Blog on Bahá’í teachings pulls wide audience into conversation
Blog sites operated by individual Bahá’ís have initiated countless conversations with the general public and have spurred many people to investigate the Faith’s teachings and engage in Bahá’í-sponsored community-building activities where they live.
Perhaps the best known is BahaiTeachings.org, which has reached more than a quarter-million people around the world with constantly refreshed content.
“We wanted to find a way to use the incredible reach of the Internet to teach the Faith. It’s that simple,” explains founder Payam Zamani.
“When people search for just about anything today, they start on the Web. And we thought that a website with new, interesting and readable content on a daily basis could appeal to many people.”
But even Zamani has been “joyfully thrilled … at the global reception and rapid audience growth BahaiTeachings.org has experienced.”
And he treasures missives such as this from a journalist in India:
“I have been reading your website carefully for a few months now. How can I join your beautiful religion?”
The site, now in its third year, features colorful and engaging graphics that illustrate short essays and articles on the Faith, and usually presents at least two new essays each day.
Managing editor David Langness says BahaiTeachings.org — named with the knowledge and permission of the National Spiritual Assembly — focuses on explaining and exploring the Faith’s basic principles, both spiritual and social.
“The site’s short, informative, pithy essays make topics accessible,” he says, “and the direct, informal and personal style of the contributions keeps regular readers coming back to the site.”
Written by volunteer Bahá’í authors, scholars, artists, actors, musicians and commentators such as former Universal House of Justice member Hooper Dunbar and actor/producer Rainn Wilson, stories cover a wide variety of subject matter, from mystical explications of spiritual reality to current social issues to engaging personal stories to Bahá’í-inspired arts, music and video.
Contributors are not restricted to well-known figures, however. The site regularly features articles by youths, by seekers themselves and by people who have a passion for any subject and its relationship to the Faith.
In collaboration with the National Spiritual Assembly's Office of Communications, BahaiTeachings.org staffers have begun online teaching trainings for interested Bahá’í writers and artists. An early in-person session was held at Green Acre Bahá’í School in May 2014.
BahaiTeachings.org promotes its stories on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, actively advertising its Bahá’í content to those who have already searched online for spiritual topics.
Its rising popularity ensures the Faith will show up not only when people include the term “Baha’i” in their Google or Bing searches, but also when they simply search for any topic relevant to the teachings of the Faith and its healing medicine for today.
“We make it very clear that BahaiTeachings.org doesn’t represent official Bahá’í positions,” Zamani says, “and every article has a disclaimer that says we’re only expressing individual opinions. That’s what gives everyone the ability to present their views in their own way.”
The site has already begun to direct serious seekers to Bahá’í communities.
On its “About” page, the site urges users to explore the Faith where they live:
“We invite our readers to engage in this learning process through direct action at the grassroots in your community. The Baha’i Faith is organized through a network of elected councils, called Spiritual Assemblies, at the local and national level. In thousands of localities across the United States, and in more than 180 countries, Baha’is are engaged in a process of learning, action and reflection about the process of spiritual community building. By filling out the contact forms on this site, you will be put in touch with Baha’is near you. It is not necessary to become a member of the Baha’i Faith to take part in a range of community building activities, such as study circles, prayer gatherings, and activities for children and teens — everyone is welcome.”
Because BahaiTeachings.org is offered just in English at this point, the staff initially thought the site would attract primarily North American audiences. But it also draws large numbers of visitors from Indonesia, the Philippines, India, many African countries and a wide variety of other nations and regions.
“It’s such a remarkable privilege to teach the Faith this way,” says Langness.
“Maybe this new kind of virtual, direct online teaching is one of the things the Master meant when He said [in a Tablet of the Divine Plan], ‘O that I could travel, even though on foot and in the utmost poverty, to these regions, and, raising the call of “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá” in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans, promote the divine teachings!’”
Bahá’í writers, creative artists and musicians interested in contributing to BahaiTeachings.org: Please contact Langness at firstname.lastname@example.org.