You are at Christmas dinner, and your uncle brings up a hot political topic, one in which strikes a nerve in you. And your uncle knows the topic gets to you, because you have disagreed before. The family is listening and watching. You try to ignore it and then give in and state your piece. It becomes a bit uncomfortable as your uncle becomes more animated and serious. How do you keep these disagreements from spoiling the holiday spirit?
The holidays are here, and we all bring our political views with us as we gather together. Political divisions amid the holiday season stirs up a lot of emotions and issues as the holidays bring our diverse opinions around the same table. Combining family dynamics and politics can be a touchy scenario to maneuver. Political differences can cause fights and even family splits. It is possible not to allow political differences to strain familial relationships. You can be on opposite sides of the political spectrum without it becoming a serious issue.
I once heard that the reason we cannot discuss politics is because we have never been taught how to discuss politics. This may be true, but the adage that you should never discuss religion or politics often proves true. Our current culture loves to talk about politics, and it seems everything spoken has a political undertone to it. We either completely ignore politics, or we are overly aggressive about politics. There are ways of maneuvering political talk with relatives at the holidays.
First, we need to remember that there is no political party or political perspective that fully encompasses the Gospel. Only God’s Word can do that. Jesus points us in the direction in which we need to go. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. John 14:6. Each party has major flaws and each point can leave another ethical issue unaddressed. It is important to remember that each party has it’s own positives as well. We are ruling with human reasoning which is sinful and flawed in nature. Only the Word of God fully encompasses the Truth. We have to accept that it’s not just the opposing view that’s flawed, it’s also our own.
It is important to remember that behind a political view is a person. The person is more than his or her party or view. They are your relative or friend. Being mindful of the other person and his or her feelings will create a more compassionate and understanding environment when it comes to politics, especially those that are opposing. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” Ephesians 4:32.
Talk to your relative privately prior to the family gathering. Let him or her know your concerns and your point of view. It’s possible your relative also sees this as an issue and is uncertain what to do to resolve it. Taking the lead on giving some potential solutions is a great way to address a problem. You may even agree to save the political gab for another time, or agree to discuss politics for a few short minutes or in a different room. You can also agree to keep the political talk playful with some impersonal sparring. If needed you may feel it is necessary to let them know you will not be discussing politics on the holiday. No matter the resolve, you are going directly to the person, which can be the most helpful. Talking about the dynamic of the relationship directly can be the most beneficial in preserving a healthy relationship. Remember that it is ok to disagree. Political views vary because of personality differences and life experiences.
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11).
Some individuals are not willing to pull in the reigns and set guidelines. It may take you alone resolving the issue. First, you can try ignoring the political bait and change the subject. Ask someone about their personal lives, like what's going on at school or work. People usually bring up politics to engage in a conversation. There is nothing more squashing than not giving any attention to someone that wants a discussion. Usually, the person will give up and will start talking about something else. It is possible the person does not even realize he or she is doing this. If the person continues or is offensive and insulting, you can tell them kindly that you do not want to talk about it then and can address the issue later. You can also try to find things to talk about that you agree on. Most can find at least one point to agree on.
The holidays can be challenging in many families. Politics can make their tense appearance into the family gatherings. But in Christ’s love and with clear communication, you can manage political differences with loved ones, even on the holidays.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster