Don't Be Afraid of Thanksgiving

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With tomorrow being Thanksgiving (if this is news to you, stop reading and go buy a turkey) many people will be gathering around the table with those they see a handful of times throughout the year. Whether limited by geography or by the distance between persons on the family tree, we all have family members we see less frequently than we should. There is another category of family member we will be gathering with tomorrow too: our gun-totting lifetime-NRA member uncle or our liberal, tree-hugging socialist niece. Many would rather gather around a table with total strangers than be forced into conversation with the crazy outlier of the family.

With the political climate the way it is right now, there are people who are genuinely fearful of their Thanksgiving dinner. We are not scared of contracting food poisoning from Aunt Sally's cheeseball that has been at room temperature for the past two days but are fearful of engaging in discussions over politics, conspiracy theories, or whether or not Obama is an American citizen (yes, people are still debating that). Even the things we use to find common ground on, such as football, on Thanksgiving are now political.

Even if Rob Bell suggests that we need to talk about politics, do we really have to do that on Thanksgiving?

This week there have been multiple blog posts and podcasts geared towards helping us deal with the upcoming turkey-paloza.

Steve Austin (not Stone Cold) gave us 12 survival tips for the holidays.

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On 1A from WAMU, Joshua Johnson hosted a roundtable discussion focused on civility in conversation as an alternative to staring at your phone for 4 hours during and after dinner.

Folks are dreading Thanksgiving this year. This is not anything new. As social media has grown, our ability to engage in civil conversations and discourse has decreased. Now, going into the holiday season, heart burn is being caused by the impending conversation and not the overeating that will happen.

This heartburn has always been present.  We've always had the crazy uncle or grandparent who rattled of racially insensitive jokes or made inappropriate political comments.

The family table is a place where we can create sanctuary for ourselves and our families.  

We know there is division in our communities and more importantly in our families but we do not have to bring those divisions to the dinner table. Jana Strukova, Founder and Executive Director of the Mary and Martha Center for Women and Community Care, Inc., wrote that, "meal and table talk represent a means of welcome to more heart-felt and in-depth talk."

To do this though we have let down our guard and be willing to put what divides us on the side burner. You do not have to talk about politics tomorrow. You do not have to poke the bear with a stick. The problem with only gathering around the table once or twice a year is that we have not built up a relationship with one another. Relationships lead to confidence and trust, and with out those conversations around difficult topics tend to be barbed and hurtful.

Strukova writes that "having a meal together is a practice of sharing"

Gathering around the table with the those we disagree with is a practice of sharing our lives together, even if we do not see eye-to-eye on the current political climate in America. Strukova adds that "the greatest benefit of having a family meal is the message it conveys:  We have time for one another, and we care about one another."

One of the things I love about the story of the Last Supper is that in the midst of what was to come, Jesus had time for those he was closest with. I'm not implying that being crucified at your Thanksgiving dinner makes you more like Jesus but remember that Jesus gathered around the table with someone who would betray him, resulting in his death. Gathering around the table with those who may disagree with (after all politics is not the end all place in our nation) is a way we can continue to live out the ministry of Christ, continuing the revelation of God as human with the tangibles we understand most (presence, care, and food).