My mom, who lives in my hometown outside of the Diocese, called me last night with a church dilemma.
Her dilemma is with the upcoming election, politics have become a common topic of conversation in the pews before Mass, in the parking lot after Mass, and before, during, or after almost all events. The topic isn’t the problem, but the tone. As she put it “really great people” have been “spewing hateful” talk about this candidate or that candidate. A discussion at one parish social event ended with parties storming out of opposite doors. As she described it, one conversation she had last Sunday was, basically, someone yelling about their political preference to my mom (not that she disagreed; simply the person was that enraged at what she likely heard during the Sunday morning talk shows).
I don’t need to set the scene more. We’ve all probably seen something like it somewhere (or else petitions like this wouldn’t exist). It rattled my mom. My mom reflected on the nuns who taught her in grade school and their lesson about respecting politicians, even in disagreement and on her belief of love as a foundation of Christianity, which seems not to be obvious in these conversations. What pushed over to calling for advice was that her anxiety about running into some of her “church friends” led her to skipping Mass altogether yesterday—very atypical for her. I remember feeling similar feelings about going to Mass after getting chewed out by a parishioner for not keeping my 17-month old from cryingin the cry room. I recalled trying to throw every excuse out to Vanessa so that we could skip Mass in the weeks that follow.
It’s a crummy feeling to want to avoid Mass.
What to do?
A few of the ideas we tossed around:
- Openly and civilly address the person about their tone.
- Ask the pastor for advice, with the idea that if my mom’s feelings aren’t isolated, he would be better aware if a bulletin announcement or a few quick words about civility would be useful.
- Simply “suck it up”.
- Go to a different parish for a Sunday. This is not one taken lightly for my mom. I’m not sure if she’s been to a different parish for a weekend liturgy outside of travel or retreats in 15 years. My thought is if her anxiety could keep her home, it is better to go to another parish for one particular Sunday than miss Mass. If she’s at a different parish, likely, someone wouldn’t randomly start talking politics with her.
What did we miss? What are other ways to handle a situation like this?