Monday, January 4, 2010

Religion and Politics at the Dinner Table, Pt. 1

What do you talk about at the dinner table? If you are like many families, you discuss what different members of the family did during the day, what was learned at school or what the evening schedule will look like. Other families don't meet up for dinner  - instead some members may eat in the kitchen as they are cooking, some may eat something that came from a chain drive through window on their way home from work. Still others will eat while watching their television sets. If anecdotal evidence is accurate, people are talking about things that happened to them personally or they simply aren't talking at all.

Is it bad to talk about things that happen to you personally? No. If your family lives a disconnected lifestyle, then there is a need to reconnect to see if everyone is doing well and to identify issues that need to be addressed. Is it bad to disconnect from others in the most intimate of all cultures, that of the family? Yes, indeed it is.

Today, our teens are leaving home without making a commitment to that which is higher and nobler than themselves. They are not committing to a lasting relationship with God. They are not committing to be an active part of society as a whole. There are many reasons being proposed for this phenomenon, but I am going to focus on what I think may be a contributing factor. As a culture, we have stopped discussing that which is important to us with our children, friends and neighbors. We have heard and followed the rule - don't discuss religion and politics at the dinner table. As a result, we have forgotten how to share our beliefs and ideas with one another in a respectful manner. We have also forgotten how to focus on the subject of a conversation.  How far do you really get into a discussion on health care without straying to the subject of the President himself?

Speaking specifically as a Christian, we constantly hear that people are walking away from the church when they leave high school.  Why?  I think part of the reason may be that we have not taken the responsibility of training our children in matters of faith seriously. Additionally, and the most important, we have failed to communicate that Christianty is a relationship with God through Christ. In discussing faith at the dinner table, we can go far in showing by example, how we process matters of faith within the context of our relationship with God. It isn't enough to read the Bible and do a Bible study, although I certainly believe that those are critical parts of the formation of a personal faith. First and foremost we must be in a relationship with God and discuss that relationship with our families. I am not proposing a true confessions scenario, but instead am proposing relational honesty with Christ and with one another. Instead of discussing the pastor at the dinner table, why not get your sermon notes and talk about how the teaching applies to you and engage your familiy in a conversation along the same lines? When your your child relates a neighborhood or school incident to you, do you examine it in light of God's word? Was the situation pleasing to Him? Did your response to it reflect His presence in your life? If you weren't directly involved, are you gossiping or are you trying to process the situation? If you are trying to process the situation, be sure to center your discussion around facts, not people. I can see why people would walk away from an organization such as a church if we have failed to teach them about a relationship with Christ and the lifelong process that is involved.

If your relationship with Christ is important, you must be willing to talk about it at the dinner table. Likewise, you must be willing to talk about all aspects of life in the context of your Christian beliefs - don't shy away from controversy and be willing to talk about the hard questions.

On another day I will discuss politics at the dinner table, but for now - think abou this and let me know - are you discussing faith at the dinner table with your family? What does that look like for you? If you don't, what is keeping you from doing so?

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