Telling people about the Baha’i Faith means telling stories. Everytime someone talks about the Faith, they are telling a story about it that they believe to be true. It is important to see this, because until we see that telling stories is really the nuts of bolts of teaching, we are not in a position to consciously assess our stories and whether they are effective and, if they’re not, how to update them. The “Disneyland version of the Faith” is an example of a very popular story used to spread the Faith. What is this “Disneyland version of the Faith” and is it effective these days? Lucky me, I found a passage from a paper written by the Baha’i philosopher, Jean-Marc Lepain, which discuses the “Disneyland version of the Faith” and why it is no longer effective. I’m going to quote this interesting passage, and that’ll save me having to argue the matter myself.
“In the 1970s and the 1980s, Baha’is had only simple and often naive answers to contemporary problems. One of these simple answers was that establishing the unity of humanity would solve all the problems of the world; however, there was no clear idea offered by us on the ways to bring about that unity. I heard once Douglas Martin calling this naive approach to addressing contemporary issues ‘the Disneyland version of the Faith.’ This is precisely that version that had put off a number of intellectuals, starting with Louis Nicolas, the French translator of the Bayan, at the beginning of the twentieth century and Prof. Henri Corbin, as already mentioned. I call this naive understanding of the Faith ‘the reductionist version’ because it tends to reduce the Faith to the ten, or sometimes, twelve principles once famously stated by Abdu’l-Baha. Of course, it is not that there is anything wrong with his masterly exposition of these principles, but rather that, in summary form, they have lost their novelty because there is now a large consensus in society in favour of most of these principles, while the teachings of Baha’u’llah embrace a much wider scope of issues and hold implications for a diverse range of other important questions. This reductionist approach tends to ignore the conceptual wealth that can be found in the Writings of the Faith. The present work [ie, Lepain’s Tractatus essay] is only another feeble attempt to bring into practical use this conceptual wealth of the Baha’i Writings by offering to the reader a conceptual toolbox. The Tractatus is that toolbox.”Jean-Marc Lepain, “Tractatus: A Logical Introduction to Baha’i Philosophy (Tractatus Philosophico-Bahaicus)”, in Mikhail Sergeev (ed): Studies in Baha’i Epistemology, Global Faith Book Series vol 3, pp 175-232.
I discussed the issue of changing our stories about the Faith, in the blog post Narratives of Identity.