It’s OK not to get along with your homophobic relatives at Thanksgiving

The holidays are upon us! For many of us, we’ll go back “home” for them. This means that we’ll be interacting with family and friends that maybe we haven’t seen in a while. Maybe that means you’ll be “happy in a million ways,” as Perry Como sings, or perhaps you’ll be receiving a “merry greeting from relatives you don’t know,” as Frank Sinatra offers. Nevertheless, when family comes together, especially in an election year such as this, politics is bound to come up. Some folks want to avoid it like the plague, others want to engage in a debate like they are on cable news, and still others want us to transcend our political differences. In fact, a Christian columnist for the New York Times told us that “even our political enemies deserve a slice of pie.” She exhorted us to “take a break from the talk of politics.” She concludes in her tone-deaf piece:

I’m all for political debate. It is crucial. But I’m also for intentionally carving out moments, days and weeks when we avoid talking about politics to make room for finding one another again beneath our political opinions and identities.

What Tish Harrison Warren, who published this piece a day after the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs where five LBGT people were killed and 25 were injured, doesn’t know is that queer people, disabled people, BIPOC people don’t have mere political opinions – we have political bodies. And the rhetoric that Warren and other fundamentalist Christians don’t understand that their homophobia and transphobia, even as it is cloaked in polite tones, leads to the violence and death that happened in Colorado Springs. To merely set aside our political differences and to take a break from political discourse is to set aside the very lives of LBGTQIA people in favor of “peace.” It is like when Jeremiah cries out:

They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
    saying, “Peace, peace,”
    when there is no peace.

I think that homophobic Christians, even the ones who try to find a third way between appeasing those people who hate queer folks and the very queer folks themselves (which is just a dishonest way of siding with bigotry, contribute to violence and are complicit in it. I understand that they might not be as awful as Tucker Carlson or other right-wing pundits that raise alarms about gender ideology and the damage is does to children. But even if they don’t want to imprison the parents of trans kids, not taking a side, effectively leaves them unchallenged, and ultimately legitimizes their perspective.

We know that hateful rhetoric leads to violence, and tolerance of that rhetoric is the same as perpetuating it. There’s no difference between someone who thinks we need to polite to bigots and the bigots themselves. Asking us to set aside our very identities to have a peaceful holiday, hardly makes it peaceful for us. That sort of unity bears down on the oppressed more than it does anyone. The oppressor’s peace comes at our expense.

But I want to be clear, that does not mean that we need to engage in political debate at the Thanksgiving table. I have decided that I will not to do that. I have decided to set a boundary myself. I get far too emotionally wrapped in trying to win an argument that I end up hurting myself. I do not that for the sake of peace and love, but for my own survival. And you can choose to set your own boundary. Maybe you want to get into a conversation, to challenge bigotry. Or maybe you don’t even want to show up at all.

A lot of Christians think that kindness and tolerance are what Jesus might do with his “political enemies” at Thanksgiving, but Jesus was much more assertive in his table ethics. In fact, he told his disciples to dust their heels if a town won’t welcome them or hear their words:

“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.”–Matthew 10:14

In the same passage, Jesus proclaimed that he didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword! Jesus is entirely unafraid to bring “division” to his holiday table. Here’s how he puts it:

 “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”–Matthew 10:37-39

Jesus isn’t afraid to make his viewpoint and stance clear, and even to not with those that put the least of these at risk.

The bottom line is that words matter, ideas matter, and they can lead to harm. When we tolerate them, we are part of the problem. Bigoted rhetoric leads to hate crimes, and tolerating it at the holiday table, extends it.

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