Vivek Ramaswamy’s Hindu religion is entrance and middle in his GOP presidential marketing campaign

Vivek Ramaswamy is as comfy speaking about Bible tales as he’s sharing the message of the Bhagavad Gita, probably the most sacred Hindu texts.

The 37-year-old biotech entrepreneur turned Republican presidential candidate has been steadily garnering assist in a celebration dominated by conservative Christians. In many polls, he is in third place behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and he’s considered one of six candidates who’ve certified for the primary GOP presidential debate on Aug. 23.

He can also be solely the nation’s second Hindu presidential candidate. Tulsi Gabbard, the previous Hawaii congresswoman, ran as a Democrat in 2020.

Ramaswamy shared 10 core beliefs as a part of his marketing campaign, with “God is real” topping the checklist adopted by “There are two genders.” He cascaded into the limelight along with his 2021 e-book “Woke Inc: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam,” a scathing critique of corporations that he says use social justice causes as a smokescreen for self-interested policies.

He became a regular commentator on Fox News and other conservative outlets, backing capitalism and meritocracy, and criticizing affirmative action, mask mandates and open borders. He is anti-abortion and believes gender dysphoria should be treated as a mental illness. He has expressed support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose populist policies have been divisive.

On the campaign trail, Ramaswamy has leaned into his faith as he vies for the nomination of a party where evangelical Christian support is key. In speeches and casual conversations with these voters, he maintains that his religion has much in common with “the Judeo-Christian values this nation was founded on.”

“I’m an ardent defender of non secular liberty,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I will probably be an much more vocal and unapologetic defender of it exactly as a result of nobody goes to accuse me of being a Christian nationalist.”

While questions have been raised about his capability to enchantment to conservative Christian voters, Ramaswamy stated he has extra in widespread with folks of all faiths than these with no religion in any respect.

“I was raised in a belief system where there is one true God who empowers each of us with our own capacities,” he stated. “As we say in the Hindu tradition, God resides in each one of us. In the Christian tradition, you say we’re all made in the image of God.”

The baby of immigrants from southern India, Ramaswamy grew up in Cincinnati talking Tamil at house along with his spiritual dad and mom who carried out pujas — a type of worship rituals. He heard tales from Hindu epics, provided day by day prayers to deities and attended temples in Dayton and Cincinnati. He and his spouse, Apoorva, a doctor, plan to lift their two sons as Hindus.

Ramaswamy stated he was additionally deeply influenced by Christians. He cemented his anti-abortion stance whereas attending St. Xavier Catholic High School in Cincinnati, and realized a robust “Protestant work ethic” from his piano instructor of 10 years.

“The lessons learned being Hindu were similar and in many ways overlapping with Judeo-Christian values like sacrifice, performing your duty without attachment to the results and believing that your work on this Earth is not being done by you, but through you,” he stated, including these Hindu values appear to resonate with Christian and Jewish audiences.

Not all suggestions from Christians has been favorable. Hank Kunneman, a pro-Trump pastor in Nebraska, attacked Ramaswamy’s religion throughout a current sermon.

“What are we doing?” he requested his congregation. “You’re going to have some dude put his hand on something other than the Bible? You’re going to let him put all of his strange gods up in the White House?”

Ramaswamy dismissed Kunneman’s views as unrepresentative of most U.S. Christians.

“While my first reaction to such speech is one of frustration, the truth is I’m running to lead a nation…including those who disagree with me.”

His strategy is drawing assist from influential Christian leaders, together with Bob Vander Plaats, who had a front-row seat for Ramaswamy’s current marketing campaign go to to Iowa. He stated Ramswamy’s “common sense values and shared virtues” are the explanations he’s being “very warmly received by audiences of faith.”

While Ramaswamy’s religion will not be perfect for some Christian voters, it comes down to creating your best option accessible, stated Vander Plaats, president of a conservative group, The Family Leader.

“If we were to tailor-make a candidate, it would be someone who shares our faith,” he stated. “But, I’d much rather see him (as president) than Joe Biden, Kamala Harris or Gavin Newsom.”

Most Hindu Americans and Indian Americans, however, are likely to vote Democratic and be progressive on social points like abortion, immigration and LGBTQ rights. They are divided over Ramaswamy’s candidacy; some are notably irked by his eagerness to equate Hindu and Christian teachings.

“He is taking great care to show a certain aspect of Hinduism without talking about mysticism and polytheism, which are core aspects of the religion,” stated Karthick Ramakrishnan, founding father of AAPI Data and a public coverage professor on the University of California, Riverside.

Still, Ramaswamy is “feeding a certain need in the Republican party” and is getting consideration as a result of he’s a novelty in ways in which Andrew Yang was for Democrats in 2020, Ramakrishnan stated. “He is among those candidates who may not have all those expected attributes or the experience … but through the power of their ideas, are able to get into the conversation.”

Ria Chakrabarty, policy director of Hindus for Human Rights, said she is concerned by Ramaswamy’s attempt to “package Hinduism in the family values mold, talking about it as a monotheistic religion to appeal to the Abrahamic faiths.”

“From a Hindu perspective, every person has a fundamental right to make a choice about how they want to access health care,” she stated. “(Ramaswamy) saying unborn life is life, what does that imply policy-wise? It’s additionally worrying to see a Hindu feed into LGBTQ hate as a result of Hinduism has a wealthy historical past in relation to queerness.”

For different Hindu Americans who could disagree with Ramaswamy’s views, his candidacy nonetheless represents an necessary shift in American politics.

“I don’t share his politics by a mile,” stated Sumit Ganguly, a political science professor at Indiana University. “But he is gutsy for not hiding his faith or converting to Christianity for political gain. This might not have been possible 10 years ago.”

Ramaswamy nonetheless has a steep hill to climb as a result of most Americans know little about Hinduism, Ganguly stated.

Suhag Shukla, government director of the Hindu American Foundation, stated that when Hindu Americans run for any workplace “it’s inspirational for kids to know they can be who they are and be proud of their heritage and values.”

Ramaswamy’s candidacy also reflects the growing political diversity within the Hindu community, Shukla said.

For Republican voters, Vander Plaats said Ramaswamy’s continued success hinges on distinguishing himself from the GOP front-runners. He compared Ramaswamy to Queen Esther in the Bible who was chosen by God to save the Jewish people from genocide:

“He needs to show us why this is his Esther moment.”


Associated Press faith protection receives assist via the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely accountable for this content material.

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