Bahá'í: The New Vision
Bahá'í: The New Vision. Lisa Janti.
A number of introductions to the Bahá'í Faith have been published over the years. In English, the best-known are Esselmont's Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era and Hatcher and Martin's The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. Books such as these set forth in straightforward fashion the basic facts about the history, teachings, and organization of the Bahá'í Faith. The newest entry in the category, Bahá'í: The New Vision by Lisa Janti, takes a rather different approach.
But then, Janti herself has a different sort of background. Having come as a child to the United States from Poland just before World War II erupted in Europe, she has had a long and varied career. She first worked as an actress under the name Lisa Montell in what she describes as "more really silly movies than any other actress on record" and in numerous television productions. Later, she took on roles as an educator, youth program administrator, and musician. With a talented group of artists she has recently produced several recordings based on the Bahá'í Holy Writings.
Janti not only brings her passion for her religion to her book, she allows it to shine through even though a fair portion of the book is not in her own words. Whereas other introductions to the Faith use quotations from the Bahá'í Holy Writings to illustrate the points being made by the author, Janti has assembled what might loosely be termed a compilation of selections from the Bahá'í Writings, the Scriptures of other religions, and the observations of philosophers, scientists, artists, and poets, all woven together with her own commentary.
In addition to the unique approach, Bahá'í: The New Vision also differs in its scope. It does not seek to be a comprehensive introduction. Rather, it focuses on progressive revelation and the station and mission of Bahá'u'lláh, bringing in the central teachings of the religion as they relate to these themes. As a result, it will not substitute for the venerable titles we have usually offered as introductions to the Bahá'í Faith, but it does provide an alternative for those who need something less cut and dried, something more vibrant that unites a broad range of human experience in the context of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings.
Finally, a note of caution might be in order. I did not find this a book to be read quickly, although due to my schedule I was pretty much forced to do so the first time through. I'm sure I missed a lot as a result. A more leisurely reading would no doubt offer many new insights, even for those of us who have been Bahá'ís for a long time. (Even reading at breakneck speed, I garnered at least one that I might turn into an article at a later date.) When you get your copy, I would urge you to lavish a bit of time on it and ponder the connections between the many threads Janti brings together in each section. She is, after all, an artist. It would be a mistake to approach her work as merely an academic exercise.
Bahá'í: The New Vision is available through the U.S. Bahá'í Distribution Service and Amazon.com. And although you can't judge a book by its cover, its cover features one of the most beautiful nine-pointed stars I've ever seen.
Forum & Chat