should act in a particular way. I emphasize that these are my impressions; I am just one Baha'i giving an opinion.

12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
Yes. We don't actually have a priesthood or its equivalent; Baha'u'llah abolished such designated roles. We don't have that kind of power structure. The Universal House of Justice is an elected institution for which men are eligible; there are all kinds of theories about why this is, but I don't think any of them make particular sense, and I have certainly had some ambivalence about it. However, these people are not "powerful" in the traditional sense; they are more 'servants' of the Baha'i world. In all other ways, women hold office. How do I feel about it? I think it's very interesting to see what happens in a faith that is not based on power, but still has authority; it is the faith that has the guidance, though, not the individual. I feel like such service is more of a test than a blessing, and I think that women's inclusion in such service is so much part and parcel of the faith that it doesn't make sense to do anything else. I understand why women have not been included in some of the faiths in the past, from a historical and cultural perspective, but the Baha'i teachings are intended for now and the future, and I think it's a virtual miracle that Baha'u'llah, who came from 19th Century Persia (now Iran), stated unequivocally that women have been, are, and always will be spiritual equals to men, and that the only thing missing has been universal suffrage and education. This is the era for women to shine!

13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?

14) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
It's pretty constant, now. It hasn't always been, but at this stage of my life, my faith is pretty important to me. It affects me every day, and I give it a lot of thought when decision-making. Yes, it does affect my views on social issues.

15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
I assume that it is likely that my children will marry "outside" my religion, if they marry at all, (although since Baha'is are pretty embracing of faiths generally, that may be a strange way of saying it). I have three grown children; one has chosen to be a Baha'i, one doesn't pay much attention to religion, and one is an atheist. As I said, it's a critical principle of our faith that our children have the right to choose. There is no coercion about being a Baha'i. Both of my daughters are in committed relationships, and neither of the young men in question is a Baha'i. I am doubtful that my son would choose a Baha'i to marry, since he is an avowed atheist, but those kinds of things are impossible to predict.

I think marrying ANYONE these days, and making it work well, is hard. Having said that, it's worth the effort. I think it's probably easier if the person you are together with is of like mind on the big issues. But whether my future sons-and-daughter-in-law might be Baha'is is far less important to me than what kind of people they are. Right now, I am very fond of both of my daughters' choices. My children are terrific people. They have chosen, or will choose, terrific people to love, and if they marry, I am hopeful that it will be because of love, joy, commitment to family, and commitment to doing good works in the world. All of that makes me happy: don't most parents really want their children to be happy? A good marriage is one way in which that can occur, and a good marriage is not predicated on having the same beliefs, but in having ways to consult about shared values and about any challenging problems that may arise, and they will arise. Regardless of their respective faiths, I hope for my children to experience both love and respect in their alliances/marriages.

16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
No. The concept of "hell" is not really a part of Baha'i theology, except as metaphor. I think hellishness is viewed more as a state of being, and people can be in hell here on earth, and often are. I have already described my understanding of the Baha'i view of life after death. Hell, such as it is, might be a sense of remoteness from the joy that would come from proximity to the Divine. But that's just a way of speaking; in Baha'i teaching there is no hellfire or damnation.

17) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
I'm not sure I understand this question. There are Baha'is who are prominent; people like Rainn Wilson, who is an American actor, or Omid Djalili, who is a British-Iranian actor and comedian, or Eva LaRue, an American actress. When I was a teenager, Seals & Crofts, the musicians, were prominent Baha'is, and for the current generation, I believe the musician Andy Grammer is on the way up the musical charts. There are surely other prominent Baha'is who have spoken about the effect of the faith in their lives.When they speak for our faith, they always publicly acknowledge that theirs is their opinion, not a formal Baha'i doctrine. I have said the same thing, here, several times. There are designated spokespersons for the Baha'i Faith in places like the U.N., where we have non-governmental status, or in written texts from the Universal House of Justice, and the like. But Baha'is are free to speak about our faith, any time, and anywhere, when people ask us, as you have asked me today. Why not? As to my agreement, I don't see whether it's relevant or not. We're all on a spiritual journey. These "prominent" people have declared to the world, as I do from my point of view as a writer, the influence of faith on their lives. What's to disagree with? We all follow the teachings in our way, and hopefully bring a little light with us. It's a blessing to be able to speak of the faith.

18) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
Minor persecution, yes. Hate crime, no. However, I think it's important to say that the hearts and minds of all Baha'is around the world are now very much with the persecuted Baha'is of Iran, many of whom have been targeted, imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith. I believe that a film is in the making about one such young woman, Mona Mahmunizad, who was killed for her faith in Iran in the '80s.

This is an issue very much in the public eye right now, and governments all over the world are rising up in protest at the treatment of Baha'is in Iran; young people have been denied the right to education, or marriage, or travel, because of their faith. So Baha'is in Iran are subjected to hate crimes, and the world beyond Iran is trying to intervene on their behalf. Only time will tell as to whether justice for these Baha'is will come sooner or later.

19) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?

20) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
Often. I work at it, primarily through prayer.

21) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
Not really. I believe that this world is a crucible for spiritual development and entrance into the there's not much point in coming through this one more than once. However, I am intrigued by the idea of the influence of spiritual memory, a kind of collective Jungian unconscious, if you will, impacting generationally. But I don't think that's what you mean by reincarnation. I do not believe that I will come back here, if I've been bad, as a worm, for example; I am stating it simplistically, but I am not trying to trivialize. I just believe that souls progress, not regress, and that the body here is simply a vehicle for the stage on the planet when we are preparing for the next phase of our eternal existence.


  1. Thank you for a well done, informative interview.

  2. Unfortunately, there is a class of people who are not welcome in the Baha'i Faith -- homosexuals. It is a sad fact that tarnishes an otherwise sparkling message of inclusion and unity.

  3. It is true that the Baha'i Writings say it is ok to love any person but that to engage in sexual acts with members of the same gender is not allowed. However, people of any orientation are warmly welcome in the Faith, and encouraged to struggle to uphold this principle among all the others. Discrimination, backbiting or any other forms of prejudice or I'll treatment are strictly forbidden against any groups of people, including homosexuals. I am a Baha'i and I know several active Bahai's struggling with this issue. It can be very difficult, but they are still able to serve and grow spiritually and try to better the world -- just like the rest of us.