Buddhist Politician Eats Baby…Your Baby is Next!

Sorry about the silly title and picture but I am expecting that something like this is eventually going to run if religion takes the forefront of the Virginia’s 20th District race (which it may have already). And the photo still cracks me up…
Inspired by the posting over at Progressive Buddhism and with the current events over in Virginia with Erik Curren I thought I would like to speak alittle on the topic.

And for the last decade or more, like millions of Americans, I have practiced meditation. Sometimes I walk and sometimes I sit. But always, taking a break from daily activity helps me think about my life and connect with a deeper truth. With increasing scientific evidence for the benefits of meditation to calm the stress of today’s busy world, it’s no wonder that this simple practice has spread to corporate boardrooms, hospitals, schools, and even churches across the United States.

See, I barely call this Buddhism and would not really consider Erik a Buddhist. The bottom line is that he practices meditation and has enough vision to pull from a broad array of spiritual teachers rather than just from the one he was born into or is the most familiar to him. And good for him. It seems that it would have been much easier for him to say that he is a practicing Christian (which he is) and that he meditates for the therapeutic benefits (which he does). If he feels strongly enough about his beliefs to consider himself Buddhist then he is one. This is not an exclusive term.

I practice weekly with mostly Christian Buddhists (or Zen Christians but whats in a label) who consider themselves equal parts both. They take the teachings of Buddha and use them in conjunction with Christian beliefs. I don’t see them as any less Buddhist than the lay-practitioners that run our group or any less Christian than everybody else out here in SD.

[from NewsVirginian]When Erik chose to ignore my advice about sharing his faith, and instead only posting that he attends a Methodist church, I thought that a little too disingenuous for me to be able to recommend him to my supporters.

There are some in the Christian community who can’t understand or get past my being a Democrat. There are some Democrats who have issues with me wearing my faith on my sleeve. To each of you I will tell you that in my life I hope to be a Christian first and then be the rest. As far as being a Democrat, it ranks sixth, just after being a Redskins fan.

It seems to me that the comment Tracy Pyles is making is that his vote goes first to religion and then to policy. While I am the first to say that you should vote with your heart. When your heart says that you will not vote for someone because their spiritual life (not their moralistic views, mind you) is slightly different than yours; you may need to reflect on yourself. This seems just as bad as superficially voting for someone because they like the same movies as you or read the same book.

The fact that faith – any faith – plays such a huge role in politics still irks me. The fact that any political candidate has to woo the Christian Right with weekly church visits and ridiculous shows of piety to reaffirm everyone that “Hey, I’m just like you” makes me somewhat ill. It would be just as bad if a Buddhist paraded themselves around as a Buddhist just to hit a specific demographic (I never heard of that happening but I suppose it could). Curren puts it best when he states…

It is understandable that people are curious about and may even fear things that they do not understand. So it is a service to civil discourse for people of different faiths to share their beliefs and practices in a spirit of mutual respect and tolerance. Recognizing that all major religions teach the same basic ideas –to seek truth, promote love, and care for God’s creation — faith can be a way to bring us all together on a higher plane.

But all too often religion is used by misguided leaders to pull our communities apart and to sow the seeds of discord. This is a misuse of religious faith in my opinion, and I feel compelled to speak out against religious prejudice and bigotry.

Its true. I converse with individuals with faiths that span the gamut from Christian sects to Buddhists to wiccans and pagans to atheists and agnostics. We can all agree on the same basic moralistic foundation once we promise to avoid anything coming from a holy text. Our basic human-nature drives us towards the same concepts. Its when the superficial aspect of the religion get utilized do we really get our divisions.

[From Progressive Buddhism] Buddhism really is just another ‘scary foreign’ religion for a lot of people, especially in the rural Bible belt. I do have to say though, these prejudices aren’t the norm, and from my experience, many of the people that I interact with that are non-Buddhist in rural areas, even many Fundamentalist Christians, are understanding and compassionate folks. It is those that should know better, that use the differences in people as a wedge, for political or economic reasons that I find detestable. I live here in Virginia, and know Augusta County fairly well, and if you think the hostility that Curren is getting from fellow Democrats is bad, just wait until the conservative Republicans get a hold of him.

Again true! I used to teach and tutor out here in the Midwest and the basic understanding is that if you are white then you are Christian. When it comes out otherwise you get sideways glances or forced friendliness (“Oh, a Buddhist…thats…interesting. So do you believe in Jesus?”). One positive is that after reciting “The Five Remembrances” to a gaggle of Jehovah’s Witnesses that were particularly saccharine; I haven’t seen them since.

But to be honest, once you get past the initial shock and stuttering, most are legitimately curious about your practice. It is a great opportunity to share what you believe and provide a resource about something that most may not be familiar with. Word got around at work pretty quickly that I was a Buddhist and I got some stupid shit from people trying to “save” me and some that lumped me into that “New Age” jargon or thought that I was serene all the time and watched “The Secret” *shiver*.

And I never pushed my religion onto anyone that I worked with especially the children. Any Fundies that worked there would throw Jesus into all of their lessons and it was simple horrible. I never did that. If someone asked what I was then I told them but I never pushed it or said that it was the “right” way only that it was right for me.

I did get a kick out of the fact one of the constant troublemakers in my class came up to me on my last day of working there and asked me how one becomes a Buddhist. I was already on my out to greener pastures so I answered her that if she was asking then she probably already was.

This only stay “foreign” for as long as we make them such. And this is not a comment on “Traditional” Buddhism or “Asian” Buddhism or “Western Buddhism”. The concepts are foreign. Changing the language or discarding the incense and robes won’t change that. The only way that it changes is by doing what Curren is doing – being open and honest about our religion/non-religion/philosophy and being receptive to the fact that some people will think it is weird and strange. Then take that opportunity to explain and teach – not to convert or judge.
I apologize if this post is rambling…I was rushing to finish before my break was over.

2 thoughts on “Buddhist Politician Eats Baby…Your Baby is Next!

  1. Jack – Damn man, I'm in Idaho and finding a stable wireless signal out here is like finding a virgin at an Philadelphia Eagles game. I didn't see you made some comments about this, thanks, very insightful. I'm looking forward to the Buddhist Geeks interview. You are right, he isn't a full Buddhist in the traditional sense, unfortunately some will label meditation = Buddhist.

  2. Pingback: No Buddhists in Washington? « Sweep the dust, Push the dirt

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