Perspectives How I Became a Bahá'í
by Alan Hatchett
I was raised in a small Texas town outside of Fort Worth as a Southern Baptist. My mother was extremely devout and as a child we spent almost all of our time at church or church related activities. When I got a little older my sister and I started taking musical theatre class (which was my mother’s other great passion) and those activities started taking up all of our time. But I always considered myself a very religious person. And amongst a theatre crowd, I was many times the only religiously inclined person so it became something I was known for. I ended up moving from a small town to the large city of Dallas when I was accepted into the Arts Magnet High School there for Theatre. The school was amazingly diverse with people from many different religious backgrounds like Buddhism, Catholicism, Judaism, and many atheists – all of which were new to me. But it was high school and most of the conversations I had were about much less important things than God. Surprisingly though, one of my best friends as it turned out was something that I had never heard of before, a Baha’i. She hadn’t mentioned it to me the first few years that we knew each other because she knew I was rather attached to my own religious upbringing and didn’t want to freak me out (which was smart.) I took it in stride and didn’t really ask any questions about it. I had learned to be accepting of other people’s different religions if not entirely understanding of them. But my Baha’i friend was easily the most caring and compassionate person I knew, so I knew it couldn’t be a bad thing.
It wasn’t until a few years later in college that I started to learn more about the faith and mostly by accident. Whenever the word Bahá’í popped up in a book or online somewhere, I would always read more about it because I was curious about my friend’s religion. Sadly, most of what I happened across seems to have been written by unbelieving Christians intent on discrediting the Faith. I was however starting to find fundamental flaws in the Christianity that I had been taught as a child and as I took courses on Eastern Religions and philosophies as a way of searching for other answers. Had there been a course about the Bahá’í Faith, I would have taken in and most likely converted on the spot. I was looking for something, but I just didn’t quite find it.
During the first few years of college I didn’t talk to my Bahá’í friend too much to ask her any questions. She was at a different school and phone calls were still relatively expensive so we didn’t talk as much as I’d have liked. But then during the summer break after my sophomore year, I was back in Texas, when my Bahá’í friend and I began what would end up being a two year long distance relationship that ended abruptly in our getting married the week after I graduated college. So yes, I married the kindest, most compassionate person I knew who was also my best friend and who has yet to take my last name so she is still known as Laura Herrick.
Now it would make sense for most people to think that while I was dating a Bahá’í and looking for spiritual answers to my problems with the religion I was taught as I child that I would naturally become a Bahá’í. But I didn’t. Laura never pushed me to become a Bahá’í because she wanted me to make the decision on my own and not just because I was dating (and then later married to) her. I didn’t choose to become a Bahá’í (though I agreed with everything that I ever heard about it from her and her family) because I wanted to be absolutely sure that it was the truth before accepting it. I spent a long time slowly reading different Bahá’í books that Laura had around the house and gradually all of my lingering questions were answered one by one. And eventually I had nothing keeping me from officially accepting the Faith and declaring myself a Bahá’í. But by this point we were married and even had a child and I had very little incentive to actually change anything. We had already decided that we were going to raise our children as Bahá’ís and I still had a very religious Southern Baptist family that I felt would possibly disown me for changing religions. And I didn’t want to cause disunity in my extended family, which the Bahá’í Faith would look down on right? But when my oldest son was starting to really talk and ask a lot of questions about everything, I realized it would be impossible to explain to him why he was being raised as a Bahá’í but his father wasn’t one. So I decided the time was well past the point when I needed to make official what had long been known in my heart and I announced at the newly opened Bahá’í center in Dallas that I was ready to accept Bahá’u’lláh as the return of Christ and to devote myself to His cause. That was a little over three years and I’ve been happier ever since!