As we all gather for the traditional turkey-feasts and take stock of all we have to be thankful for, we should take a moment to consider how blessed we are to live in a country that genuinely lives by the Enlightenment values of religious diversity and pluralism. I just learned that as a result of the November 6 election, the House of Representatives will have its first-ever Hindu member. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii will take her oath of office on a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. (A work, incidentally, I strongly recommend. I owe my own discovery, and love, of it to the great Anglo-Catholic poet T. S. Eliot, who was deeply influenced by it and called it “the next greatest philosophical poem to [Dante’s] Divine Comedy.”)
The article about Tulsi Gabbard also mentions, in passing, that the U.S. Senate will now have its first-ever Buddhist member: Senator Mazie Hirono, also of Hawaii.
This Thanksgiving, we can remember what George Washington wrote to the Newport Synagogue: “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.” In many ways, this is a different country than the one George Washington knew; but it’s great to be reminded that, in some very important ways, we are being true to his vision.