Rainn Wilson: Hollywood Baha'i

The star of 'The Office' talks candidly about his Baha'i faith and his spiritual journey

BY: Deborah Leigh Wood


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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, heartfelt stories.

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."

For 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 monks... 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.

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.

I 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.

Speaking of delicate sensibility: Have you had to turn down roles because they conflicted with what's taught in the Baha'i Faith?

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.

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.

My 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.

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