25 March 2007

Congressional Diversity

Here's one that nearly slipped by us. While certain folks were in an uproar over the first Muslim in the US Congress and the Jefferson Koran he used at his swearing-in ceremony, they may have missed other significant changes in the makeup of the US Congress. Along with Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the new Congress includes two Buddhists an a "nontheist."

The two Buddhists are Reps. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. Read more about Hirono, the daughter of poor Japanese immigrants, here. On the issue of faith diversity, Hirono says "It's about time that we have people of other backgrounds and faiths in Congress ... what happened to separation of church and state and religious tolerance? I believe in those things." Well amen. Or, um, you know. Om.

The "nontheist" isn't new to Congress. Rep. Pete Stark of California is 75 years old and is now in his 18th term representing San Francisco’s East Bay. According to an Associated Press story, he issued a brief statement confirming that “I am a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being.”

Of course, many politicians express their belief in Judeo-Christian values, and their affiliation with a church, but act in ways that are not, shall we say, completely in accord with Biblical teachings on things like adultery, bearing false witness, stealing, and such. I won't name names; just watch closely for the forked tongues. At a time when the US is urging different religious factions to cooperate in governing various parts of the planet, having a tiny bit of religious diversity at home can't hurt our credibility. Now where are those Sikh politicians hiding out?


Chris said...

Geez here in Canada we have Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and Buddhists in Parliament. I'm sure there must be atheists too and there have been First Nations people who practice traditional spirituality in the past and currently in provicial legislatures. We had a Sikh premier of British Columbia (Ujjal Dosanjh, later the federal health minister) and Jewish premiers in Ontario (Bob Rae and Stephen Lewis).

Old news up here...kind of alarming that it's still an issue down there.

SpinTheGlobe said...

Chris -
yeah, turns out south of the border here folks tend to talk a good game of diversity, but when it comes down to interracial marriage or positions of economic/political power, their eyes widen, little beads of sweat form on their heads, and they stutter "I, um, I mean, we need to take these things gradually, you know?"

Perhaps with more intermarriage (and the resulting kids-of-mysterious-origin) and a few Wiccans and Zoroastrians in positions of power, Americans might be less prone to demonizing (and attacking) those perceived as "other" and more inclined to address substantial issues. Perhaps.

Anyway, thanks for an enlightened Northern perspective. Nice to read your stuff on Bowen Island -- I spent some time there decades ago and it was magical.

Anonymous said...

My partner is an American Sikh (I'm whitebread American - British, German, Scandanavian), my mother was Canadian, I live 25 miles from the Canadian border. Let's just say that the Pacific Northwest is as racist as, say, Arkansas or Alabama, and leave it at that.