I’ve always loved the idea of protecting religious freedom, but it wasn’t until recently that I chose to decisively move forward with a career in this field. But why, when I’m interested in a wide variety of things, do I feel that this is what I need to commit my life’s work to?
As a young child I was fearless. I was willing to speak about my faith with anyone. I was an old soul who loved contemplating existential questions and the purpose for which I was created. I frequently sermonized strangers that were ten times my age. I paid no regard to the separation of church and state or any social norm. All I knew was that I loved my God and I wanted to shout that from the rooftops.
I remember going to read Holocaust books with my Jewish principle and having long conversations about religious persecution and ideology. Mormons and Jews know a bit about being hated for their religious convictions, so we bonded over that. I loved speaking about my faith and hearing about other’s.
Toward the latter end of my elementary school experience I had a teacher who changed everything. Up to that point, I loved everything about school. I was the shameless nerd who brown-nosed my teachers a lot; not because I wanted to gain any favor over other students, but because I was bold enough to view them as my intellectual peers… I never said I was normal.
Suddenly however, I remember feeling blatant hostility from a new teacher. I was confused but continued to lead a publicly faith filled life. Soon, I was being kicked out of class daily. I wasn’t acting out, I just wasn’t wanted. My opinions were ‘distracting’. When I started to fall behind I was accused of being lazy, and when I reached out to others, I was called a liar. I quickly lost my zeal for school and fell to the background. I felt shamed and worthless all because a teacher decided that sharing about something I loved made me worthy of being hated.
From that point on, I was hesitant to share much about my faith. I still would, but with the constant fear that I would receive ridicule or backlash for expressing my beliefs. I resorted to having conversations about things that were ‘safer’. Things like sports, boys, etc. Years passed and I’d become accustomed to the safe and timid of the sacred.
Luckily, God pushed me out of my comfort zone and back to a place that mattered more to me. During my sophomore year of high school I became too sick to continue living the active lifestyle that allowed me to avoid my inquisitive mind and passion for gushing about my faith. I craved being part of a team again and so I resorted to speech and debate. For a while it was my dirty secret but now, I view it as the propulsion that got me back to who I truly am. I’m so grateful for that.
Today, I find myself committed. Committed to being one of the guardians of religious freedom. Now, perhaps that seems a bit ambitious. Understand me when I say that it is. I don’t expect to change the world, but I do expect to be one of the forces constantly applying the pressure necessary to move forward. I never want my children to be fearful of the backlash they’d receive for openly living according to the tenants of their faith. I want to help create and maintain government atmospheres that recognize the invaluable import of religion in society.
People seem to have forgotten that regardless of their personal convictions, religious freedom is vitally important to any culture. I plan on expanding on all of this in the near future, but for now, suffice it to say that I am ready to dive in. I have more than a little to learn. But that’s the beautiful thing about passion: it makes that unknown thrilling. So, let’s get to work.