Deflating the elephant in the room

By: Collin Glavac

“Now son, when you take someone out on a date, remember to use your manners, listen to what they say, and don’t talk about politics or religion.”

sex-religion-politics

“Okay!” I said to my parents with a smile, before running off to play with my Lego. It would be a long time before I dated anyone, or really had an opinion on politics or religion.

That was then. This is now.

The advice from my parents was well-intended and I hear it from others all the time. The idea is that we don’t want to make ourselves or others feel uncomfortable, start arguments, or delve into complex matters – the kinds of things most people associate with the topics of religion and politics. But it just doesn’t hold up.

With the accepted risk that the definitions of politics and religion may separately be argued day and night, I am absolutely confident in saying both are spheres of thought and practice that can (and do) define and shape societies, as well as the fabrics of history on minute, individual and grandiose scales.

So we have topics that powerfully shape our perceptions, understandings and performance in societies…and we’re being encouraged not to talk about these things?

That seems like the biggest recipe for disaster I can think of. You disagree? Well what happens by not talking about complex, uncomfortable topics?

Let’s consider the topic of sex. Sex is a super-uncomfortable, awkward, and complex topic. Societies frequently used to closet the discussion of sex and this led to detrimental consequences. Having an uninformed or misinformed population (on the thing that creates a population) turned out to be not such a great idea. Between STI’s and confusedly experimenting teens, education, discussion, and research have now progressed to providing a healthier understanding of the topic and its practice.

Not talking about important things is not beyond inconvenient; it is dangerous. The resulting movement of topics like politics and religion being pushed further and further into the private sphere won’t make the difficulty of it go away. It will instead compress and become saturated in content, eventually releasing upon the public sphere in a cathartic, explosive mess. The exact thing radicals and fundamentalists love feeding upon.

So please, let’s talk about it.

Am I saying we should all talk about it and get upset? I would normally say no, I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable or get upset; I want happiness and rainbows for all. When someone says, “I don’t want to talk about it” it should not be our objective to upset them by melting their building blocks of belief into a pool of sadness that spell the end of any continued relationship.

But you know what? I do want us to feel a little uncomfortable. We need figure out why these things make us feel that way. If something makes us uncomfortable, wouldn’t that make it important to us? We should be challenged and struggle to defend our views and possibly find new ones. Once we work through that discomfort, we will grow.

Collin Glavac works for the Brock Faith and Life Centre and runs The Big Questions Club on campus. Follow @brockfaithlife on Twitter.

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