Saturday, August 1, 2009

Challenging The Litmus Test

Emily Breder, a writer for, has posted an interview with Erik Curren, a candidate for Virginia's General Assembly, and a Democrat who's running against Republican Dickie Bell for retiring Republican Chris Saxman's seat. The situation is interesting, because while Curren describes himself as Christian, he also engages in some dharma practice--mostly sitting and walking meditation. The reason that is notable, I think is that he's willing to challenge the unofficial religious litmus test in a presumed Republican district, and in Virginia. His adherence to Buddhist practices has the potential to alienate voters in a decidedly Christian community.

It's common knowledge that atheists and agnostics have met with no success in pursuing public office when open about their propositional attitudes. We haven't seen Wiccans or Satanists or Jains in American government. We finally have a Muslim senator in Minnesota's Keith Ellison, and Jewish people in congress are nothing new, but the attitude that a candidate must be Christian to even be considered still holds strong. Curren may not win his district, but I think it's important that he campaigns as he is.

Curren's closing comment for the interview expresses some nice thoughts:

I would call on all people of faith, whether Buddhist or otherwise, to stand up for freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, wherever they are. Whether it’s in the United States, where sometimes people are sold short or where there’s such a pressure to hide your faith. To other countries, where there may be… stronger consequences for practicing your faith. I would ask all people of good faith, even people who are not believers, to stand up for religious freedom or the freedom not to have any religion. This is an issue for everyone today. And for us to have the kind of world we want for our kids and our grandkids, a world where we can live with each other, the first thing we need to do is not just respect other people’s faith, but value it and encourage it.

A little bit of excess pathos, but still important ideas.

Curren goes into more detail on his campaign site, if you're interested.

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