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How to Discuss Politics at the Thanksgiving Table

Tina Fey Eye Roll
Avoid the eye roll at all costs!

Ready to try a difficult conversation at the Thanksgiving dinner table this year? No idea how to start? Here are some tips:

As the host of the podcast BE THE BRIDGE, I spend several hours a week reading, researching, writing and talking to people about how we can improve the relationship between the faith and LGBTQIA+ communities. One question I typically ask my guests is how can we have better conversations about faith and sexuality. The answer I get most often is surprising. Because it’s counterintuitive. It doesn’t seem to make sense.

If you want to have a conversation with someone who disagrees with you about an issue, listen. And by that I’m not saying to listen just long enough to figure out what the person is saying and then start coming up with rebuttal points. And don’t just listen because it’s polite. And don’t listen just because you want the person to have the same respect for you when you speak. BUT REALLY LISTEN.

Try to answer these questions:
  1. Why does this person think this way? And the answer is not because they’re a Nazi or an idiot. These people at your Thanksgiving table are your friends and family. I’m sure they have some laudable value behind their thinking. Maybe the issue affects them personally in a way that you don’t know or don’t understand.
  2. Is there anything you can learn from their position? It’s too bad that in our echo chambers on Facebook, social media and our media outlet of choice, we are only given one side of an issue. There may be some value in what the person is saying. Think of it like an Easter Egg hunt for ideas at the Thanksgiving table. The real joy is finding something unexpected.
  3. How are this person’s experiences different from your own? Ask questions about their personal story that might illuminate the rationale behind their position on an issue.

If the person seems interested in your view, then and only then, ask the person if you can share your opinion. BUT ALWAYS START by affirming their position. Point out the strength or value in their argument. Try to find one thing in their position that you agree with.

Agree to Disagree but Don’t be Disagreeable

And then just share why you feel the way that you do. We’re too inundated with facts and logic to really change our minds these days. Maybe the best we can do is just to agree to disagree without being disagreeable.


When you’re listening, please resist the temptation to “respond” with the dreaded eye roll. Y’all. I know it’s tough. I’ve perrfected the eye roll. I could teach a class on the eye roll –  Shoot both eyes up while keeping your head perfectly still. Roll your eyes to the right or left and then slowly turn your head in that direction, as if the force of your eyes is so strong that your head can’t help but follow.  Once your head is all the way to the left or right, exhale in a huff and return head to center, but then look beyond the person, as if there’s someone standing just behind them with a knife and is about to stab the person. DON’T DO THIS THOUGH! I just want you to understand that I know what I’m talking about here. Really listen and give them the “I understand what you’re saying” head bob.  Do you know this one?  It’s sort of squinty eyes and slow head nodding. An occasional verbal cue can help.  My goto these days is “right. . . right.” You don’t have to be saying they’re correct, but you could just be saying, “Yes, that’s probably what someone right of Hitler would think.”  NO!  Don’t do that! Be sincere.

Listening, like math, is hard.


It’s Time for a New “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy

Satanic Wedding Cake
image via The Satanic Temple

In what I’m calling the “Battle of the Cakes”, The Satanic Temple has joined the fighting. They released the following statement this week:

“Our organization has received a lot of concerned messages from people who are upset by the prospect of an environment in which the LGBTQ community are openly and legally treated as second-class citizens. The laws of the United States require that no one may discriminate by way of refusal of service against an evangelical theocrat for their religious beliefs, but the evangelical theocrat may discriminate against LGBTQ people because of who they are. Because religion is a protected class, a baker may refuse service to LGBTQ people, but they may not refuse service based upon someone’s religion. If they aren’t willing to make a cake for same-sex unions, let’s have them make a cake to honor Satan instead.”

The Satanic Temple raises an interesting argument, but their point is wrong.

I don’t think people shouldn’t be able to force a baker or any artist to create something they wouldn’t make for anyone else. Jack Phillips, the Oregon baker whose case is going to the Supreme Court next month, doesn’t make Halloween-themed cakes, and no one is trying to get him to bake the hideous cake in the photo.

But if a baker asked a couple where they were getting married, and the couple said, “At our local Satanic Temple, federal laws REQUIRE baker to make the cake for the Satan-loving couple. A baker can’t discriminate on the basis of the religion of his customers.

Maybe the better solution in all of this is for bakers to stop being so nosy. In order to make a multi-tiered cake, does the baker need to know the cake’s ultimate use? Maybe it’s time for a new Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

Should Gay Couples Adopt a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy to Beat Baker Discrimination?

Rainbow Muffin TowerJake wants his boyfriend Harry to have his dream wedding, and this includes a mini muffin tower from Bob’s Bakery.

Bob was the best baker in town, famous for his seasonal muffins. Each October, he made pumpkin muffins with pecans and cream cheese frosting. Customers lined up around the block. Harry loved Bob’s bakery ever since he was a kid.

Harry would always take his boyfriend Jake to the bakery on their “anniversary,” the day they met at a Halloween party. They’ve dated for three years, and a couple weeks ago, Jake asked Harry to marry him. Jake had ordered a special muffin at Bob’s Bakery, which Bob had decorated with the phrase “Will You Marry Me?” on top.

On their anniversary, Harry and Jake went into the bakery to order what Bob calls his “wedding muffin tower.” Bob makes mini muffins that taste like wedding cake, and he arranges them on a special tower.

Harry was thrilled as he and Jake looked through Bob’s portfolio of muffin towers, but they wanted Bob to create something Halloween-themed since that was the day they met.

Harry had to run to work so Jake stayed behind to talk to Bob to place the order.

“We love your muffins,” Jake said when Bob came over to the table he and Harry had shared near the front window.

“I’m so glad. Baking is my true passion in life.”

“I love the muffin towers in your portfolio, but I was wondering if you’d consider doing something spooky? Like maybe have the cupcakes decorated with ghosts and witches and add fake spider webs?”

Bob shook his head. “I’m not really able to do anything other than what’s in this book here. I’m Christian, and I don’t do Halloween-themed baked goods.”

“Oh,” Jake said. He was a little disappointed but then thought for a moment. Their florist-friend Phillipe could do a much better job than Bob decorating the muffin tower. Jake smiled. “That’s okay,” he told Bob. “We’ll just order tower #7 and decorate it ourselves.”

“Great,” Bob said, and got his order book. Bob asked Jake for his relevant information, and then he asked for the bride’s name.

Jake chuckled and said, “My fiance’s name is Harry, and we haven’t quite decided who’s the bride and who’s the groom.”

“I’m sorry then,” Bob said and shut his book.

“It was a joke,” Jake said. “We’re both grooms. We’ll both be in tuxes.”

“No. It’s not that. As I told you before, I’m Christian.” Bob stood up from the table. “I can’t support two guys getting married.”

The words hit Jake like a bran muffin, and he could feel his insides churning. “But you made and decorated my marriage proposal muffin.”

“I didn’t realize you were going to use one of my engagement muffins to propose to a man.” Bob wrested his portfolio from Jake’s hands. “I would never have sold you that muffin if I’d known.”

Jake’s anger would boil up later, but at that moment, he couldn’t hold back the tears. He slumped in his chair and wished he weren’t sitting in the window as dozens of hipsters cruised by on their way to the local farmer’s market. After the public display of rejection and a good cry, Jake scarfed down the last of the pumpkin-pecan muffin. He knew they’d never be back to the bakery, and he worried what he’d tell Harry. His entire life, Harry had dreamed of a Bob’s mini muffin tower on his wedding day.

But then he thought of a plan. He’d just have his sister order the cake for a party. Bob didn’t need to know the purpose of the event. And Harry would never need to know. This “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy would work perfectly, and although it wasn’t his cheat day, Jake ordered another pumpkin-pecan muffin to go.


WHAT’S YOUR VIEW ON JAKE’S PLAN? Is it okay for him to trick Bob and lie to him about the true use of the muffin tower?


Earlier Posts

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And not the regret of all the things you did not.

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I’ve Handled the Election of Donald Trump like a Death. One way I’m coping.

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I can’t hide in my liberal California bubble, praying that God does indeed cause an earthquake splitting my state from the rest of the country.

To Make America Great Again, We Need to Rediscover Precious Values

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