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Talking religion and politics

As families across America sat down for their Thanksgiving meals Thursday, looking for conversation with relatives they hadn’t seen since the Thanksgiving before, it’s sure that many people turned to the topics of religion and politics despite the subjects being perennially banned from the dinner table.

Not only are politics and religion a no-no for Thanksgiving dinners, they have become perceived as personal and private topics, not even to be mentioned among friends.

I say, if you don’t once bring up your religious or political beliefs with friends, you don’t have friends at all – they are merely acquaintances.

Sure, everybody is tired of politics right now, and rightfully so. Sexual assault allegations are flying left and right, Republican and Democrats are spatting seemingly more than ever, infighting in both parties looks like it is on the rise.

But maybe one of the reasons we are where we are today is because we don’t feel we can talk about these things openly and honestly with civility.

The real reason we keep our heads down and our beliefs to ourselves is because we’re afraid our “friends” wouldn’t like us so much if they knew what we believed; or perhaps we’re afraid if we knew what our friend believed we’d kick them to the curb.

The problem isn’t the topics – it’s the people. We treat politics like a sport instead of a real choice on policies that may help better everyone’s lives.

We view the “other side” as too obstinate to understand our views, all the while ignorant to the fact that we are just as obstinate and engrained in our own beliefs.

We must open our minds and quench our egos. We need to start listening to the people around us who think differently than we do. That’s how we learn, and it’s how we teach others.

More than anyone else, families should be able to have these open and frank discussions without jumping to nasty conclusions about their relatives or ruining the dinner with a tirade.

There is an opportunity to turn the tables and speak freely around the table about our faith or issues that we are passionate about without bringing on a heated argument.

We should listen with true interest to the beliefs of our family members, friends, coworkers – even strangers.

Hiding your passions for the sake of family and friendship is no way to live; I’m begging those people who steadfastly hold their beliefs to continue holding fast to that faith. But, standing firm, open your heart and mind to another person with a different perspective and let them be heard.

Maybe one day, if we do this, we can look forward to having conversations at Thanksgiving dinners instead of dreading them.

That would be something to be thankful for indeed.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter for the Messenger. He can be contacted at jacob.holmes@troymessenger.com.