Having traveled through Europe and South America, I’ve seen my fair share of temples and churches. I fell in love with the gothic architecture of the Duomo di Milano and Chapel in the Hills in South Dakota, and I still have yet to experience the character of Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia. I wouldn’t say I love churches or that I have strong connection with any religion, but I harbor a sense of spirituality. Despite my affiliation with any specific religion, my curiosity peaks when I learn of a temple north of Chicago in Wilmette, the Bahá’í House of Worship. With very little knowledge of the faith, I decide to embark on a journey to this unique architectural wonder.
Wandering through the gardens, I’m immediately struck by the Middle Eastern influence on the overall structure of the temple. This should come as no surprise since the Bahá’í faith was founded in Persia (present day Iran) by Mirza Husayn-Ali, also known as Bahá’u’lláh (“The Glory of God”). A closer look at the columns and symbols carved into the temple shows how much this faith encompasses beyond Middle Eastern beliefs. Carvings of crosses, the Star of David, and Arabic symbols embodies the temple’s architect (Louis Bourgeois) desires to intertwine all religious symbols of the past and uphold universal brotherhood.
But it’s more than the temple that invests in all of these beliefs, the Bahá’í faith is deeply rooted in religious unity. Its practitioners believe that God has revealed himself throughout history in Divine Messengers including Abraham, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ, and Muhammad, including the most current manifestations in Bahá’u’lláh. The Bahá’í faith also follows principles that value gender equality, a harmony of faith and science, and commitment to education. This mesh of faith, science, and religious leaders is something I hardly expect since it’s what causes most wars and protests throughout the world. It seems one religion has found the answer to all the violence caused by disagreements between theological practices: respect for and inclusion of different beliefs.
Does this mean I’ll be converting soon to this all-encompassing faith? While I don’t plan on taking this step, I do think there are important lessons from religion that often are forgotten. I’ve struggled with religion in the past, but that doesn’t mean I don’t value specific teachings like the Beatitudes. Yes, there are those who are religious and intolerant, but there are also those who don’t practice any religion and still pass judgement on those who are not like them. Following the circle inside, I come to where I entered the temple and see the words: “So powerful is unity’s light that it can illumine the whole earth.” I’m left with an important meaning from this religion, that separated we can only achieve very little, but with tolerance and acceptance, together we can do so much more.
Hours and Location
The Bahá’í House of Worship: 100 Linden Avenue, Wilmette, Illinois, Temple and Garden Open 6am-10pm, Welcome Center Open 10am-5pm (Sept. 16-May 14), 10am-8pm (May 15-Sept. 15), Photography not allowed inside the temple.
This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday (#TPThursday) hosted by Budget Travelers Sandbox, Budget Travel Talk, Tanama Tales, and Rachel’s Ruminations, Weekend Wanderlust hosted by A Brit and A Southerner, A Southern Gypsy, Casual Travelers, Justin Plus Lauren, and Outbound Adventurer, City Tripping hosted by Wander Mum and Mummy Travels and Our World Tuesday.