Over the river and down the road, to Grandmother’s house we went — millions and millions of us all over the country. Thanksgiving can be a joyous occasion, but religious differences sometimes mar family festivities.
So what was yesterday like for you? Did theological matters come up, directly or indirectly? Were there subtle frictions about who offered a blessing for the meal or what was said during this prayer? Was attendance at religious services part of your holiday activities? How was that for you? Will you be going to a church, synagogue, or mosque with your extended family this weekend? Are you looking forward to this, or dreading it?
When family members sense that their religious (or non-religious) convictions have been criticized, they may feel as if their very being has been attacked. One way to ease these tensions is to emphasize that we love each other, we want the best for each other, and we’re all trying to understand life’s mysteries as well as we know how.
If we cannot say these things sincerely, there may be some very basic family issues that need to be resolved before we address religious differences.
A note to Christians, and atheists/agnostics with Christian relatives: Thanksgiving can serve as a dress rehearsal for the religious holiday which occurs one month from today. What can you learn from your recent Thanksgiving experience that will help you on December 25?
May your family gatherings be a blessing rather than a burden, a time of affection and forgiveness rather than resentment and hostility.
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