It has been nearly 20 years since I first heard the comment, “In our house we don’t talk about religion and politics.” It is an unfortunate and true reality for many of our families in this changing/shifting/uncertain time. It is largely true for me and my family as well. We talked (actually argued) over religion for a few years and now know well enough to leave it alone. There is no sense in spoiling our dinner!
Monday morning I met with Christine, the daughter of two of our most active members at Eastminster. In our tradition her parents are what are called “pillars of the church”. You will recognize her story. She grew up in the Presbyterian Church and as she found her way out into the world she was exposed to a much broader scope of thought and belief. Some people quietly slip away from the church of their childhood. Christine says that when organized religion comes up she “runs as fast and as far away as she can.”
Even the fact that she and I were able to have breakfast together was a sign that there is some softening taking place. I don’t want you to think that I am slowly softening her up so that one day she will discover she is “back in fold” without realizing it was happening. This is not some subtle manipulation. In fact, in many ways her softening is the result of Eastminster accepting and understanding the spiritual lives of their children and grandchildren. Many members at Eastminster tell me that their children think of themselves as part of that growing demographic, “the spiritual but not religious”. I was met with Michelle and Mark on Monday. Michelle is the daughter of past active members at Eastminster. She has continued to worship in a mainline Protestant congregation but her children are also part of this shifting demographic.
Nearly 20 years ago that line “In our house we don’t talk about religion or politics” struck a chord with me. I thought, “Iisn’t it too bad that we can’t talk about the two areas that are most responsible for shaping who we are, the values we live by, and what we believe about the world and our place in it. If we have come to the place where to stay together as a family we need to keep our conversations to “How are the kids?” and “Did that storm knock a few of your roses off the bush too?” what does that say about what it means to be family? I am being overly simplistic (well…maybe!). But, what kind of depth and acceptance do we have as families if we can’t talk about what is most important to us? Why do we have to agree in order to have our lives out in the open?
I don’t blame any one of us. I don’t blame myself or my dad or my sister for not finding a way through this. And who can blame any family for staying away from the topics that threaten to tear at the fabric of kinship? We are all part of a culture where we tend to congregate in groups of like-minded people. Our rules of engagement are often set up to create winners and losers rather than an opportunity for greater understanding, depth, and connection. Despite the diversity of life around us there seems to be an invisible force that pushes us toward homogeneity.
Christine and her parents are still worlds apart (or at least they think they are), but on Monday she said that something ever so slight has shifted. Christine’s mother, a very dear person to me, has shared with her daughter some of what I have been saying from the pulpit in an attempt to help the congregation understand their “spiritual but not religious” children. Christine is starting to feel heard. Her parents are starting to understand their children better. And no one is having to give up their faith or undermine their spiritual values.
Wouldn’t it be great if one day we could say, “In our house we wrestle over issues of religion and politics because that’s what’s worth talking about!” Gotta go…the weather is great here. How’s the weather in your world? Just asking.