what can humor tell us that intellectual discourse cannot?


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North Carolina, USA
Borrowing from wikipedia, it might be worthwhile to see some Baha'i jokes:

The Pioneer
Necessary background:
(1) Bahá'í pioneers are not missionaries, but unpaid volunteers who move to another region which lacks Bahá'ís.
(2) A Local Spiritual Assembly (LSA) must have a minimum of 9 adult Bahá'ís. Bahá'ís have been known to move in order to allow various LSA's to continue functioning.
(3) The "Remover of Difficulties" is a short prayer revealed by the Báb, it is one of the most commonly known Bahá'í prayers.
A Bahá'í pioneer was trespassing through the jungle of some tropical country, when suddenly he found himself surrounded by naked men with bones through their noses, waving spears. They tied him up and threw him in a stew-pot, then started piling firewood underneath. Drums sounded. In desperation the pioneer began reciting the "remover of difficulties" prayer. Suddenly the drumming stopped. One cannibal looked at another and said "Hey guys! I think we've just found the ninth member of our Local Spiritual Assembly!"

Miscellaneous two-liners
Necessary background:
(1) Bahá'í bookstores sell numerous t-shirts, bumper stickers, and buttons with messages advocating world peace, an end to racism, "one world", and so on.
(2) The Bahá'ís see their sacred history as beginning with the Bábí movement (1844-1852), though recognizing it to be a separate religion from their own.
Q. What did they have before Bahá'í buttons were invented?
A. Bábí pins! (sounds like "bobby pins")

Necessary background:
Bahá'u'lláh's writings are called "tablets" (lawkh).
Q. Why don't Bahá'ís get headaches?
A. Because Bahá'u'lláh gave them Tablets!

Necessary background:
`Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of Bahá'u'lláh, traveled through Europe and the United States shortly before World War I, giving talks on Bahá'í themes. He is referred to reverently as "the Master."
Q. How did `Abdu'l-Bahá finance his trip across America and Europe?
A. With Master-Card!

The following story is from Vignettes
'`Abdu'l-Bahá told a Bahá'í to prepare to go to India to teach the faith. So he prepared by studying Indian culture, languages, etc. But at the last minute, the Master changed his mind and decided to send him to America.
"But I thought I was going to India," said the Pioneer.
`Abdu'l-Bahá answered, "So did Columbus."

An Anecdote
Note: This example of impromptu humor took place in upstate New York.
Necessary background:
(1) The name "Fireside" is a Bahá'í term used to describe a local meeting, meant to introduce people to the Faith.
(2) One of the most well known quotes from Bahá'u'lláh goes like this: "You are the fruit of one tree, and the leaves of one branch."
A Bahá'í was leading a Fireside in someone's living room. She opened a book and read aloud. "Bahá'u'lláh said, 'You are the fruit of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.'"
At that moment the family dog came over and sniffed her.
"And the fleas of one dog!" she added. "No! Not really. I mean, Bahá'u'lláh didn't really say that part..."

Entering Heaven
Necessary Background: Huqúqu’lláh (literally "the right of God") is a Bahá'í religious wealth tax analogous to the Islamic Zakat. In this joke it is significant mainly for being difficult to spell.
A Christian, Muslim, and Bahá'í all die at the same time. They come upon the gates of Heaven, and the angel Gabriel greets them and says "To enter Heaven you must answer one question correctly. If you get it right, you can enter. If you get it wrong, you will fall into a fiery abyss."
The Christian steps up, and Gabriel asks, "Who is the most recent Manifestation of God on earth?" The Christian confidently responds "Jesus Christ, the Son of God" Suddenly the ground opens and swallows him up.
The Muslim steps up, and Gabriel asks, "Who is the most recent Manifestation of God on earth?" The Muslim confidently responds "Muhammad, the Apostle of God" Suddenly the ground opens and swallows him up.
The Bahá'í steps up, and Gabriel asks, "Spell Huqúqu’lláh."

Sinking Ship
The following is a joke told by `Abdu'l-Bahá. These are not his exact words.
A Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim were out sailing on a small boat, when they got caught up in a tempest and the boat capsized. The Christian began to pray out loud, "Dear Lord, please send this infernal Muslim to his death and save me." The Muslim also began to pray out loud, "Oh God, grant your favor on me, and let this wretched Christian drown in the sea." When they asked the Jew why he wasn't praying, he responded, "I trust God will answer your prayers."

Travelling Teachers
Two Bahá'í travelling teachers were in a small town, looking for a place to stay. The only place for rent was the basement of an old house that had a reputation for being haunted. They took the place and moved in. The neighbors were curious to see how long they would be able to stay in the haunted basement. A week passed, then two. The travelling teachers showed no signs of moving out. Finally, someone came and asked them how they could bear to stay, and weren't they afraid of the ghosts? "Oh no," one of the teachers replied, "We're Bahá'ís." "What does being Bahá'ís have to do with it?" the questioner inquired. "Well, you see, Bahá'u'lláh said, 'Fear not abasement...'"


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Seattle, WA
There's a story about `Abdu'l-Baha which is likely apocryphal, but it so matches His character that I've repeated it quite often.

As the story goes, `Abdu'l-Baha was visiting with the Baha'is during his travels to America. The affair was rather informal, and `Abdu'l-Baha was expounding upon the various qualities of tea and coffee. According to the story, `Abdu'l-Baha had said that tea is a very spiritual drink, that it's uplifing to the soul and that it brings man close to God; and that coffee is a very material drink, that it appeals to man's physical nature and that it lures us away from God.

As `Abdu'l-Baha was concluding this discourse, the host began asking everyone what they'd like to drink. All around the room, guests said, "I'll have tea," "I'll have tea," "I'll have tea." Except for `Abdu'l-Baha, who said, "I'll have coffee."

In a completely different vein, I've been working on a Baha'i version of Jeff Foxworthy's "You just might be a redneck." Non-Baha'is are not likely to get these, but for our Baha'i friends:

If your wristwatch alarm is set to go off at noon, you just might be a Baha'i;

If you've ever looked up the word "adumbraded" in the dictionary, you just might be a Baha'i;

If you pray before you vote in an election instead of after, you just might be a Baha'i; and

If you arrive at a meeting five minutes late, and you're the first person there, you just might be a Baha'i.


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Rockville, Maryland (a suburb of Washington, DC)
Q. How many Baha'is does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. Ten: nine to consult on how to make it a teaching project,
and one to make the tea!

Q. How many Baha'is does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. Baha'is don't do that. They teach the light bulb, and
if it wants to transform, it'll change itself!

And there's the famous story about a Baha'i community that was having a big holy celebration, including a dinner. The hostess had gone all out and cooked a HUGE turkey! As everyone was sitting down to eat, she asked one of the new Baha'is to say a prayer before they dined. He picked up a prayer book, opened it at random, and recited,
"O God, this is a broken-winged bird, and its flight is very slow...."