Cover image for The Bahá'í : the religious construction of a global identity
The Bahá'í : the religious construction of a global identity
McMullen, Michael, 1965-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xvi, 246 pages ; 25 cm

Format :


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BP352.G4 M36 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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.

Author Notes

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

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The author of this work justifies his study of the Baha'i faith using "sociological theory derived from Roland Robertson," which argues that "in the midst of modern forces of globalization, social and religious movements must manage the tensions between the global and local; between universal forces and particular cultures; between the 'world at large' (literally) and specific places." This work presents in a careful scholarly manner the "Baha'i identity." The "fieldwork" was centered on the Baha'i community of Atlanta. The study includes thorough discussion in these chapters: "The Baha'i Administrative Order," "Authority in the Administrative Order," "Devotion and Participation," "Boundaries and Identity," "Teaching the Baha'i Faith," and "Thinking Globally, Acting Locally." An appendix includes the Atlanta questionnaire survey materials, along with 47 pages of notes, bibliography, and index. Highly recommended as an important study of the Baha'i faith. General readers; upper-division undergraduates and above. T. M. Pucelik Bradley University

Table of Contents

List of Tablesp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Chapter 1 Introductionp. 1
Chapter 2 Carriers and Convertsp. 15
Chapter 3 The Baha'i Administrative Orderp. 34
Chapter 4 Authority in the Administrative Orderp. 56
Chapter 5 Personal Devotion and Organizational Participationp. 76
Chapter 6 Boundaries and Identityp. 109
Chapter 7 Teaching the Baha'i Faithp. 126
Chapter 8 "Thinking Globally, Acting Locally"p. 152
Chapter 9 Conclusionp. 175
Appendix A Atlanta Baha'i Questionnairep. 185
Appendix B Historical Overviewp. 193
Appendix C The Baha'i Calendarp. 197
Notesp. 199
Bibliographyp. 229
Indexp. 243