Hello, my name is Evelyn Osborn, and I am the founder of Closed to Close. I wanted to take a moment to explain this organization, its mission and my motivation for beginning this journey. In order to do that, you need to know a bit of my story.
As a child, I was precocious and unyielding in my pursuit for and dispersal of truth. Essentially, I was a ravenous nerd who thrived in situations where I had opportunities to speak with strangers and learn from their alternative perspectives. The more unlike me, the better. I can only imagine the concern this must have given my parents, but that was my personality nonetheless.
There was one topic in particular that I adored both hearing and speaking about. It didn't matter the venue, nor did it matter the person, I simply wanted to talk about faith and religion. My intention wasn't to convert anyone to be members of my church—though I would've been happy with that too—my motivation was in the name of knowledge. There was no external complication involved, just a girl, her truth, and her hunger for more of it.
I was notorious for skipping out on play-dates with friends to spend time in the kitchen talking religion with their parents. I remember reading Holocaust books with my Jewish principle and having long conversations about faith-based persecution and ideology. Members of my denomination, along with those of the Jewish persuasion, know a bit about being hated for their religious convictions, so we bonded over that. Everywhere I went, I dove right into what I didn't know was a controversial topic.
However, toward the latter part of my primary education, I had a teacher who changed everything. Up to that point, I loved everything about school. I viewed my instructors as my friends. I was even so bold as to view them as my intellectual peers. And don't worry, I fully recognize how odd I was and continue to be.
Suddenly, however, I remember feeling blatant hostility from one of them. I was confused but continued to lead a publicly faith-filled life. Soon, I was being kicked out of class each day. I wasn’t acting out; I just wasn’t wanted.
My opinions were labeled as ‘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 quietly into the background. I felt shamed and worthless, all because a teacher decided that my expressions of faith were somehow wrong.
From that point on, I was hesitant to share much about my faith. From time to time, 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 I felt were ‘safer.' Things like sports, pop culture, 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 religion. 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.
From that point on, I made the determination that I would be the kind of person who protected the people who hadn’t found their voices yet. As an adult, I’m working exceptionally hard to develop the necessary skills in order to effectively do just 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 liberties are vitally important to the overall health of our culture. This is partially due to the fact that sharing your belief in the Divine, and connecting with someone on that level is deeply intimate, and inherently vulnerable because it recognizes humanity's dependence on a power above our own.
However, in the words of Henri Nouwen, I emphatically posit that "Intimacy is not a happy medium. It is a way of being in which the tension between distance and closeness is dissolved and a new horizon appears. Intimacy is beyond fear."
It is because of this belief that I founded Closed to Close.
I've already made the determination to be a sentinel for believers against their adversaries, but I wanted to do more. My future career in law will be one way I can give back, but I wanted to engage others who would not otherwise have a forum in which to discuss important these matters and participate in positive interfaith dialogue.
I wanted to remind the world that despite what some would have you believe, we have more in common than we do apart. I wanted to remind the world that the threat to any faith is a threat to all faiths.
I encourage you to engage in this community, to tell you friends and family members about it and ask that they get involved as well. Becoming passionate for the cause of religious liberty is essential to counteract those who seek to threaten its very existence.
You may not know everything about this issue, but you don't have to.
That’s the beautiful thing about passion: it makes that unknown thrilling. So, let’s get to work.
Portions of this post have been taken from my personal blog:
"Tiffany Osborn- My Online Communication Portfolio." (n.d). Retrieved from tiffanyosborn.wordpress.com/