Like so many Americans, whenever I hear or read about politicians running for elected office in conjunction with religion, faith or ethics, I brace myself for a stream of standardized statements regarding how marvelously religious and moral the candidate is. The assumption is that someone’s religion or faith automatically makes him or her a good choice to hold office.
For much of United States’ political history, it was an informal “requirement” that a candidate for the Presidency must profess membership to a very mainstream Christian Protestant sect. Not doing so would mean a default defeat for the candidate from the beginning of the campaign. This same assumed religious preference still holds true for candidates to the House of Representatives and the US Senate. This unwritten rule especially holds sway over candidates to state public office in more parochial, rural districts.
I can still remember the public debate after the fact of John F. Kennedy’s election to the Presidency that the matter of his Roman Catholism was an anomaly. It was unheard of and even quite shocking that a Roman Catholic would even dare to run for President.
This tendency to use deviation from the Christian Protestant default alignment is still very present. Much ado is still made over President Obama’s supposed alignment with Islam. (He isn’t a Muslim.) Even if he was actually a Muslim, why should it matter anyway? There’s a Constitutional, official separation of church and state that goes back to the founding of the republic. In practice, folks still lean on the supposed religious affiliation of a candidate.
Imagine my happy surprise to find out about a fellow running to fill the seat of the 20th District for the State of Virginia’s General Assembly. I was listening to a “Buddhist Geeks” podcast that featured the interview of Erik Curren. He is a professed Methodist who has Tibetan Buddhist leanings. Of course, in the United States, there are many folks who are both Buddhist and belong to another religion because Buddhism makes no claims for or against or whether or not there’s such a thing as a creator god.
One of Mr. Curren’s opponents in the legislative race is making a bit of a fuss over this interest in Buddhism. Again, this is happening in Virginia of all places. Luckily for Mr. Curren, the people of Virginia’s 20th District are very supportive of this gentleman’s candidacy.
I was amazed at his candor regarding spirituality, ethics and morality. Curren talked in terms that I have never heard “normal” politicians use. I got the impression that he is one of those folks who is the real deal.
Of course, the general assumption is that professing to be a Christian automatically means that a candidate is a fine, upstanding, moral individual. Anyone who has even a superficial awareness of current events should know better. Most voters seem to have a mental divide regarding politicians and their professed Christianity. Time and again, we find that these “religious” people have become enmeshed in some very stinky scandals and political crimes.
Seemingly, out of nowhere, comes Erik Curren and his refreshingly frank views about real ethics. The deal about his alignment with Buddhism in the context of the state of Virginia just knocks my socks off. It really gives me hope for the future of the United States of America that a person of this caliber sees fit to run for elective office.
I wish him well. I wish I was eligible to cast a vote for him.
The Blue Jay of Happiness is glad to see a real glimmer of hope.