This article appeared in the Journal of Global Buddhism Vol 22, No 1 (2021) and was co-authored by Ann Gleig and Brenna Artinger.
While often associated with a liberal demographic, the increasing online visibility of rhetoric such as “snowflakes,” “politically correct,” “postmodern identity politics,” and “cultural Marxism” demonstrates the presence of right-wing sentiments and populations in American convert Buddhism. This article situates these sentiments largely as a reaction to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in these communities. We chart this backlash across a broad right-wing spectrum that spans from “reactionary centrism” to the alt-right. We illuminate the ways in which participants both de-legitimate DEI as political rather than Buddhist and naturalize their own position as Buddhist rather than political. Next, we show how American convert Buddhist lineages have become a site of the “culture wars,” longstanding clashes between religious conservatives and progressives, that are playing out in multiple contexts across the US. Finally, we locate these reactionary right-wing forms of American Buddhism in relationship to modern and postmodern forms of global Buddhism.