Hindus Buddhists & Bisexuals ~ Oh My!

In the interview that Sally Steenland, Director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress did with me, published earlier this week, I noted that we should absolutely celebrate the election of the most sexually, racially, and religiously diverse Congress in history.

In case you haven’t yet seen it, ThinkProgress put together this great infographic depicting the many diversities increasing in the Congress after the 2012 election.

Though The Friendly Atheist has written more about whether or not Kyrsten Sinema is a non-theist (she apparently isn’t interested in that label), as this image depicts, it remains true that we have our first Hindu and first Buddhist in Congress, a decided step in the right direction of pluralistic representative democracy.

With 20 women in the Senate, too, we are headed in the right direction but by no means are we anywhere close to adequate representation of women in our governing system.

Diversity matters.  Research continually shows that it makes a difference in education, in decision-making processes, in community health, and as a matter of fostering respect and ameliorating conflict.  For young people of color or gay and lesbian youth, seeing diverse faces of leadership helps them see more possibilities for their own future.  For white heterosexual people privileged in this society, leaders who do not look the same challenge flawed assumptions.  For everyone, interpersonal relations are a key way to learn about the world beyond the borders of your own identity markers.

As the writers at ThinkProgress point out, “Though Congress remains whiter, older, and more male than the nation as a whole, the incoming class will be the most diverse in history.”

Let’s hope the old white men pay attention.


About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and also teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.