Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving and a Theology of Despair

tomertu / Shutterstock.com

tomertu / Shutterstock.com

Are you feeling pressure to be thankful?

We are in the midst of the Thanksgiving season. I’m reminded everywhere I go to “Be thankful!”

Well, call me the Scrooge of Thanksgiving, but I’m just not feeling thankful. The more someone tells me to “Be thankful!” the more I feel a sense of despair.

Be thankful? In the midst of Ferguson, Mo.? Jim Wallis writes that, “Many black families woke up this morning knowing that the lives of their children are worth less than the lives of white children in America.” And what will white America do about it? Nothing new. One side will continue the status quo of racism by denying that it even exists and then they will blame the victims. I firmly stand in the other side that blames America’s deeply embedded structures of racism, economic injustice, and educational inequality. To make matters worse, America is sharply divided over the shooting in Ferguson. Each side of the division blames the other for tragic violence. Sunday’s heated debate on Meet the Press between former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Georgetown Professor Michael Eric Dyson is indicative of the deep racial tensions underlying not only Ferguson, but every city in the United States.

My Facebook news feed and the media are telling me how I’m supposed to feel about Ferguson. Outraged. Hurt. Anxious. Guilt. Anger. Bitter. But certainly not thankful.

Can a Nation So Wounded by Its Divisions Survive?

Photo via a katz/Shutterstock.com.

Every now and then something scars the “national memory,” and we encounter ourselves as a single people. We grieve as one or we celebrate as one.

Those moments are rare, and maybe they should be rare. It would be artificial for a people as divided as we are to pretend to a national consciousness. We don’t agree on the facts, we don’t agree on our own history, we don’t agree on meaning and ethics, we don’t like each other, and we certainly don’t trust each other.

Now, to echo President Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg 151 years ago, we are met on a great battlefield of the wars we wage against each other. It isn’t a field in central Pennsylvania. It is the nation itself.

Cities are set to explode over worsening racial injustice and police misconduct. Football players get a free pass on domestic violence. Colleges shrug off epidemics of rape and cheating.

Banks and a small moneyed set wage unrelenting war on their fellow Americans. Descendants of immigrants turn against new arrivals and call it patriotism. Large companies like General Motors sell defective products. Lobbyists control our legislators, and they in turn deny votes and basic rights to certain citizens.

The question, then, is the one President Lincoln posed: Can a nation so wounded by its divisions, hatreds and manipulated fears survive? Are we setting the stage for even more repressive surveillance, even worse predations by the government-owning few, even more weapons in unstable hands, even worse despair among the many?

It's Time Again: Depression and the Holidays

Photo via hikrcn/Shutterstock.com.

Don’t check your watch. This is something else all together. We know it will soon be the end of November and the end of Thanksgiving weekend. In the Christian calendar, it’s the beginning of Advent, the season leading up to Christmas. For many people, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a tough time to get through. There are too many reminders of loss:

           -the empty chair at the Thanksgiving table;

          -the time when being alone turns to loneliness as everyone talks about family (some stores were closed on Thanksgiving to show support for families, but what if you are estranged from your family?)

          -the bright red lettering over Macy’s front door proclaims “BELIEVE” — but believe what? The very word can remind you that you don’t believe anything anymore. What time is it in your life right now?

Can we be as honest as the Bible?

Weekly Wrap 11.21.14: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Everything You Need to Know About Obama’s Executive Action

ThinkProgress breaks down the immigration relief announced by the president Thursday night. Who gets relief and who is left out? What about border security? Your questions answered.

2. Give Thanks; Celebrate Hope!

Offer your thanks and stand behind the new immigration relief measures!

3. The United States of Thanksgiving

Looking for some great recipes for unique holiday cooking? “We’ve scoured the nation for recipes that evoke each of the 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico). [But not Guam!] These are our picks for the feast. Dig in, then tell us yours."

4. WATCH Toni Morrison Completely Schools Stephen Colbert on Racism

The Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient sits down with Colbert to discuss her works. “Racism is … a social construct. And it has benefits. … But race can only be defined as a human being.”

5. Thai Protestors Detained After Using ‘Hunger Games’ Salute 

“The salute, which in the movies is a daring act of silent rebellion, began to appear here in the weeks after the May 22 coup. The authorities warned that anyone raising it in public could be subject to arrest.”

6. A New Image of Black Fatherhood [PHOTOS]

These photos capture "ordinary moments that crush white media narratives and stereotypes about black fathers."

7. The Cosby Show

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes for The Atlantic about his experience covering Bill Cosby in 2006-2007 as he was making the speaking rounds talking about the supposed decline of morality in black communities. At the time, he knew about 13 rape accusations but declined to report on them. Here, he explains what he would have done differently. 

8. The False Gospel of Gender Binaries

"Jesus didn't die on the cross to preserve gender complementarity. Jesus didn't die on the cross to ensure that little girls wear pink and little boys wear blue. Jesus lived, taught, died, and rose again to start a new family in which Jew and gentile, slave and free, male and female are all part of one holy Body."

9. NTSB Rules that FAA Has Authority to Regulate Drones

‘‘It’s a huge win for the FAA, and signals it’s not going to be the Wild West for drones, but a careful, orderly, safe introduction of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.’’

10. Filmmaking a Cultural Battlefield in Iran

A fascinating look inside the politics an propaganda of film in Iran: “As reformists assert their cultural influence on screen and in the arts, conservatives in Iran are looking to a new set of movies and filmmakers to help suppress reformists and eliminate Western influence in Iranian society.”

The Underside of Thanksgiving

Photo via mythja/Shutterstock.com

I love Thanksgiving.

I love the food, the fellowship, the friends and family, the football, and did I mention that I love the food.  Unashamedly it might very well be my favorite holiday.  Yet, despite all my warm feelings about Thanksgiving, I am not blind to its historical shortcomings. 

As Jane Kamensky says, “…holidays say much less about who we really were in some specific Then, than about who we want to be in an ever changing Now.” I think she’s right about this.  In so many cases, our national celebrations and observances are mere expressions of our collective aspirations and not our actuality.  One clear example of this is the history and practice of the Thanksgiving holiday.

As it goes, every year people throughout this nation gather for a commemorative feast of sorts where we give praises to God for the individual and collective blessings bestowed upon us.  This tradition goes back to the 17th century when the New England colonists, also known as pilgrims, celebrated their first harvest in the New World. 

On the surface, this seems harmless enough but a closer reading of history tells a more dubious story. 

#GivingTuesday -- A Day to Give Back

#GivingTuesday: a day to give instead of consume. Photo courtesy of GivingTuesday.org

“Gray” Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday — and Giving Tuesday? For the second year in a row, nonprofits, businesses, and individuals are coming together to create a national day of giving on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. 

Why a national day of giving? Last year, New York’s 92nd Street Y, with the support of the United Nations Foundation, catalyzed the idea of adding a national day of giving to kick off the holiday giving season. The goal was to drive donations of time, money, or services to charities with the same enthusiasm that shoppers have on the shopping days surrounding Thanksgiving. 

A Very Cheney Thanksgiving

Auremar/Shutterstock

At Thanksgiving, childhood rivalries often live on, even when we’ve grown. Auremar/Shutterstock

I sympathize with the Cheney family this Thanksgiving. Siblings arguing with each other and claiming that Dad is on their side — geez, sounds too familiar for comfort. I have four siblings and when we were kids we were a rough and tumble pack, openly vying for our parents’ approval. We relished ratting each other out. The fickle finger of accusation waving wildly, we’d shout things like “She started it!” “It was his idea!” or “I told her you’d be mad!” Oh, we had a million ways to stay in our parents’ good graces.

You’d think it all might have been about avoiding punishment, and I guess that was part of it. But even though our parents can’t ground us anymore, we tend to search their faces as if we were contestants awaiting our score on Dancing With the Stars. Now we tease each other about who is in the No. 1 spot at any given moment, and how it shifts with a good deed done or misstep in our duty as loving offspring. (FYI, I am taking my parents to see A Christmas Carol at the Drury Lane Theater near Chicago and making them a prime rib dinner afterwards. That should vault me to No. 1 for a week or two!)

The holidays are a perfect arena for this sort of combat and we can take some small comfort that even the Cheneys are not immune. But their problems are not quite like ours, because they are a public family and their disputes have political ramifications. Who wins the Cheney dinner table argument about marriage quality is not just about their family. It resonates through Republican politics and if Liz Cheney becomes their next senator, it may be about Wyoming families as well. But in another way, this family rivalry is like any other because it’s not just about politics. Mary Cheney and her wife, Heather Poe, who have two children together, feel betrayed by Liz. As Heather posted on Facebook: “Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 – she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us.” 

Feast with Your Family this Thanksgiving; Then Fast with Us Next Week -- for Families in Great Distress

Mementos in the fasting tent in remembrance of those who have come before us. Photo: Sojourners/Brandon Hook

The debate about immigration reform has been very productive in America over these past several years. And that debate has been won — by those who favor a common sense agenda for reform.

Two out of every three Americans now favor fixing our broken immigration system — two out of three! According to a recent report by the Public Religion Research Institute, 65 percent of Americans say that the U.S. immigration system is either completely or mostly broken. That same report found that 63 percent of Americans favor immigration reform that creates a pathway to citizenship, crossing party and religious lines. 60 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of independents, and 73 percent of Democrats favor a pathway to citizenship.

However, a minority of lawmakers — almost all white legislators in artificially gerrymandered white Congressional districts — is blocking a democratic vote on immigration reform. The Senate has already passed a bipartisan bill to reform the immigration system; written and forged by an impressive coalition of Republican and Democratic Senate leaders. And if a similar bill was put to a vote in the House of Representatives, it would also pass.

Requiem for a Holiday

Lena Pan/Shutterstock

Will forgoing sales on Thanksgiving put a damper on one’s holiday shopping? Lena Pan/Shutterstock

Tomorrow, millions of people will gather across this great nation to celebrate Thanksgiving: the time in our calendar where we pause to give thanks for the year that has past, for family, loved ones, new additions and to remember those that have gone on before us. We share stories, we laugh, we cry — and for many of us we eat too much. For centuries, families have gathered together to pause and to say thanks, even if it is just for one day.

This year, however, I am going to make a bold statement: I am declaring that Thanksgiving to some is obsolete, if not dead. Why such the bold statement? It seems that since the day after Halloween, the focus has been on lights, bows, trees, candy canes, Santa and the Christmas story. In a mad dash to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and in the midst of people complaining about the store employee’s not saying “Merry Christmas,” we have forgotten to stop and be thankful.

A Twist on the Thankfulness Trend

Pressmaster/Shutterstock

Is there anything nontraditional for which you’re thankful?

It’s that time of year when Thanksgiving reminds us to be thankful. Many people use this time to acknowledge parts of their lives for which they are grateful, whether that means sharing around the Thanksgiving table or posting daily “thanks” on social media. Certainly, we have many reasons to be grateful, from food and shelter, to having choices in our own lives. It is important to jar ourselves out of taking much of what we have for granted.

I want, however, to challenge you think about your reasons to be thankful a little differently. Instead of thinking about the typical “good” parts of life for which you are thankful, consider parts of your life that you can be thankful for even though 1) others may see your reasons as negative or 2) you may see them as trials yourself. Trials or not, consider the redemptive strains present in all areas in your life, not just the ones you would usually say while waiting for someone to pass you the mashed potatoes.

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