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“Unpacking the Politics and Religion of Thanksgiving: Why We All Need to Share Our Views

Thanksgiving has become a time for many Americans to come together. In the midst of delicious meals and great company, the conversations that occur around the dinner table can sometimes create tension between family members. It is inevitable that differences of opinions exist with politics and religion, and too often these topics are skipped over in attempts to avoid conflict. Wilhem van Asten, a a professor of religion and media at the University of St. Thomas, wrote in an essay for Al Jazeera that Americans should break this tradition and engage in conversations about religion and politics on Thanksgiving. One reason van Asten proposes is to become more informed and have informed conversations on these topics. We can get our news from sources that may have an agenda or an opinion biased on only one side. This leads to a lack of understanding, debate and conversation about important topics. Without engaging in dialogue, there is no opportunity for development or understanding. Hence, van Asten argues that it is good to talk about religion and politics on Thanksgiving because it can create informed conversations that lead to improved understanding and respect for differences of opinions. Van Asten also supports having conversations about politics and religion on Thanksgiving as a means of social change. This is a time of year in which many of us are with people who come from different backgrounds than us and have opposing views. Conversations should not be about changing a person’s perspective but they can provide us with different pieces of information and stimulate the consideration of ideas. In this way, talking about religion and politics on Thanksgiving could be a form of social action and social progress. Finally, van Asten suggests that simply talking about politics and religion on Thanksgiving can help to create unity. When we are able to express our thoughts and feelings in a respectful way, it can lead to greater understanding and respect among those who hold different viewpoints. Thanksgiving, therefore, is a great time to remind ourselves and those around us that we can be united even if we have different opinions. Overall, it is important to consider the importance of having discussions about religion and politics on Thanksgiving. This should be seen as an opportunity to become informed, educate ourselves on different perspectives, foster social change, and promote unity of opinion. So, next Thanksgiving; go ahead and talk about politics and religion!