Sunday, February 6, 2011


I was checking out different things on the net the other day, when I ran across something on the Urban Dictionary that caught my attention. Now, to be honest, I'm not a big fan of the site. It's one of those sites where anybody can go in and change whatever they want, kind of like a less scrupulous wikipedia. But every now and then something of interest does come across the radar.

That day it was the term "Baha'i-jacking". Now I have to admit, there is some twisted little place inside of me that actually admires the creation of the term. It's clever.

And it also points to a growing problem that I have seen amongst some of the friends.

You see, many of us have taken Ruhi Book 2, and we all know about the sections on elevating conversations. But I remember my early days of taking the book. When I first went through it, we seemed to think it was a series of deepenings. We would spend hours deepening on the subject of the Feast, or unity, or any of the other topics in the second and third units. The book took months to go through. In short, it was awful.

Then we learned a bit more about it. That second unit was not meant for deepening to great lengths on those subjects. It is meant to help us learn how to explain those topics to others, preferably in less than a few hours.

And that third unit? That's my favorite one. Why? Because it asks the wonderful question, in every section, about whether or not a given spiritual topic would be appropriate for a particular conversation. It always asks if you "could introduce the above ideas in a natural way", or "with ease", or if they are "suitable" for introduction. In other words, "Don't force it."

Now, what does this have to do with "Baha'i-jacking"? I'm glad you asked, dear Reader.

It seems, based on this entry, that some of us may have missed the point about "natural" or "suitable". And, in fact, we may have also possibly misunderstood what is meant by "elevating conversations". The idea, from what I understand (and this is, of course, only my own opinion), is to introduce a spiritual element into the conversation. It is not to be necessarily talking about world-shaking issues in every conversation.

And this leads us to the word in question.

It seems that there are some who have taken this third unit of Book 2 to mean twisting every conversation so that it is forced to become a direct teaching opportunity.

I remember the times I began tutoring Book 2, after learning from another tutor about this approach to the book, and we would get to those questions in the third unit I mentioned above, and the friends would all go to great lengths to explain how they would connect the topics mentioned in the question with the subject at hand. And let me tell you, some of those connections were very amusing, and quite a stretch.

Fortunately I think most of us have learned better by now.

And this also leads to one other minor point: When we are told that direct teaching is the element missing when our enrolments have stalled (in those clusters with an intensive program of growth), this does not mean that we should only use the direct method. It means that we haven't been using it enough. But there are still many times when the indirect method is more appropriate.

Ok. That's all for now.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend (or week, depending on when you read this).


  1. Of course in general I agree. But thereare other dynamics that can give rise to acusations of Bahai-jacking. One is believing the religionis so obscure it doesn't belong in the conversation. Another is that some might feel natural or comfortable with a certain level of discorse and feel an attempt to raise it even if done in good faith was unacceptible for some reason - the question then become how to make everyone in a particular conversation happy with where it is going.

  2. Sometimes I find it all very confusing and exhausting. Be bold, but only at the most appropriate moment, elevate conversations but be natural (um, I simply don't NATURALLY talk to my friends about meaningful things...). I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to be awkward, unnatural and not "proper" during this begining phase but hopefully, I'll get a bit better soon. If I worry so much about all this, I will never get past my fear and try to introduce the idea of three types of education!


  3. Is this term going to become a part of Baha'i discourse?

  4. Two essentials to being natural in conversation:
    1. Talk about what you're actually interested in and thinking about.
    For example, if you are 'immersed in the ocean of His Words', i.e. praying daily, studying the writings and meditating on the teachings, you will naturally be thinking about Baha'i ideas and will see their connection to everyday situations. If you're not doing these things, any attempt to introduce Baha'i ideas into conversation will be forced and awkward for you and whomever you're talking to.

    2. Recognize and allow for the mindset of the person you're talking to.
    Don't assume they know everything you do. If someone has never heard of Baha'u'llah, its going to sound pretty weird to say, 'Baha'u'llah teaches that:..." or to use any other unexplained jargon like 'Feast' and 'LSA'. When you're introducing someone to a new idea, you say it slowly and clearly and offer an explanation of what it is, not insert it into conversation and skip over it in an attempt to 'sound natural'. I have a Baha'i friend, who, whenever I ask how work is going, describes in great detail the present issues in their IT department, complete with both technical and corporate jargon, which leaves me baffled, bored and reluctant to broach the subject again. We do the same thing all the time when talking about the Baha'i Faith to people who have no knowledge of it.

  5. I believe that it is also important to remain humble, and to be mindful that the person you are speaking to may already have a full spiritual life and may not be "seeking" a different one. As Baha'is I think we are encouraged to respect this, and should have the wisdom to honor it. Just because someone isn't a Baha'i, doesn't mean they don't live a Baha'i life, and we should be at peace with that. Plus, I think we are far more powerful as teachers when we are strong enough that we "walk" our "talk". I have heard too many seekers say that they were discouraged from joining a religious community because they observed that the community leaders or believers acted in a hypocritical manor, and did not behave in a way that was in keeping with their beliefs. Therefore we can be far more effective if we focus on our own spiritual growth, and teach through the way we engage with the world.