Apparently, no one knows where the saying came from, but by 1840 or so
variations were appearing in etiquette guides: “Never talk about religion
or politics,” especially at the dinner table.
This wisdom made the leap to popular culture in 1961, when the philosopher
Linus commented in a Peanuts comic strip: ““There are three things I have
learned never to discuss with people — religion, politics and the Great
Pumpkin.” The Great Pumpkin is, of course, a faith issue for Linus.
Now, with that timeline in mind, please consider this follow-up question:
Before 2016, does anyone remember reading waves of mainstream news stories
near Thanksgiving built on horror stories about bitter political arguments
around the extended-family holiday table? I mean, surely loved ones in the
past argued about Richard Nixon, the nature of the Trinity, Bill Clinton’s
private life, the quality of the modern hymn “On Eagles Wings” or other
hot-button topics in religion and politics (or both)?
What happened in 2016 that suddenly made this a must-cover issue in elite
newsrooms? Maybe this topic suddenly became urgent, for some reason, among
journalists who had escaped heartland zip codes and found their true selves
by moving to New York City and Washington, D.C.?
The New York Times published an archetypal feature of this kind the other
day that ran with this dramatic double-decker headline:
Families Have Been Torn Apart by Politics. What Happens to Them Now?
Unlike 2016, when conflicts emerged over political choices, this time
many are centered on the legitimacy of the result itself.
The overture follows the formula that readers have seen dozens of times in
the past four years.
Tho Nguyen’s parents, who immigrated from Vietnam, were always
Republican. They are Catholic and oppose abortion. Four years ago they
voted for Donald Trump.
But nothing prepared Ms. Nguyen, 25, a medical student in Kansas, for
how much politics would divide her family over the next four years, as
her parents became increasingly passionate about the president.Read MoreGetReligionRead MoreTerry Mattingly, Surveys & polls, Social Issues, Politics, Abortion, Catholicism, Church & State, Kellerism