This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Miller: Please, don’t talk about that

Dear Family:

I know we’re all looking forward to gathering at Grandma’s house this Christmas to enjoy holiday food and catch up on the latest happenings with our loved ones. But, as you all remember, last Christmas things didn’t go so well. So, in order to have a more enjoyable time and not upset anyone, I’ve been asked to provide some guidelines for our time together.

JB Miller

Discussing politics has always been dangerous. After last year, some family members are threatening to not show up. We don’t want that to happen. To keep the peace, we will not seat Aunt Margaret at the same table with Cousin Bill, who won’t come unless he can wear his “Make America Great Again” cap. Bill, we know our niece, Kayla, insists on wearing her Elizabeth Warren T-shirt, but please, Bill, bite your tongue. You keep saying she got those crazy socialist ideas from that liberal Mennonite college she attended, but now she’s working at Everence and hopes to become a financial adviser, so maybe she’ll become a capitalist. One can always hope.

Please do not talk about church stuff. This is worse than politics. Uncle Mark, we know you’re outraged that your sister Sara’s congregation removed Mennonite from their name and is now a community church. I believe the pastor told you they got tired of being confused with the Amish and people asking where their horses and buggies are. They also want to appear more welcoming. I know, welcoming isn’t the word they use anymore, as they don’t want to be confused with the local Mennonite Church USA congregation that uses “welcoming” to mean LGBTQ folks can be members. Going to church with LGBTQ folks is a stretch for some of us, but remember last Christmas, Uncle Jim “came out.” Granted, he ­didn’t have to announce it at the dinner table, but we’re glad there’s a Mennonite church that accepts him and his partner. We don’t want him running off joining the Episcopalians. He gives a lot of money to MCC.

We all would love to compliment Grandma on the delicious meal. But last Christmas Grandson Mike told her how awesome the food was, and that was the wrong thing to say. Grandma had to remind everyone how difficult it is to cook these days, what with all the dietary restrictions that she had to try to work around — vegan, vegetarian, lactose intolerant, gluten-free, free-range, organic, keto and paleo. Grandma’s threatening to just serve Jell-O and celery sticks this year. We hope that doesn’t happen. I’ll keep you posted in case it’s a carry-in meal.

Weather used to be a safe topic, but it’s off-limits now. Climate change is just too controversial. Aunt Margaret and Uncle Tim just bought a gulf-front condominium in Sarasota, and they found no humor in someone giving them life vests for a house- warming gift.

As much as I hate to say it, please, no sharing about your vacations. Several of you visited the Ark Encounter in Kentucky this summer. Mentioning that is just too inflammatory for several of our millennials, particularly Jefferson, who just earned his Ph.D. in earth sciences. For the last two years he’s asked to bring weather and tide charts and share them at dinner. I don’t think we want that.

I hope you all can attend our Christmas meal this year. As always, I think we all agree it will be a good time around the table.
Merry Christmas, JB

JB Miller lives in Sarasota, Fla., and attends Covenant Mennonite Fellowship.

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