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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
FINAL TIP: AVOID THE EYE ROLL!
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.
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.
Jake 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?
The so-called Alliance Defending Freedom (i.e., discrimination) has struck again with another frivolous appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. This time, they’ve picked a terrible case. They’re arguing that judges should have the right to express their religious views publicly. In October 2014, the Wyoming Supreme Court declared that Wyoming had to issue a marriage […]
I’m not sure what it says about me (probably just that I’m typical), but I love enjoying my first and second (and sometimes third) cups of coffee each morning while browsing on my computer. I love checking in on Slack with my writing mastermind group, updating my gratitude journal. Then I check emails. But this morning, I can’t get online. TO FIND OUT HOW TO “MICROSOFT” TECHNOLOGY PROBLEMS…
My husband and I were having caviar cones at our favorite restaurant in Beverly Hills, when I raised the specter of chartering a jet and taking some friends to Sonoma for his 50th birthday. It should only be an hour and half flight from Palm Springs, and I figured I could schedule a lunch with Liz in the Bubble Room at J winery, our favorite spot for sparklers. Afterwards, I imagined an afternoon of pinot tasting at Banshee with Zack followed by an early dinner at Chalkboard, featuring their pasta tasting menu.
My husband doesn’t like birthdays and doesn’t want a fuss, but I feel that I have standards to maintain.
The moments in life when you are special, when you are treated differently, and when things are going great – How can you cherish those unless you’ve been through a lot? We only get to enjoy first class because we’ve spent most of our times in coach. I encourage you to relish those moments at the back of the bus because they’re training you for when you get your moment. If everything is first class, then nothing is first class. READ MORE.
Nike’s motto is not something best left on a T-shirt. “Just Do It” should be the mantra for how we all live our lives. The battle is not to figure out how to solve all the problems before acting or overcome all the fears before doing. There’s never the perfect time. Sometimes, you just have to take that leap and then pick up the pieces. You can’t perfectly plan your life (and I’m talking to my fellow Virgos in particular here). There are some things that you’ll screw up, but you’ll have the memories of all the things that you did do.
And not the regret of all the things you did not.
Follow your passions, loyal readers. It’s the best advice you’ll ever get.
A proper flight begins with champagne, and I’m not talking the $7 a bottle Prosecco that US carriers try to give you for pre-flight. I mean the fancy French stuff that can actually be called Champagne because it’s from that region in France.
I’ve responded to the election of Donald Trump like a death. On November 8th, I went to bed in denial thinking that maybe I’d wake up, and it would have been a bad dream. Then I was angry that people would vote for someone I considered unfit for the most important job in the world. Next, I was willing to bargain with the courts in Michigan and Pennsylvania to do a recount. And finally, I was just depressed.
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.
As we honor the memory of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., I think we should never forget that he was a reluctant leader of the civil rights movement. His true calling was as a pastor. And every year on this day, I’m inspired by all of the MLK-quote memes shared on Facebook to dive deep into his wisdom and read a few of his sermons.
This week, I’m dispensing with the normal Grey Matters format to share with you something I’ve learned the hard way. Marriage takes work, and relationships are never perfect. On Halloween, I celebrated my 8th wedding anniversary. And I’ll be honest. On October 31, 2008, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get married. It’s not […]
Glick and Preon are intergalactic space travelers and members of the Bratoon race of humanoids. They are about to spend the next few years on the planet H-trae. The physiology of Glick and Preon requires them to take a pill in order for them to be able to survive in H-trae’s environment. They have two […]
Three months ago, Philip and Brooke moved with their ten-year old son, Andre, from their predominantly black neighborhood on the south side of Atlanta to a white suburb on the north side. Andre just started at his new school and is playing on a local football team. Although fictional, this story is inspired by true […]
Miles is 17 years old and wants to be a Southern Baptist preacher, the same as his father and grandfather. But Miles has a problem. He struggles with same-sex attractions. For the past year, he’s been dating Tracy, a girl who goes to his church. But Tracy has a brother named Scott, and Miles is more attracted to the brother than his own girlfriend. Tracy’s family has a pool, and Miles spent all summer over there, trying not to look (but failing) at Scott. Miles just wants to have normal feelings like everyone else. He wants to look at Tracy and notice her for what she has to offer. But he can’t stop thinking about the fact that her brother has the same emerald green eyes and red hair, and that if he squints hard enough, he can pretend that he is kissing Scott.
Jake was born in South Korea. Adopted by a lesbian couple when he was ten months old, he has lived in North Carolina ever since. He is gay, right-handed, a baseball player, and eighteen-years old. He just started college at Stonewall Jackson University, a small liberal arts college in South Carolina. General Stonewall Jackson was […]
Jake was born in South Korea. He was adopted by a lesbian couple when he was ten months old and has lived in North Carolina ever since. Gay, right-handed, a baseball player, and eighteen-years old, he just started college at Stonewall Jackson University, a small liberal arts college in South Carolina. General Stonewall Jackson was […]
Chad checked his watch. He and his friends had been waiting in the bar area of the restaurant for almost an hour. He loved this place, but it didn’t take reservations, and getting a table for eight on a Friday night required a wait. It did give him a chance to catch up with his […]
This is a story about apologies featuring Liz and her best friend, John. “I can’t believe it’s only Tuesday!” Liz texted her gay BFF. “Señor Miguels and margaritas?” An instantaneous reply. “YEAASSS!” It had been a couple weeks since Liz and John had gone out for drinks after work. Liz’s fault. She had a new […]
Please enjoy this week’s guest blog post from Amanda Toler Woodward. Birds do it, bees do it, and I hate to break it to you, we do it, too. I’m aging as I type this. You’re aging as you read it. If we’re both lucky we’ll keep aging until we are . . . gasp […]
ISSUE: Couples often face family disapproval. This could be because someone has married outside of their race or religion or nationality, and in many cultures, parents would never want their children to marry a same-sex partner. One option is to just not ever tell the parents about the wedding. But this is challenging and could […]
ISSUE: Talking about religion can be uncomfortable for people, and hearing others talk about their religion can be downright off-putting. In this week’s Grey Matters, we look at the issue of faith and the professional athlete. In particular, should an Olympic runner for Team USA give praise to Allah for his gold medal? This story […]
ISSUE: This week in Grey Matters, we look at the First Amendment and the free exercise of religion, and how far should this be protected. In particular, should a doctor be forced to choose between following her faith and practicing medicine. Let’s examine this topic with a fictional story about Dr. Evelyn Wright, a pediatrician in […]
ISSUE: This election year, our nation is deeply divided over who should lead our country for the next four years. In this week’s Grey Matters, we look at the issue of talking about politics at work. Specifically, is there any reason for a Trump supporter and a Hillary supporter to talk about this year’s election? […]
ISSUE: More than half of Americans say that faith is important to them, but it’s not something that many people talk about. In this week’s Grey Matters, we look at the issue of sharing your faith at work. Specifically, should Gayle be able to invite her co-worker Amanda to a church event or does her […]
ISSUE: This week in Grey Matters, I want to share with you a story, inspired by a conversation I had with a friend. It’s about the talk that black parents have with their kids about interactions with the police and the police shootings. Let’s examine this topic with a fictional story about Philip and Brooke, and […]
ISSUE: This week in Grey Matters, we look at a dilemma facing every married couple, gay or straight. What do you do about the social convention where the wife takes the husband’s last name? Let’s examine this topic with a fictional story about Juan Gomez, an attorney, and Billy White, a personal trainer. The couple has […]
ISSUE: This week in Grey Matters, we look at a trend in the healthcare industry where religious-affiliated groups are taking over public hospitals and applying their ethics and values. Specifically, is it ok for religious-affiliated hospitals to limit treatment options for patients ? Let’s examine this topic with a fictional story about Carol and Dr. […]
ISSUE: This week in Grey Matters, we look at discrimination and the sharing economy. Specifically, should a person have the right to refuse to rent a room in her home to a gay couple? Let’s examine this topic with a fictional story about Dot and Austin, lifelong residents of Nashville, TN. BACKGROUND: For more than […]
The characters and events in Grey Matters are fictitious. ISSUE: This week in Grey Matters – We look at the issue of “coming out” relative to the consequences. Specifically, does the CEO of a company have the right to publicly announce that he is gay even if it might affect his employees, corporate earnings and […]
A cultural war is brewing – even the media is speaking of it in these terms – as hundreds gather in Raleigh, North Carolina to either support or protest last month’s overturning of a controversial law. The city of Charlotte had passed an ordinance protecting the LGBT community from discrimination and allowing people to use […]
Life is a lot easier when you just accept the fact the world is full of idiots.
It’s nice to be proud of where you’re from. I grew up in South Carolina, and I was always jealous of North Carolina. This started when I was in first grade and someone from North Carolina moved into our neighborhood. He bragged about how the North defeated the South in the Civil War, and I […]
This is the first blog in my “All the Words in Red” series where we take a look at what Jesus said and apply that to 21st century problems. When I was a kid growing up in rural South Carolina, we had a saying, “Thank God for Mississippi.” The reason we said this: even […]
Please check out this public service announcement from the non-political Ellen Degeneres. I love her comment that she could buy the governor’s mansion, redo it, flip it and make $7 million.
It’s been a crazy week in anti-LGBT legislation. For a boy from South Carolina, it’s been interesting to see how my neighbors, Georgia and North Carolina, have behaved. On March 23, 2016, the state of North Carolina passed a law that struck down an ordinance passed by the city council of Charlotte, the state’s largest […]
I try my best to be balanced. I want to be a voice of reason and try to understand both sides of an issue– any issue – and see how we can reach common ground. But there are some times that I just have to call out hatred and discrimination for what it is. In […]
This November, Missouri voters will be able to pass an amendment that will enshrine in the Missouri Constitution the right to discriminate against same sex couples on the grounds of a sincere religious belief. With a change in their procedural rules, Missouri Republican Senators stopped a thirty-nine-hour filibuster of the anti-gay bill, sending it to […]
It’s been in the news for a couple of years now. Across the United States, small business owners have refused to provide services for same sex weddings. Just last month, in Longview, Texas, the owners of Kern’s Bakery, Edie Delorme and her husband, refused to bake a cake for an engaged gay couple, Ben […]
Pat Conroy died last night. As his wife, novelist Cassandra King Conroy, said, “The water is wide and he has now passed over.” It’s a common question writers get. Who were your main influences? I know that I’m a writer today primarily because of Pat Conroy. Growing up in South Carolina, I had an inferiority […]
As a gay man, I’d never understood transgender people. In fact, until recently, I never even bothered to try. I didn’t know anyone who was “that way” and just thought that a guy that wanted to be a girl was just taking the stereotypical gay effeminate nature to an extreme. But after watching Caitlyn Jenner’s […]
Every summer when I was a kid, we’d go to Myrtle Beach for a week. It was a four hour drive from where I grew up in Upstate South Carolina so there would be a couple stops along the way. Dad would give us a couple bucks, and my brother and I would go into […]
On Friday night, my husband and I went to the First Church of the Nazarene to hear Sarah Bessey, a Christian blogger from western Canada. From the moment we arrived in the gym where chairs and a mock living room stage had been set up for the conversation, I was touched by the energy in […]
The New York Times reported today that Pope Francis suggested that Donald Trump is not a Christian. Returning home to Rome after a six day trip to Mexico, the Pope told a reporter, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” Earlier that day, Pope […]
My husband and I were robbed on Saturday. It wasn’t our personal home, but one of our rental houses in Palm Springs. This was the second robbery at that property in a month. The first time they stole three brand new TVs. This time they took two of three TVs we had just purchased to […]
I failed today in my mission to be a voice for discourse in our nation, not a voice of discord. My high school debate coach always told us to agree to disagree without being disagreeable. And that’s what I want to do, but I let my temper and anger get the best of me today. […]
What does it mean to come in second place? Last month, the Clemson Tigers tarnished their undefeated record with a loss to Alabama in the college football playoff. In the Super Bowl last night, the Carolina Panthers were stunned by the Denver Broncos. Is there any glory in 2nd? In the United States, coming in second doesn’t […]
I had lunch yesterday with some friends, several of whom are Republican, and nobody got Donald Trump’s appeal. But it’s very important to me to understand the other side. To listen to the views of Trump supporters on issues and try to figure out if we have areas of common ground. I grew up in Anderson, SC. […]
My Momma always told me, “You’re known by the company you keep.” I’m not sure the origin of this phrase, but the sentiment comes from Proverbs 13:20. “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the one who walks with fools will be destroyed.” Last night, Ted Cruz won the 2016 Iowa caucus […]
I’ve questioned how and why Donald Trump would have any support from evangelical Christian voters. But as one of my favorite Christian bloggers points out, a chunk of the right wing evangelical movement started in response to racial integration, and Mr. Trump certainly hits all the right notes with his anti-immigrant and overtly racially charged language. This […]
I’m in South Carolina this week visiting my family, and I’m reminded how much I miss the Southern language. Beyond the accent, us Southerners have our own language. Some of my favorites. He’s as country as a turnip. Said by the sales rep for the local gas company about one of the workers. It means […]
A week ago, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) captured ten U.S. sailors whose boats reportedly drifted into Iranian territorial waters. The sailors were kept overnight and released in the morning. The IRGC released a statement: “Following technical and operational investigations and in interaction with relevant political and national security bodies of the country and after […]
I had dinner with a friend in downtown San Diego last night. My friend walked me to my car, and we saw a gay couple walking in front of us with arms around each other. “That’s rare,” he said. I asked him why, and he said, “Outside of Hillcrest, you don’t see two guys affectionate […]