“Ask a Priest: What If My Parents and I Argue Over Politics?”

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Q: I am very distressed about my relationship with my parents. I love them, but I have trouble respecting them. This is obvious when we argue about politics. We agree on most things, being conservative in nature, but I match my conservative ideas to those of the Church and they attach theirs to politics. This leads them to say horrible things about migrants or other “races” and their role in our elections. I always try to get them to understand the humanitarian side of issues such as immigration and the refugee crisis, but we always end up in a heated argument. My dad in particular says some of the most awful things about other human beings, but I know that by reacting angrily I’m just making him more and more stubbornly entrenched. If I can’t try to reason him out of his anger, what am I to do? I don’t want to damage my relationship with my dad anymore. But I want to be a proponent for the Church’s ideas of acceptance and helping our fellow man. Please help guide me through this. -J.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is admirable that you want to defend and extol the Church’s stance on various issues, such as immigration. The trick, though, is to do it prudently and charitably.

Sorry to say, but we almost never convince someone of our point of view if we get in an argument with them. People tend to dig in their heels; moreover, the relationship itself suffers, and people end up alienated from one another.

It might be better to leave aside certain issues for the sake of domestic peace. This isn’t to say you drop the issues altogether. Rather, the better alternative might be to look for positive ways to live what you believe.

If you really care about immigrants, etc., then look for ways to donate your time and/or money to helping those folks. Use your energy in that way, and you will probably make more of an impact on your dad. He will see your dedication and concern for immigrants, and that might prompt him to rethink his own ideas. (For related reading, see the U.S. bishops’ conference statements on immigration.)

All this would take time, and there is no guarantee he will change his opinion. But you aren’t called to change his opinion. You are called to show him love and respect, and then to help others in the world as best you can.

Perhaps you should contact your parish to see what can be done. Perhaps there are immigrant families in your own neighborhood who need help. So look to help them, and keep praying for your dad. That way, you use your energy wisely.

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