The “Religious Literacy Dictionary” in Stephen Prothero’s 2007 bestseller, Religious Literacy, devotes less than two pages to “Buddhism,” but spends seven lines making the point that “Buddhists have not been particularly active in American politics.” This notion, accurate or not, is probably the perception of most Americans, many of whom have little real awareness of the 2,500-year-old tradition to begin with. It may also explain why President Obama’s 25-member Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (which just launched its official Web site) currently lacks a Buddhist representative, despite the presence of at least one appointee from the other four major world religions.
Please read the rest of this wonderful article but one thing does float in my vision about the arbitrary choice of religion. First there is a serious stigma attached to being part of a non-theist religion. Just ask the nice folks telling me that I am doing the work of the devil and erase my comments to the contrary. When going into politics it is seriously difficult to combat a voting public that will completely follow the “sheep of the lord” when going into the voting booth. Just look at Buddhist Politician Eats Baby!
Secondly, and slightly less argumentative is the fact that Buddhism is perhaps the most easily blended religion. Rarely do you see a religion that can be combined with so many other ones without threatening the practitioners original religious identity. I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t at least a few Washington insiders rolling with the Buddhism…but you know…on the sly. I like calling them “closet Buddhists”. Secreting their cushions and zabutons under the bed. All “suit and tie” with a mala lingering underneath a well-pressed shirt. Sneaking off in the middle of the night to hit the local zendo coming back reeking of incense and cheap enlightenment.
With the active and bullying Evangelical community in the US can you really see this being any other way. Think about it, the majority religion believes that YOU – you poor little Buddhist – are going to burn in hell for all eternity writhing in anguish because you don’t dig on the Christ. If I were a politician, I wouldn’t expect much different. We are a marginalized religion (I think I heard Arun sneeze) when it comes to representation. But the Good Reverend looks on the bright side…
When you think about it, we have also left a remarkable legacy of offerings for our fellow Americans, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist. Consider, for example, the many temples and centers that serve as important hubs of religious education, spirituality, and community in and around large ethnic enclaves throughout the country, such as those under the purview of the Buddhist Churches of America or the Buddhist Council of New York. Consider Naropa University, the Institute of Buddhist Studies, University of the West, and Soka University of America—the four fully-accredited, Buddhist-affiliated, degree-granting institutions of higher education in the United States.When you think about it, we have also left a remarkable legacy of offerings for our fellow Americans, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist.
Well, yes, Buddhism as a religion is moving forward in America but I think the true strides are coming from the growing amount of home and blended practitioners that are actively and organically changing the way other religions are viewing attachments…one practitioner at a time.
Who knows? Maybe we will be able to drop God completely one day. I’m not holding my breath but a non-theist can dream can’t he?
Ok, back to my week of hibernation! Its been a nice break.