What are the four things you never talk about in polite company? First one starts with R. Religion. Second one starts with M. Money. Third one starts with P. Politics. And the forth one starts with S. Sex. Yes, sex. Oh my gosh, I just said “sex” in a sermon, though in all fairness, you said it first.
Yeah, we don’t talk about sex. We don’t talk about sex because Augustine or Freud or the Puritans or I don’t even know who anymore. We don’t talk about sex because we’re all repressed individuals living in an oversexed culture that seems to bring out one’s inner 12 year old whenever the topic comes up.
We don’t talk about money because it’s considered crass to reveal you have too much, somehow shameful to reveal that you have too little, and since no one knows where you actually draw that line we all just agree to say we’re middle class and be done with it.
We don’t talk about politics in polite company because people have very strong views on the subject and those conversations tend to get heated way too fast.
And we don’t talk about religion because nobody cares about it anymore.
Actually that’s not true. We don’t talk about religion because certain people do care, sometimes a little too much, and those people can be really hard to deal with once they get going. You know what I mean? Unless you agree with them on every detail, they can be really hard to shut up. I should know cause I used to be one of those people. When I was a teenager I had a huge Bible I used to carry around with me everywhere I went, and God help you if I cornered you with thing.
Luckily I found myself a job where I can effectively limit myself to 10-15 minutes a week of this sort of behavior, which is good. Otherwise I’d be a total nightmare at cocktail parties.
Actually, I think the real reason we don’t generally talk about religion in polite company is in large part because we don’t want other people talking about their religion with us. Am I right? I mean we’ve pretty much figured out what we believe and we don’t want to listen to someone else tell us we’re wrong. Because what do you do then?
It’s not like you can prove that one person’s faith is right and the other person’s faith isn’t, though unfortunately that rarely deters some people from trying, and those people can be really, well, annoying. Well intentioned, but annoying. Again, I speak from experience having been one of those incredibly well intentioned extremely annoying people.
And interestingly enough, from what I remember, as well intentioned as those annoying conversations about religion were, more often than not they either stalled out because the person I was trying to convince went into smile and nod till they could plausibly escape mode or into full on confrontation/fruitless debate mode, neither of which was very satisfying or in anyway productive.
Which was tough for me, because you see I took this whole salt and light thing Jesus talks about in today’s scripture very seriously. I was one salty Christian growing up – which doesn’t sound quite right, but I think you know what I mean. I was not afraid to talk about my faith and shine my light right in the eyes of anyone slow enough to get caught like a deer in my headlights.
I only wish now that I’d taken Jesus’ metaphor as seriously as I took his directive, because here’s the thing, when it comes to salt and light, I think the whole point here is that a little goes a long way. You don’t want to pour it on thick when it comes to talking about your faith, any more than you want to pour salt on your food.