What not to discuss at a family lunch


This past Saturday, I got a call from Dad inviting me to lunch.  He said it “fell together” that my sister and one of her daughters, my cousin and my Dad and Stepmom were all meeting at a French restaurant for a little lunch and could I make it?

I got the call as I was driving back from tennis, a tough four-set day that spanned over three hours.  Looking at the time, I suspected I would be hard-pressed to get home, shower and change and still have time to make it there by the proscribed hour (the restaurant was all-the-way-east from my all-the-way-west).  If traffic and lights fed out perfectly, maybe, just maybe I could clean up.

Not so lucky.

Faced with missing the “voluntary” attendance or going sans shower, I opted for a splashing in the sink and a heavy dose of cologne.  No one seemed to notice either, so apparently I “covered” well.  Fortunately, the weather was mild that morning, so despite the exertions earlier, I didn’t really overheat.

We all sat outside on the patio, with on and off rain clouds threatening to send visitors to our meal.  Other than a few sprinkles, we were mostly undisturbed.  Indeed, I got more sun in the hour or so lunch on the patio than the three and a half playing tennis!

Let me set the table for you (literally and figuratively).  On the front, left to right, Sis, Cuz and Me.  Facing each, respectively, Stepmom, Niece and Dad.  My cousin had just come from Shul (you may know by its more common name of Temple) and through some fabric of disaster that hovers ever near family events, the conversation somehow drifted to He of mysterious ways.

My cousin, quite obviously, is on the side of belief; my Dad sits squarely opposite from that contention (if you must know, I’m somewhere in between, having gone through an orthodox Bar Mitzvah but since leaning less to religious and more to tradition in my observances).

The conversation between the two was fairly typical between a believer and a doubter.  In many situations, the doubter will use sarcasm or lightly veiled scoffing when rebutting religious notions.  The believer will use examples they are convinced show evidence that the “scientific” explanations don’t truly tell the tale.

I find both points of view engaging, because they are both so faithful to their own canon.  Science and religion both require accepting certain things as given, without which the rest of the belief falls apart.  It’s fascinating how neither side recognizes that characteristic in their own belief but clearly sees it in the other.

As the discussion continued, my Stepmom became agitated and my niece pleaded for some other conversation.  While my cousin and Dad weren’t arguing, the nature of that debate leaves little room for compromise.  In a world with very few absolutes, Religion and Evolution allow no wiggle room (I won’t get into moderate positions for either, since that’s not what we had at the table).

No feelings were hurt, no recriminations ensued.  And, of course, no positions were changed.  My sister supported my cousin, so my Dad naturally looked to me for support.  Being a long-time science fiction reader, though, I have no trouble accommodating both concepts; with a little editing, of course.

We all enjoyed the food and most of the lunch was filled with more palatable (and less controversial) conversation.  As I drove home, I mused that we actually managed to survive a conversation between a religious and an atheist during a family get together.  Pretty impressive.

Next time, I think I’ll ask about the presidential election.

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