A holiday dinner table divided

JAMES FAY/The Concordian @jamesfaydraws

Do religion and politics have a place at the holiday dinner table?

Growing up, I was always told there are two things you never discuss with family or friends: religion and politics. I took that as, for lack of a better word, gospel, and I never engaged in those types of conversations. I was always told that these were bad conversations and that in order to keep the peace, these topics were off-limits.

Now, when I was younger that all made sense. Why wouldn’t I want to keep the peace? After all, family is the cornerstone of who we are, so why go out of my way to upset them? 

Fast forward to now, many years later, I started to think about this adage again. Has our stance toward this taboo topic changed?

Generally, from my experience, this is still one of the number one rules set up for holiday gatherings. Especially given how religiously and politically divided our society seems to be in our current reality. 

I asked myself last week, should politics and religion be off the table this year for the holidays? And for the first time in a while, I thought, no, these two topics should be welcomed at the table with family.

Last Christmas Eve the topic of the political motivation for mask mandates and vaccines came up. Typically, I would avoid the subject altogether, and I think that some of my family was trying to change the subject. I decided to take the conversation head-on. 

I firmly believe that in order to be a well-rounded person you need to engage in conversations that might make you uncomfortable. I think that sometimes our relationships with family members are treated as these precious pieces of glass that we just can’t shatter. However, I think to have a healthy family group, controversial topics must be brought up. 

Talking for the millionth time about how much the Christmas decorations cost gets boring, and there is some fun to be had with tough conversations. Also, why not know where the people closest to you stand on political issues and religious ideas? The foundation of boundaries and understanding where you stand within the family is incredibly important and religion and politics is where someone, myself included, can really find their voice. 

Now, I understand the fear behind it, because I have been scared for a long time. I know that some might feel it is not worth risking whatever arguments or tensions may arise. I can see the argument that the holidays are supposed to be a peaceful time, and a time to enjoy being with family. I can see the fear of being shunned from the family, or feeling attacked if your views differ from those around you. However, when we hide behind difficult conversations we are not doing anyone any favours. 

When I chose to not hide behind a difficult conversation, it ultimately ended in an argument. Other people around us perhaps felt uncomfortable, but it still felt really good to not shy away from such a topic. 

Now, would I recommend going about the conversation in the way I did? No. However, I still stand by the idea that politics and religion absolutely have a place at the holiday table.

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