If Not Less, More

I know there are a lot of good reasons to have less religion in the middle of our democratic processes, but until that happens, diversifying the religions and having more of them (and more varieties of each) present is a good thing.  It helps disenthrone the stranglehold that (certain kinds of) Christian views have had on this American democratic project.

Last week, Tulsi Gabbard became the first Hindu member of Congress, and the first member of Congress sworn in using the Bhagavad Gita.

I love what she said about her sacred text, as reported over at Huffington Post Religion:

“I chose to take the oath of office with my personal copy of the Bhagavad-Gita because its teachings have inspired me to strive to be a servant-leader, dedicating my life in the service of others and to my country,” said Gabbard, who served in the Iraq War, after the swearing-in. “My Gita has been a tremendous source of inner peace and strength through many tough challenges in life, including being in the midst of death and turmoil while serving our country in the Middle East.”

Gabbard also challenges a lot of other stereotypes and assumptions, as a 31-year old female Iraq War veteran, and a Hindu by choice.  The outline of her story, in fact, is not so different from that of Barack Obama, another multiracial Hawaiian who came to his faith, Christianity, as an adult.

“I was raised in a multiracial, multicultural, multi-faith family. My mother is Hindu; my father is a Catholic lector in his church who also practices mantra meditation. I began to grapple with questions of spirituality as a teenager,” Gabbard said. “Over time, I came to believe that, at its essence, religion gives us a deeper purpose in life than just living for ourselves. Since I was a teenager, I embraced this spiritual journey through the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.”

“In so doing, have been blessed with the motivation and strength to dedicate my life in service others in a variety of ways,” she said.

Let the new American Congress begin.

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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.