I claim that human mind or human society is not divided into watertight compartments called social, political and religious. All act and react upon one another. - Mahatma Gandhi
My dad was a political, social and religious kind of guy. He was always busy in our city with some committee or another, sitting on boards for this and that. He was a Free Mason, had a love for politics and many political friends. He was outspoken, but never spoke without knowing what he was talking about. He was a man people either loved or hated - there was rarely a grey area. He taught me a lot about politics and religion, and showed me the door to find knowledge and form opinions for myself. (Which later proved to be very much different from his...) He gave me the key.
Mum was no slouch either. While not as "active" as dad in the social/political arena outside of the home, she was vocal and often put pen to paper. Mum was an activist. A lobbyist. A letter writer. She usually knew what she was talking about, and she was very good at getting her point across diplomatically. Mum passed on that gift to me. How to be honest without being ignorant. How to be kind and mindful of other's feelings and situations. How to speak up for what you believe in and say it eloquently enough to be taken seriously, even if you are not always right or agreed with.
Politics, society, religion. It's in my blood.
Dad and mum encouraged my decision in University to change my area of focus from French and Spanish to Political Science. The interest had always been there, and although the languages would have served me well (I still sometimes kick myself for stopping french courses all together - damned hindsight), they knew I had something deep in my heart for politics. As early as 12 years old, I loved to educate myself and others on issues that affected us all. I remember delivering speeches on Child Abuse, Euthanasia and Dr. Martin Luther King, all before grade 8. I loved public speaking and had a knack for not looking as nervous as I felt. I entered every competition I could, even though I rarely won. I did it for the love, not the glory.
I developed my interest in religion very young as well. We grew up in a house next to a church, so of course that piqued my curiosity. Why did those people come in and out every week, and what were they singing about? I started attending the church, St Paul's Anglican, at a very young age and didn't miss a Sunday or holiday service. I still have my "3 Year Perfect Attendance" pin somewhere around here. Although I have "turned away" from Christianity, I still keep it as a reminder of all I learned in the church, and it's relevance to my life today.
I think I heard someone gasp when they read that last paragraph. "You turned away from Christianity?! What do you mean??" I mean this: I believe in Jesus Christ. He was a great prophet of peace, just like the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him. <-- Is it okay to write that in there for any Muslim readers who may pass upon this blog?), Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi and many other great religious leaders. But I no longer consider myself a Christian, despite the fact I was baptised in the Presbyterian church and attended church and bible study classes for a good 20 years of my life.
I realized in University that I could no longer subscribe to a religion that wages wars on other religions, preaches intolerance to other races and homosexuals, and that controls their followers with fear. Those who would cast judgement on others for not believing and behaving exactly as they do. Those who believe that the simple act of going to church and professing their faith makes them better and holier than the rest of society. It's not for me.
"Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car." - Anonymous
And no, not all Christians feel or behave that way, I know that. I was one. One who held the ultimate value of Christianity deep in my heart. To love, unconditionally. To help my fellow man, selflessly. To spread the word of peace, peacefully. But the hatred I saw between so many groups, the bickering, fighting and posturing of who is right and who is wrong, well, it turned me off religion completely.
After my mum passed away, I began studying Buddhism. I wanted to know and understand reincarnation after a psychic friend of the family informed me that one day, I would reincarnate my mother. I became deeply moved by the teachings of the Buddha, and the philosophy behind Buddhism. Buddhism, technically, is not a religion. It is a commitment to a way of life. A philosophy born of common sense. Today I think of myself as a "Humanist with Buddhist leanings". I will not subscribe to an organized religion again. To quote His Holiness the Dalai Lama, "My religion is simple. My religion is kindness."
The belief that religion and politics are and should be separate is a little misguided. Religion, after all, is political. Think about it.
About 8 years ago, I began my family and seemed to lose my time and interest for political matters. I kept up to date on all that was going on and continued to educate my friends, family and anyone who would listen on the facts (with a healthy dose of opinion, of course!), but I really lost a lot of the spark that had been there post graduation. I feel lately as though my spark has been reignited, and the flame keeps growing every day.
I said recently that I would like to run for office in 2014...maybe. I will need these next 4 years to decide where my heart really lies in the arena of politics. Am I an activist? Am I a leader? Or am I an advisor? Right now I lean more to the latter. I am a debater, a reasoner, able to rationalize and negotiate. I love (love, love!) taking a problem, analyzing it from all angles and not stopping until I find a solution. There is nothing more satisfying for me than finding that middle ground. I think that "talent" would be better served in a supporting roll. But I could change my mind. I'm wont to do that now and then...
The door was closed for a while, but wasn't locked. I'm opening it again. A little slowly perhaps, but that's okay. With time comes maturity and wisdom and, although I haven't seen those qualities in many of our elected officials as of late, I believe - for me - it is a necessity to acquire before diving into the business of managing people's lives. My journey will start slowly, taking cues from mum, and will develop over time to be more active, like my dad.
It's in my blood.