Here’s a peculiarly American paradox: We are the most affluent country in the history of the world, with an elaborate education system and expansive legal guarantees for free expression.
Yet many citizens are afraid of talking. Outside of the political/media circus in which people disagree theatrically, many people — right, left, and center — avoid thoughtful conversation with those who might disagree.
So, for anyone heading to a Thanksgiving gathering where there will be a variety of people, including some you know you disagree with, a bit of advice: Make sure you talk about religion and politics.
This goes against the conventional wisdom, but there are two good reasons, one selfish and the other moral.
The selfish reason: If we don’t talk about religion or politics, what else is there of interest to discuss? Let’s define “religion” broadly, as wrestling with ultimate questions of existence that are wrapped up in the query, “What does it mean to be a human being?” Let’s understand “politics” broadly, to mean the way we answer, “How should power and resources be distributed?” Those questions make life interesting.
Pushed down the wrong path, these conversations can make some people surly, but they can just as easily open up stimulating, honest exchanges. Here are two suggestions for fostering that engagement.
On religion: People will ask, “Do you believe in God?” Instead of taking that as an invitation to a verbal brawl, I respond, “What do you mean by God?” That invites a thoughtful exchange by asking others to expand on what they believe.
On politics: It’s difficult not to take disagreements about sexual behavior personally, but we can cultivate the ability to consider not just our own choices but the ...