RAINN IN BLOOD Rainn Wilson

With his
SoulPancake.com site currently pulling mad web traffic, the actor discusses his
goal to de-lamify spirituality.

 

BY RANDY HARWARD

 

When you have a popular TV series and a deluge of film
offers, there’s not much time for anything else. But isn’t there always time
for God? Rainn Wilson thinks so. Although he (and alter ego Dwight Schrute) has
The Office to worry about, and concurrent
film shoots-Peep World with Sarah
Silverman and Hesher with Natalie
Portman, the faithful Bahá’í oversees SoulPancake.com,
an online portal dedicated to “de-lamifying” spirituality and examining the
crux of art and faith.

 

“I believe that making art is a spiritual endeavor,” writes Wilson, in an email
interview. “Being of service. Learning about myself. Engaging in the world. All
these things are spiritual endeavors. You don’t have to just be spiritual at a
church from 9 to 11 on Sundays.”

 

Truly, faith is a full-time job. Especially when
fundamentalist Christians and Muslims alike make religion look anywhere from
quaint to dangerous, dare we say crazy. That makes it tough for God’s good
eggs-the ones who evangelize by example not edict. SoulPancake.com makes it Bisquick-simple to at least ponder what
they call “Life’s Big Questions.” Faithful and faithless alike congregate there
and have discussions that, unlike those ubiquitous messageboard slapfights, are
(mostly) measured and thoughtful as each states their opinion without
attempting to convert the other. That is to say, it’s not a waste of time.

 

“I wish I had more time for it,” Wilson admits. “It would have been the
perfect website for me when I was an unemployed actor!”

 

 

Elsewhere in this
issue of Blurt David Bazan, the once
pious leader of Pedro the Lion, says that agnosticism, the idea that “I don’t
know and neither do you,” is the only honest position. If he uploaded that as
one of Life’s Big Questions, how would you respond?  

What he’s really addressing there is the concept of Faith.
Not to sound like Bill Clinton, but it depends on how you define “know.” Logically?
No. Analytically? No, sir. But know in your bones? Absolutely, yes. My son
Walter is 4. I love him with all my heart. No behavioral psychologist or
cognitive scientist can ever prove to me that I do not love him or that love is
just a series of chemical responses in the brain. I know I love him. I
experience it every day in an infinite number of ways. Faith is also
experiential, much like love. It can’t be proven.

 

Did evangelical
Christianity earn the bad rap and backlash that spirituality has gotten by
association? How steep is the grade on the uphill battle to separate
spirituality from organized religion?

Spirituality is having to do with the spirit. The life of
something beyond the physical. That’s it. Organized religion has spiritual
aspects to it, but also cultural ones. And mythological ones as well. (Note: I
use the true sense of mythology – archetypal stories that have deep resonance
in the human condition.) It’s very important to differentiate between the two.        Horrible things have been done in the
name of every organized religion. Terrible things have been done in the name of
humanist or cultural philosophies too, that have nothing to do with God or
religion. Many automatic atheists are unable to distinguish many of these facts
and if you grill them on their opinions on things “beyond or above the
physical,” you’ll find that most atheists have many “spiritual” beliefs.

 

What do you think of
those who would give religion a makeover, like Jay Bakker and his liberal hipster
Revolution Church? How far do tattoos, piercings and espousing gay marriage go
in correcting this misunderstanding?

People want to believe in something. They want meaning,
purpose, and a deeper fulfillment than just pursuing physical comfort and happiness.
Most young folks also rebel against their parents’ rigid theocratic belief
systems. That’s why you see movements toward de-lamifying Faith. Some of the
attempts simply end up more lame that what they’re trying to de-lamify. Hopefully
SoulPancake.com is a bit more successful than most Christian rock bands.

 

I understand that SoulPancake.com
isn’t organized religion, but what keeps it from becoming apologetics (in the
colloquial sense), a forum for the people responsible for “a lot of crap out
there on these Internets?”

It’s hard right now because the site is still in its Beta
phase, but when it truly gets up and running it will be much more of a social
networking site and a place for artistic self-expression instead of a series of
message boards and forums.

 

Speakin’ of such
crap: A SoulPancake.com reader posted the video “Should We Give Children a
Spiritual Education?” The clip-from the Ministry of Education and Science of
the Republic of Macedonia-uses a quote that is often erroneously attributed to Albert
Einstein to argue “religion is science, too.” Misinformed fundie evangelicals
love to trot this stuff out in messageboard arguments, and someone always calls
them on it. Usually it leads nowhere and deteriorates into bilious
name-calling. I was surprised to see that most of the 52 responses were
measured, fair, and not necessarily weighted toward belief of non-belief, which
might actually help someone progress on their own spiritual journey. Why are
discussions this different on SoulPancake.com from elsewhere on these
Internets?

We’ve been very lucky from the beginning. Evangelical
Christians, Baha’is, Atheists, etc., all use the site as a meeting place to
find common ground and to disagree respectfully. We’ve found that when someone does become belligerent in some way or
negative or un-constructive, the other users really shut them down. It’s really
cool to have a site with so many hot button issues that allows so much freedom
of self-expression. That’s what keeps our users coming back.

 

I’ll assume that, as
a believer, you’d rejoice if active, thoughtful discourse about spirituality
led someone to belief-but suppose it led someone from belief to agnosticism or
atheism? Is that an acceptable or tragic upshot of SoulPancake.com?

I started the site because I found that young people
recoiled and laughed nervously when presented with any of life’s big questions.
You want to make someone in their twenties shuffle off nervously with vomit in
their mouth, ask them if they believe in God or what they think happens when we
die. There is no agenda at SoulPancake.com other than to provide a community
town square to learn, think, express, debate and grow. We’re all on a spiritual
journey of some kind. Even you atheists, believe it or not. We wanted a place
that would make it cool to express and share that journey with others.

 

Another component of SoulPancake.com
is art/creativity. I take it you wholeheartedly embrace the Vonnegut quote that
(paraphrasing) music is proof of the existence of God? What makes it true for
you?

As a Baha’i, I believe that there is no difference between
art and prayer. Abdul Baha talks about how in this day and age, putting a brush
to paper is the same as kneeling in a church. God is known by many titles,
names and attributes. One of the principle ones is “creator”. We worship God by
emulating his qualities of love, compassion, kindness, etc. We also give homage
to him by ‘creating’. First there was nothing-the blank page if you will. We
fill it with life and mirror the energy of the divine in so doing.

 

I’m told you’re nuts
for Radiohead because their music speaks to your soul. How so?

Radiohead, especially live, strives to express something
beyond. Their music has a transcendent quality. It transports you to other
realms. It reminds me of Sufi chanting and the dancing of whirling dervishes. Music
used as a channel to the divine. The same could be said of Metallica I suppose.

 

What of the Jonas
Brothers, Miley Cyrus and their Disney stench? Boy bands, Lady GaGa, Fergie,
American Idol, P Diddy, Toby Keith, emo, screamo, Pussycat Dolls, Soulja Boy,
KISS’s Music from the Elder? Do the
good and the bad prove His existence and influence, or simply confirm Satan as
the Dark Producer (and V.P. of A&R)? And would God allow Auto-Tune?

All art can be used for something higher or for sheer
entertainment. As an actor, I’ve been involved in many projects that exist only
to entertain the masses and that have little artistic merit. Nothing wrong with
that as long as one can differentiate it from art. Cher
is the only one who used Auto-Tune effectively, ask her.

 

How about one more of
Life’s Big Questions? What do you think of people who attribute their
creativity and achievements to God? Does He really guide the hand of people who
write catchy number-ones or score brutal first-round knockouts in the Octagon?
Or are these people unclear on the concept?

I like that Bill Maher joke about athletes and musicians
thanking God when they score or win-how they need to also curse God when they
fail to win or score. Giving praise of thanks to the creator in gratitude is
fine with me, whether you’re Carrie Underwood or Kimbo Slice.

 

In a floppy battle of
deities, who’d win between a Soul Pancake and the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

The Flying Spaghetti Monster would win hands down. SoulPancake.com
would never join in any battle. Maybe an eating contest…

 

And finally, perhaps
to settle once and for all the question of whether God or Satan oversees music:
Who let Slayer win a Grammy? (Pssst–No matter how you answer this question,
I’m gonna call this whole hot mess “Rainn in Blood”!)

It’s about time Slayer won a Grammy! Now let’s reward
Throbbing Gristle and Millions of Dead Cops.

 

***

 

Soul Pancake Saints

 

Bisquick the Instant

In Suburban Orthodoxy, a performer of miracles. Typically
invoked on Hangover Sunday.

 

St. Jemima of
Syruppus

This tragically misunderstood woman pioneered-involuntarily,
theologians surmise-the short-lived “mammy” movement in Catholicism.

 

Flapjack O’McGriddle

A “double-Irishman,” which is as rare as a four-leaf clover
or leprechaun, O’McGriddle once got high with St. Patrick.   

 

Pope John IHOP the 2nd  

Alliteration is annoying ain’t it? But “Pancake Pope” just
sounds cool. This isn’t a real saint, just a marketing icon.

 

Archbishop B. B.
Batter

If you eat enough of this dude’s hot cakes, you’ll crap out
a baby.

 

St. Roscoe of
Chickenwaffle

The patron saint of the unevenly yoked.

 

Leave a Reply