There are two topics that you are always told to avoid at the dinner table: religion and politics. We are told to avoid these subjects to be sensitive towards not offending anyone because offending them would, therefore, shut down the conversation. Some are put off by religious conversation at the dinner table because they feel that they do not know enough on the topic or are frustrated by how religion has been politicized. But, if we are not talking about religion and politics at our dinner table, where are we talking about these important topics?
A dinner table is a place meant for community—a sharing of stories and discussion. It is where the family comes together at the end of the day. It is the place where friends, both new and old, gather to grow their relationship. Yet, often the dinner table is left to collect dust instead of crumbs and silence instead of shared stories. We have a bad habit of only coming together during holidays or birthdays instead of engaging in community and conversation at a dinner table, especially conversation about religion, politics, and the overlap of the two. If we break that bad habit, we also have to avoid the comfort of only inviting people whose religion or politics are comfortable to us. If you are discussing religion and politics at your dinner table but you look down and see that each member at your table is wearing the same shoes, you are still in danger.
“A world where religion and politics could be discussed without fear to hear all the voices at the table, including those with different perspectives, would be a world where solutions that are good, true, and beautiful for the world”
Continued dialogue about the intersection of religion, politics, and the different perspectives on these two topics would lead to a flourishing world where not just certain humans are represented in policies, but all humans are represented. A world where religion and politics could be discussed without fear to hear all the voices at the table, including those with different perspectives, would be a world where solutions that are good, true, and beautiful for the world—those who are present at the table and the ones not present. There would definitely still be some conflicts that would have to be worked through on religious and political matters, but healthy conflicts can lead to a solution that is best for the human race. Different religions and faiths teach the basic principles of love and compassion. These are simple ideas, but they have shaped the most revolutionary events of our time. The time is now to revolutionize the dinner table conversations.
In the film “Beyond Our Differences,” Peter Bisanz makes the claim that, “we believe that we can, through our faith, make a difference. People everywhere want to believe in the fundamental power of good and the possibility of change.” Let us stop merely wanting to believe this and let us act upon that belief. Let us invite other voices and perspectives to the table. Even if you do see that your religion is the “true religion” and the only way to the highest truth, other perspectives at your table lead you closer to the highest truth. Even if you cannot see the common truths among religions, lean into the common ethics and the common denominator of our fellow human-ness.
“Wear your religion and political humbly and graciously, and allow these two areas of your life to overflow into other discussions and shape how we talk about one another.”
Please do not hear this as the call to begin every dinner conversation with, “What does your religion say about this aspect of legislature?” Also, please do not hear this as a plea to only have diversity at your dinner table solely to have diversity at your dinner table (diversity solely for diversity’s sake is tokenism and not what I am asking for). This is an assertion to step out of what you have been taught, the comfort of taking off your religious and political hats as you walk in the door of a home. Wear your religion and political humbly and graciously, and allow these two areas of your life to overflow into other discussions and shape how we talk about one another.
Beginning somewhere as simple as your dinner table with these pluralistic conversations allows them to eventually leave your home and begin at another home. If a domino effect of dinner table conversations happened, where we were not afraid to engage in a religion or political perspective different than ours, what would happen? What if we did not compartmentalize different portions of our lives but lived in the connectedness of our thoughts and actions?
The table is set. Dinner is served. Come and eat, if you will.
Erin Jagus is a junior double major in Religion and Psychology (“no, I don’t think I want to go into Christian counseling—though I’m a big fan of it when it’s done right. I just love the Lord and connect with him through intellectually stimulating theological arguments and find people truly fascinating”). She love coffee, sunshine, headbands, dogs, reading, and meaningful conversation. She is a big fan of Brenè Brown and the Oxford comma.