Disagree With Family on Politics? Here’s the Only Advice You Need for Thanksgiving
It's not that complicated.
The holidays are upon us. Along with headlines like How to maximize your leftovers and How to avoid 10 extra pounds, this gem always reemerges: How to talk about politics with your family.
Is that last kind of article really necessary? Its readers are rational beings, presumably. Aren’t they capable of navigating their own clan without step-by-step instructions?
It’s not that such articles are all bad. One piece, for instance, advises that we regulate contentious conversations to a “politics zone.” Remember that your family members are, well, your family. Appoint a mediator who can keep things civil between clashing kin.
But things might be simpler if we remembered just three principles when charging into familial political warfare.
1. That’s a Person You’re Talking To
Their ideas are insane. Their understanding of the system is all wrong. And their assumptions about you are offensive, proving how little they know.
But before you hurl that killer comeback, wait! The relative you’re talking to — that cousin, that step parent, that boyfriend no expected and who now requires a makeshift place setting — is a person. They have fears and dreams, just like you. A favorite TV show, just like you. A life outside their voting habits, just like you.
In short, they’re human … just like you.
So maybe that mic you wanted to drop would be better off tucked away. Instead, try to forge a new bond with them over something non-controversial, like pie. Speaking of which, would they like a slice?
2. God Loves Them
Okay, it’s true. Sometimes not even pie and shared humanity are enough to dam up your animosity. Especially if you think what they stand for is truly despicable. So can you toss the pie and hurl that comeback now? No. Because God loves them. Even after they voted for that scoundrel. After they joined that social movement. Right now, in all their polar-opposite-from-youness, God loves them enough to die for them.
If they don’t know Him yet, your behavior could have eternal implications. Will your love, despite your differences, point them to the Savior they need? Or will your hostility give them an excuse to write Christianity off?
If they do know God, there’s another imperative: to love them as a brother or sister in Christ. Perhaps you think they’re a disgrace to the faith because of their politics. Perhaps they think the same of you. But the love for God you both profess trumps everything else. If you share that, what you don’t share doesn’t matter. Not at Thanksgiving, anyway.
So why not talk about God instead? At the least, remember that He’s there, in your midst.
3. Politics Aren’t Everything
Often, we can’t get through one scroll of social media without seeing something political, and usually divisive. But politics aren’t everything.
Last weekend Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was interviewed by reporters at a “Celebrate the Family Banquet” in Des Moines, Iowa. He shared some critical insights regarding this point.
“Lots and lots of people differ on policy debates, they just don’t think policy defines the line between good and evil,” he told reporters. “They think that raising your kids to play sports right, with honor and integrity and respect, and to get your math homework done on time, and to be the kind of neighbors that people want to have living next door to you, all of those textured, communal things are more important than our political tribes.”
— Shane Vander Hart (@shanevanderhart) November 19, 2017
Sasse is right. One reason modern culture is so divided is because people have forgotten how to set politics aside, even during designated family time, like Thanksgiving dinner. Why not buck that trend? You can start this year by focusing on the “communal things” Sasse mentions.
This holiday season, you might be faced with the person you couldn’t agree with less. But remember, you only need three principles to survive: That person’s a person. God loves them. And politics, including your disagreements, aren’t everything. Happy Thanksgiving!