The Two Things You Should Never Talk About at the Dinner Table, preamble
Generally speaking, in southern culture anyway, religion and politics are two topics one should never discuss in public settings, for they can only invite discord and misery. Consider the horror stories you have heard (or experienced) at family gatherings during the holidays. Celebration quickly turns to tragedy, plates get broken, and inevitably someone’s granny is left in tears.
This is an interesting concept for me, as I immigrated from a country where religion and politics are incredibly visible and at the center of civil life. Northern Ireland, historically, has been divided along lines drawn where religion informs politics, almost as an ethnic or
national boundary would, leading to fierce nationalism and prejudice. This culminated inseveral decades of on-again-off-again civil conflict known colloquially as “the Troubles”. Those divisions have little to do with what one believes as much as which tribe one belongs to, as the old joke goes:
“Are you a catholic or a protestant?”
“I’m an atheist.”
“Ay, but are you a catholic atheist or a protestant atheist?”
Perhaps this cultural norm changed the conversation around our dinner table growing up, but even now, with both my father and I being pastors, my brother Scott working in social justice arenas, my youngest brother Joel a history/civics teacher, and my mother an incredibly well-informed reader, our conversation darts between all manner of subjects with relative ease and lack of tension. In some way I think this has enabled me to bring down the dividing walls of my own understanding in how the good news of the Kingdom informs all manners of life: religious, political, economic, relational, and so on.
It is that good news that becomes the lens through which we can approach any of our contemporary issues:
Jesus is Lord, and _______ is not.
Insert whatever name/state/political theory you like. This statement is central to our discussion, for it transcends any sort of social category we may assume it falls in to. Indeed, I would say it might be the summary of the vast majority of the gospel. It is the giant yellow sun around which the other conceptual planets revolve and find their warmth.
I understand, in turn, that many people have not been handed such an open way to talk about such things in a faith community, or have been brought up in a way that the overlap of religion and politics has been skewed to lead to some assumptions that can be rather contrary to Jesus’ message. In the succeeding blog posts, I want to clarify and expand upon a few of the major tenants of what I believe are key lenses through which we approach the current political climate. My aim is not so much to tell everyone what to think, but help us learn how to see, thus giving us all the proper foundation to ask the hard questions about being followers of Christ in America in the 21st century.
I am also not expecting you to agree with me, I’m just subtle implying it (kidding). We are all on a journey, and everything must be held as conversation. May Grace and Peace guide us.