Rainn Wilson: Hollywood’s funny guy talks straight about being a Baha’i
know that studiously goofy guy in "The Office," "Six Feet Under," "My
Super Ex-Girlfriend" and "Saturday Night Live"? And the lovable
scientist in "The Last Mimzy"? He’s a Baha’i. And when he talks about
the faith in which he was raised, Rainn Wilson is seriously articulate.
Q: Rainn, what was it like to grow up in the Baha’i Faith?
When you grow up with a spiritual foundation that asks you to be
conscious of the fact that all races are created equal, that men and
women are equal and that all religions worship the same (God,) it helps
you see the world as one family and not get lost in the traps of
political, social and economic belief systems that can lead you astray.
I always think of myself as a world citizen. It’s a powerful thing.
Q: You stepped away from the Baha’i Faith in your 20s and returned to it 10 years later. What happened in that decade?
I was in New York City, going to acting school, and I was going through
a rebellious phase. I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do. I was
disenchanted with things that were organized. It was a spiritual
journey I was on. And this is reflected in and supported by one of the
central tenets of the Baha’i Faith, which obliges every spiritual
seeker to undertake an individual investigation of truth.
started at ground zero. I decided I didn’t know if there was even a
God. I read religious books of the world. I asked myself, "If there is
a God, how do we know what He wants us to do and what He wants for us?
Do we read books? Do we buy crystals? Do we follow certain gurus? Do we
sit under a tree? Because surely this omniscient creator has some kind
of plan in store for mankind."
Q: And that line of thinking led you back to the Baha’i Faith?
Yes, it brought me back to the Baha’i way of viewing things. I came to
realize I did believe in God. I couldn’t conceive of a universe without
someone overseeing it in a compassionate way. It just made the most
sense to me that God gradually is unfolding a plan for humankind. That
there is progressive revelation — the Baha’i belief that God sends
Messengers for each day and age. I re-read books about the Baha’i
Faith. And I came back to believing that Baha’u’llah was the Promised
One and Messenger for this day and age. My quest took me from age 21 to
31. I’m 41 now.
Q: Your wife (author Holiday Reinhorn) recently became a Baha’i. How did that come about?
She wasn’t a Baha’i when we got married in a Baha’i ceremony almost 12
years ago. I never pressured her to join the faith. But she started
attending Ruhi (Baha’i education) classes in the L.A. area and became
interested. And the birth of our son, Walter, now 2 ½, was such a
miracle that she found herself saying prayers and spiritually
connecting to the faith. She became a Baha’i in 2004. We pray with
Walter every night before he goes to bed.
Q: What is it like being a Baha’i in Hollywood?
There’s a predisposition to link corruption and Hollywood. Even Shoghi
Effendi (Guardian of the Baha’i Faith) wrote about this. The problem is
that everything you hear in the news is about the superficiality,
immorality and degradation of Hollywood. But that is just not the case.
Only a certain percent of the population is like that. It’s probably
the same percentage as for doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers, any
profession. Some of the most morally conscious, kindest, most
compassionate people are in the entertainment industry, people who want
to affect the world and make it a better place through telling human,
Most people in Hollywood haven’t heard of
the Baha’i Faith, so they ask questions. I’ve had the opportunity to
mention it in several articles and TV interviews, such as on "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson."
years Holly and I hosted a belief night – a devotional gathering where
we invited people of different religious beliefs to our home. We asked
them to bring something to share about their spiritual path. Belief in
God was not required. We had atheists, Christian Scientists, Buddhist
Recently I’ve been asked to speak a lot more about the Baha’i Faith. And I’ll be working as a spokesperson with the Mona Foundation,
a Baha’i-inspired not-for-profit organization that tries to provide
quality education to all children, raise the status of women and girls,
and build community.
Q: How does the Baha’i Faith figure in your life now?
My feeling about the faith is that it provides a practical guideline
for living one’s life. So much about religion has to do with rigid,
sacrosanct preciousness. I don’t live my life that way, and I don’t
feel that’s what Baha’u’llah teaches. He wants us to live rich, full,
loving lives in service to God’s will and the human family.
like being a Baha’i who has an out-there sense of humor. God gives us
talents and faculties, and making people laugh is one of mine. I don’t
have to be digging latrines in Honduras to serve humanity. Abdu’l-Baha
and Baha’u’llah talk a lot about using the arts to uplift people. When
Abdu’l-Baha was with the early believers, nine times out of 10 he would
make a joke.
Q: Speaking of delicate sensibility: Have you
had to turn down roles because they conflicted with what’s taught in
the Baha’i Faith?
A: I’ve turned down many roles because
they’re morally repugnant. I have chosen to play spiritually lost
characters, but only because I feel doing so served the greater good.
In "My Super Ex-Girlfriend," my character was so preposterous and
ludicrous in his sexism that it was clear the message was not about
degrading women. In fact, the women characters are the most together,
courageous and strong people in the movie.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of the Baha’i Faith?
I love how democratic the faith is, that it has no clergy, no people
telling us how to interpret the word of God. In this day and age we see
how corrupt clergy can lead mankind down so many bad roads.
favorite quote from the Baha’i Faith is from Abdu’l-Baha: "If religion
be the cause of disunity, then irreligion is surely to be preferred."
For the disenfranchised to know that Abdu’l-Baha is a proponent of
having no religion if there’s disunity… And for those who say they
don’t like "organized religion," don’t worry: The Baha’i Faith is one
of the most disorganized religions on the planet! NOT.