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Rainn Wilson Addresses the Conscience Plenary

Rainn Wilson addressed the Conscience Plenary at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA.

Hi everybody. My name is Rainn Wilson. I am an actor, writer, and producer from Los Angeles. I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there in person. 

I’m also an author of a few books. I have a deep and abiding passion for discussing spiritual topics. I’m a member of the Baha‘i Faith, which as you know, it is a sincere honor to be speaking to you remotely today. 

I wanted to bring up a couple of ideas. You know, when we people of faith gather, when we discuss social transformation, as well as personal transformation, these ideas are not just a nice, sweet side hobby. Obviously, the world needs what we have. The world needs right now the deep and abiding faith-based wisdom of the ages that come from all of the world’s great religions. And we need to share this wisdom in a hurting world. 

We’ve just gone through a pandemic, obviously the COVID pandemic. But when you look around, you see that there are many, many pandemics everywhere. Racism is a pandemic. Sexism is a pandemic. Income inequality is a pandemic. Materialism is a pandemic. Militarism and nationalism. All of these diseases that are affecting humanity right now. And on a vast or more global scale, climate change is a pandemic. And deepest and most difficult of all are the diseases of despair, loneliness, anxiety, depression, and suicide, and suicidal ideation. The mental health epidemic has young people in its clutches like at no other time in human history. And we people of faith have some answers. 

We have some solutions to these issues. These are issues that have their origins in a spiritual disease, in a spiritual malady, in a spiritual imbalance. These are not pandemics that will be cured with legislation. They won’t be cured by one political party or another. They won’t be cured by some policy decisions. And they won’t be cured simply through protest. 

We have a tendency in contemporary America, at least, to begin and end with protest. We see an injustice and we protest about it. And I think one of the important things that the faith traditions can help with, can lead the way, can show the way forward is in building something. 

We can build something. We don’t just protest. We roll up our sleeves and we get into the grassroots of it all. We serve in the communities and we bring people together and we build community. We build cooperation and consultation. 

So let us be, let that be our standard moving forward. Not just an act of protest, but an act of building something positive. 

Religion has a bad rap in the world right now, especially in the Western world. And a lot of religions have committed quite gross, corrupt injustices. But religions also have within them a shining lamp of purity, of compassion and kindness. And we can build unity together. All of us, people of faith, no matter what background, country, or class, or creed we come from.

A couple other spiritual solutions to the world’s problems that we might want to consider is we can provide joy and hope. This is a land and a world of pessimism, of despair, and we can give people hope. And that’s what they need. They need hope, vision, purpose, and mission. We can provide that in the teachings of the great spiritual traditions. And as we know we are spiritual beings having a human experience, we can share that concept with people and see one another as beautiful, vibrant, radiant souls that are in a period of a great turmoil. 

You know, there’s two forces at work in the world right now, the forces of integration, and there’s some great movements bringing people together like this Parliament, and there are forces of disintegration, forces that are tearing the world apart and making the world a better place. For a lot of young people they get very confused by this, by these two twin forces at work on the social fabric at the exact same time.

So we can show them to turn their gaze away from the disintegration and toward the integration, find the integration, find the hope, find the upliftment. So there are so many tools that we can use, building community at the grassroots, inspiring hope, and reinventing the adversarial systems that tear us apart.

The systems at work in the world today, and I mean all the systems, the biggest systems, government, agriculture, healthcare, education, you know, politics, you name it, every system is built in an adversarial way. And this is part of the reason that we’re destroying our planet and the fabric of our society is unraveling because we live in these adversarial systems that have ideas like one-upmanship and it’s a dog-eat-dog world and every man for himself, this kind of toxic individualism that is at play. And again, we people of faith, we humble servants of humanity, people who put service toward the disenfranchised at the top of our priority lists, we can start to address these imbalances. And again, these imbalances are not simply gonna be fixed with more or different legislation because the systems themselves are so, so very broken. 

So there’s a lot of big ideas to wrap our heads around. We have a lot of great reasons to be meeting, to be consulting, to be loving one another, to be working side by side, shoulder to shoulder, sleeves rolled up on the ground, not just talking about big ideas, but putting those into practice and doing something about it. 

So again, I wish I could be there. These are just a couple of ideas I wanted to throw out. Keep what you like and leave the rest.

I hope it leads to some powerful consultation and I can’t wait to hear what comes out of this glorious, vibrant, magical parliament. Just a beautiful garden of diversity there in Chicago. 

Thank you so much. Thanks for your time. See you next time. Bye.

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