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By Elizabeth Tenety
Julia Roberts has long been called America’s sweetheart.
But is America ready for a Hindu sweetheart?
The star of the upcoming movie Eat, Pray, Love revealed in an interview in Elle magazine that she, along with her family, is a practicing Hindu.
“You make these people and you love them and you want them around for a thousand years,” she says about her three kids – 3-year-old Henry and 5-year-old twins Phinnaeus and Hazel – with cameraman Danny Moder. “And you want to be there for them for a thousand years.”
The entire Roberts-Moder family, she reveals, goes to temple together to “chant and pray and celebrate. I’m definitely a practicing Hindu,” says Roberts, who grew up with a Catholic mother and Baptist father.
And since in Hindu cosmology souls can be reincarnated in other bodies, where does she see herself in the next life? “Golly, I’ve been so spoiled with my friends and family in this life,” she says. “Next time I want to be just something quiet and supporting.”
Roberts’ embrace of the faith that inspired the enlightenment of Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert puts her far outside the American mainstream in terms of religious affiliation: 78 percent of Americans identify as Christian; only .4 percent define themselves as Hindu. But Roberts’ seek-and-ye-shall-find spirituality is actually quite reflective of American religious practice: 44 percent of Americans currently identify with a different religious tradition than the one in which they were raised.
Still, recent events indicate that Americans may not be ready to fully embrace the Hinduism already in their midst.
Aseem Shukla, On Faith Panelist and co-founder of the Hindu-American Foundation, pointed in a recent post to the examples of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley (both converts to Christianity –Jindal from Hinduism, Haley from Sikhism) as evidence that association with Dharma traditions is a public liability.
“Haley endured ludicrous, unsubstantiated allegations of infidelity, and she and Jindal both faced down racial slurs and epithets on their road to victory. But listen to the buzz around Haley’s improbable rise and Jindal’s electoral success, and what is abundantly clear is that a politically post-racial America does not mean that a pluralistic America has emerged.”
“In their public remonstrations of their parent’s faiths, Jindal and Haley tell well over three million Hindu and Sikh Americans that their time has not yet come as people of faith.”
What do you think? Is America ready to embrace Hinduism? Why or why not?