The turkey leftovers are gone, but I’m still thinking. Most of us know that the ‘Pilgrims and Indians’ story taught in school has been – ahem – sanitized. But the day is about being thankful, so it’s all good, right?
Well, sort of. I do like Thanksgiving. It’s not about the food; it’s about being prompted to give thanks, to truly appreciate life. It’s counter-cultural act in an age of greed. The implication, often unspoken, is that many of us express our thanks directly to God.
So, what does God think about all this? I do believe God appreciates a grateful attitude. Not because God needs the ‘kudos’ but because God know it is the healthiest way for us to live. Giving thanks is a beautiful thing.
But what if it’s not just a simple harvest festival? What if we are commemorating a harvest that took place in a new land, where some other people were already living? And what if those other people were ultimately conquered and dispossessed?
Even today there is a disconnect between the views of ‘Indian’ and ‘Pilgrim’ descendants. For a range of feelings, check out the Thanksgiving coverage on Indian Country Today Media Network. Some people are giving thanks, but others consider Thanksgiving a day of mourning and protest.
This disconnect is obvious, but I don’t hear many European Americans talking about it. In fact, the only white person I hear talking about it is comedian pundit Jon Stewart:
“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”
The truth hurts. So, looking at this in spiritual terms, how might God see American Thanksgivings? In the path of Jesus, which I aim to follow, the scriptures teach that we can’t fully worship God when our human relationships are messed up. Right relationships are a prerequisite for true thanksgiving.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift.” (The Gospel According to Matthew 5:23-24, Today’s New International Version)
I know that other faiths have related teachings, and I hope readers will share them with me. Let’s explore the possibilities together. How might a more holistic understanding of thanksgiving prompt us to do things differently? How could we rewrite the future Thanksgiving story in a way that God can really celebrate?
Photo by US Department of Agriculture, Public Domain.