Written by Lisette Larson, a contributor reporter.
With religion as a topic of sheer conflict and corruption, some may suggest retreating from society and living principles in a private place. Or at least this is what the Benedict Option movement suggests.
During the Thursday session of the Religious Freedom Annual Review, a panel of three speakers combatted this idea.
In the battlefront of religion, how or why should people get involved in political engagement?
They answered this question and pleaded the audience to get involved.
Paul Edwards hosted the panel and asked questions to the three speakers: Pamela Atkinson, J. Stuart Adams, and Tim Brown.
Why should we lean in?
“If I don’t, who will?” responded Pamela J. Atkinson: Advocate, Philanthropist, and Advisor to Utah State Governor. Through her experience, Atkinson woke up to the fact that the world isn’t perfect and it was imperative that she speak out and offer a different perspective.
A primarily LDS audience erupted into laughter when she explained that from a spiritual perspective, she knows it’s time to get involved when she receives a “holy nudge”, and said this compares to what LDS people call promptings. Atkinson advised that getting involved is about love, regardless of your faith.
She said, “I never ever ever let issues interfere with relationships.” She admonished that people can learn to stay with their own opinion while learning much from others.
“You find conviction,” said Tim Brown, Mayor of San Clemente, California. When he received his convictions in a local meeting his wife wanted him to attend, he felt a spark of passion that told him it was his time to lean in. He acknowledged that individual conviction is ignited at an individual time and that everyone has their unique path.
“We all will have an opportunity to make that difference, so we should be prepared and we should be willing,” Brown said.
What are the costs associated with getting engaged?
Atkinson sometimes acutely feels the cost of neglecting family member and friends as she works in behalf of refugees, antipornography, human trafficking and other major issues.
“There are times when I reach emotional bankruptcy,” she said, as she tries to balance her efforts. She recognizes she is not alone in facing these weighty issues, but the changes that have taken place in Utah stem from a team effort. In her opinion, the rewards far outweigh the costs.
“I had to get up just after 5:00 a.m. this morning; that was the cost,” Atkinson said. “I got some hugs afterwards, and that was the reward.”
With 15 grandkids, J. Stuart Adams feels time as a very real cost of being involved as a District 22 Senator and Majority Whip in Utah Legislature. Another cost in his experience is when people attack his personal integrity, especially when his family reads the comments.
“You don’t assume it’s going to be sunshine and happiness but don’t know how disorientating it will be when you enter the political arena,” answered Brown. He views involvement costs more as a tradeoff. The tradeoff for him is seeing the benefits bloom from his direct influence and deriving moral results for the community.
How do you manage the sense of living in a fishbowl in the public eye, especially when you feel misrepresented?
After being yelled at, Atkinson had to say to herself, “Well nuts to you, God loves me anyways.” She encouraged the audience to look at the person and past their opinion. She admonished to remember that sometimes people are critical because they don’t agree, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Adams relies on those close to him to come to his rescue and defend his character in those moments.
After being misrepresented, Brown shared the benefit of turning to certain people who can offer a real opinion and pull him out of his mood enough for him to laugh at himself.
Suggestions for getting involved
Brown admitted that the barriers to entry are incredibly low and for someone eager to get involved, just being present can help immerge them into the scene.
He noted that good ideas can come from anyone in the community when he said, “Just because you are elected, doesn’t mean you have a monopoly on truth.”
Simply put, personal credibility was most important to Adams.
“If we don’t step forward and find a better way, then who is going to do it? Not only do we have the opportunity but the right and obligation,” Adams said.
As steps to kick-start involvement, Atkinson suggested researching professional organizations, attending city council meeting or legislative sessions, and after looking at your strengths, find where you can best step in.
“Everyone in this room has the power within them to make a difference in this world,” Atkinson said.