Ninebranches | Begin at the Beginning
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24 Nov Begin at the Beginning

Man with sign

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

Imagine someone walks up to you to chat at a party. You talk for a while about work or the family, but a little unexpectedly (or expectedly!) the subject of the Faith gets brought up. “What’s that?”, they ask. You fumble around for a minute, both grateful that they inquired but exasperated by the thought of trying to explain an entire religion in a soundbite.

What do you say? How do you fit it all in? More importantly, where do you begin? With the social teachings? The unity of religion? Huquq’u’llah? (You laugh, but a friend confided in me recently that he accidentally led with Huquq’u’llah. I think it worked out okay in the end.)

Like most other things in life, it might be better to begin at the beginning.

What do I mean by that? Well, I’m not suggesting that you start with the Big Bang or Adam and Eve, though I must admit I’ve seen it done. It definitely doesn’t need to be a long, drawn-out overview of the Faith, unless the conversation really goes there. My advice: Just put everything in context and make it sound a little like a story. Exchanging facts is one form of communicating, but humans are pretty bad at remembering the details, no matter how interesting. Stories, by contrast, are far more memorable and easier for the listener to relate to and ask questions about.

If the person asking has a specific theme in mind, such as the equality of men and women, that’s probably where you should start. But if someone just asks about the Baha’i Faith in general, you need to put the teachings, history, and Central Figures all together in some sort of context, and since you’re conversing in an environment where you may not have their attention for very long, shorter is probably better.

There’s probably no right or wrong way to do it, but here’s my “elevator-speech” answer to “What’s the Baha’i Faith?”:

“Birthed through pain, imprisonment, and exile, the Baha’i Faith has survived and endured so that humanity will have the tools to build a new world based on unity and justice.”

I admit, it’s simple, maybe even too simple (You can’t be afraid to criticize yourself sometimes). But what it does do is tell a story of how the Faith began, what it’s been through, and where it’s going. All of those elements are easy jumping-off points for the listener to ask questions, and if they’re asking questions, this could be the beginning of a nice spiritual conversation (which is what the House of Justice is asking us to do!).

I’d be interested in any feedback you may have. Leave your comments below.

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