Musings On Religion, Holidays, and the In Laws

Family Saying Grace, 1585

Family Saying Grace, 1585 [Via]

We’ve spoken a bit about etiquette in places of worship already, though the idea is pretty simple. Be respectful, dress conservatively to be on the safe side, and ask if there’s anything you’re unsure about. However, most of us aren’t just popping into random religious services all the time. What’s more likely is that you’re invited to participate in a service or tradition by your close friends and family, especially your In Laws, and with 45% of marriages in the US between people of different faiths, this probably happens a lot!

While my relationship is not interfaith, our families are. My husband’s family is Jewish, and mine is a combination of vaguely Christian, Hindu, and “have you read the new Sam Harris book?” As such, there are occasions where we’ll be asked to participate in services and traditions we don’t believe in, which can be difficult depending on your view of religion.

Here’s my thing: I have a hard time participating in a religious ceremony or tradition if I know I don’t believe it, no matter how welcome my hosts have made me feel. To me, it feels dishonest to fake it while everyone around me earnestly believes what’s being said. I’ve been told many times throughout my life that I just need to go with the flow, and there are times where I have been able to ignore it  and have a good time. But usually I feel like it’s not my place to be there and participate, even if I’ve been explicitly invited. I am a crazy person and maybe you shouldn’t be turning to me for etiquette advice. Oops.

There’s also a difference between a ceremony taking place in a place of worship, or in a more private setting. In a church I can stand and sit along with everyone else, and no on will notice if I don’t say “amen.” However, there are certain rituals that take place in the home, and it’s a lot more obvious if I’m not participating.

Okay, so what does this mean in terms of practical etiquette? Well, if you get the sense that someone is not comfortable practicing your religion, do not ask them to “go with the flow.” That’s like telling an anxious person to “just calm down,” like really, you don’t think they tried that already? Also, be up front about what’s expected, and be gracious if they cannot meet those expectations, even if they seem minimal to you. If you’re the one being asked to participate, ask questions and participate where you can, and if anyone asks why you’re not participating in a certain ritual, explain that you don’t feel comfortable doing so. If they try to pressure you, they’re the rude ones. Also, see if there are other places you can help out, such as cooking some of a meal or helping set things up. It’ll show you’re grateful for being invited and included, even if you don’t feel like fully participating.


One thought on “Musings On Religion, Holidays, and the In Laws

  1. Pingback: Happy Holidays! | Uncommon Courtesy

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