Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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dogemperor [userpic]
The War on... Thanksgiving?

LJ-SEC: (ORIGINALLY POSTED BY [info]raven_oreilly)

Hope this is topic appropriate for this community.  

Long story short, last week I overheard my Evangelical Presbyterian father call my cousin Jay to ask if he would read a Bible verse at Thanksgiving. Jay is not religious and my father knows this. He asked anyway. Twice. Jay politely turned him down. I called immediately afterward and got the whole scoop - my parents are having the "heads of the households" in our family to read a Bible verse, if they would, on Thanksgiving. There's a lot of hypocrisy involved with who they asked to read, but I digress.

This is completely bizarre to me. We've never done anything like this before in our family at all. Not even at Christmas or Easter gatherings. So I vented in my personal LJ and a friend said they had read something about the equivalent of the "War on Christmas" now being waged on Thanksgiving. This sounded crazy to me, but apparently Slate Magazine has an article on it:

In Christianity Today's Leadership Journal, Eric Reed decried a "thankless society" that has forgotten the holiday's putative religious significance. R. Albert Mohler Jr. of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary called the secular vision of Thanksgiving "empty and false" on the Washington Post religion blog, On Faith. And conservative Web site WorldNetDaily offers up Thanksgiving-themed magnetic bumper stickers that counsel, "Remember to thank HIM"—perhaps an admonition to those who would merely thank their lucky stars.

For these spiritual defenders of Thanksgiving, it's not so much Christmas-style commercialization that threatens their holiday—although pre-Christmas big-box sales and football on Fox might strike some as unholy distractions. Instead, much of their concern centers on the way the traditional stories of the first Thanksgiving most of us learned in grade school have been disputed, if not abandoned. For religious thanks-givers, it is the attempt to revise the historical record that is helping to strip the holiday of its proper spiritual meaning.

In a 2004 Wall Street Journal essay titled "A Very Christian Holiday," Yale professor David Gelernter credited "Christian fundamentalists" with creating a holiday that "would inspire and soothe this nation if only we would let it." He wrote, "The First Thanksgiving is one of those heartwarming stories that every child used to know, and some up-to-date teachers take special delight in suppressing." The old first Thanksgiving story suggested that God had smiled on the pious pilgrims of the Plymouth Colony and, by extension, on the whole American project. Today, school lessons are just as likely to stress the harm done to natives by colonization. (Right-wing bloggers have reacted strongly to a Seattle public-school resource that suggests that Thanksgiving can be a time of mourning for native students.)


It's not just the PC-ification of the holiday that's frustrating traditionalists. Historians have spent the last few decades chipping away at traditional Thanksgiving stories. Many accounts now say the 1621 event that we call the first Thanksgiving was not a religious event and, therefore, not a formal day of thanksgiving as the Plymouth colonists would have understood it—a European practice of observing days of thanksgiving with solemn religious services in the morning and afternoon. Instead, the 1621 event was closer to a harvest festival, with its feasting, games, and celebratory gunfire—it was the shooting that likely brought the colonist's native Wampanoag neighbors over to investigate and join in the fun. (The Wampanoag had their own thanksgiving traditions that also involved communal feasting.) While it's certainly plausible to imagine the colonists offering prayers of thanks on that day, they did not use the word thanksgiving in association with the 1621 celebration, according to the Web site of Plimoth Plantation, the historical museum devoted to life at the Plymouth Colony.

My church (ETA: I posted recently about steeplejacking worries) must have something to do with my parents suddenly wanting to make this gathering of the family (half are Christian, half are not) a more Christian religious situation than past holidays. Two of my Aunts want to read passages from things they have more belief in like Buddhism, but I dunno if they've talked to my father about it or not. In any case, this Thanksgiving is going to go 1 of 2 ways: smoothly or utter disaster. lol *sigh*

Is this "war" on Thanksgiving new? It's new to me. I've heard about the "war on Christmas," but not Thanksgiving.

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