Many thanks….but no thanks

Posted: November 25, 2010 in christianity, culture, global, multiethnic, social justice, theology, Uncategorized

homeland securityThe holidays always lead me to be reflective because honestly I have to stop working and actually have to have fun and enjoy life. As I begin to “enjoy” life I automatically get into a space where I have time to think and contemplate. Besides New Year’s no other holiday does this like Thanksgiving. So I begin to think about the many things that I am thankful for…

My God
My life
My health
My family
My church
My education (a work in progress)
My many consumer items that I take for granted which most people in the world can only dream of owning (car, laptop, multiple brands of cereal) ๐Ÿ™‚

Then I stop and think about the origin of this holiday and that is something that I cannot be thankful for. It is the celebration of a revisionist history. Most people don’t think about it because the presence of turkey and stuffing, college football, the Macy’s day parade, or great sales on black Friday seem to numb them but for some reason I cannot be numbed. This holiday is based on the meeting between the Puritan settlers and indigenous peoples and that relationship ultimately led to disease, war, and starvation for the indigenous peoples. It is a day that commemorates the beginning of one of the most massive holocausts in history. Yes the puritan settlers were thankful and grateful to God but the question must be asked Which God? and Whose God? Now I do not want to become the person who eradicates holidays and spoils everyone’s fun but I do think there needs to be a rethinking of how we celebrate this day. Most people just see it as a day to generically give thanks and be grateful. That is commendable but maybe we need to remember the indigenous peoples in some form or another in order to acknowledge the suffering and the injustice. As I go to feast on turkey and stuffing and mac and cheese I will be glad and celebrate with family and friends but I will also keep this memory in my heart. To have the mind to even think about and acknowledge the mistakes of the past-that is something that I can be thankful for.

  1. Hey brother,

    that photo made me laugh my head off! In my neck o the woods there is a lot of tension between the State of New York and the Seneca nations; so there are bumper stickers all over that say, “You can trust your government, just ask an Indian.”

    But, to speak on their behalf, the European conquest of the American continents wasn’t actually a Puritan institution. They were certainly guilty of plenty of ugly things perpetrated against the local peoples, but the really nasty stuff was the English commercial colonies to the south, and the Spanish Empire even further south. And the first thanksgiving was actually celebrated, not by Puritans (Mass Bay) but by Pilgrims (Plymouth).

    I have heard people call for switching Thanksgiving (a day where we feast and otherwise celebrate ourselves) to a national day of Repentance (where we fast and consider the history of our nation). I would certainly agree with this, our history (especially with regards to how native peoples have been treated) has plenty of shame in it. But the folks who came here with legitimate faith in God, freshly loosed from the chains of persecution in Europe, were usually not (with obvious exceptions) the culprits. The greatest culprits were those who had that curious blend of Christ and Empire that was Rome, Spain, Britain… where Christ’s name was a tool in the hands of a monarch.

    • mayotron says:

      Hey Steve,

      Thanks for the clarification. I often lump them all together and I think that is not good. It is almost the same as talking about certain ethnic groups and saying “they all look alike to me”. At the same time I do want to say that Christ and empire is the main thing that kept slavery going in the States and I would say that was the majority of the population-North and South. There is a book that I have recently read called Complicity : how the North promoted, prolonged, and profited from slavery. In no way do I want to say all white people, puritans, or pilgrims were involved in the taking over of land from indigenous peoples or any other of the injustices but I do want to say that most people were not trying to resist the injustice. I think there were Christians who stood against the oppression and injustice that was going on back then but I think they were the oddballs. I personally think it is the same way today. What do you think?

  2. I just recently saw ‘King Arthur’ with Clive Owen. As I was watching it I was struck by the language of manifest destiny that this man was using. Its origin was precisely his dual commitment to Rome and Christ. I was drawing all sorts of parallels between Rome and America.

    I would stand with you in critiquing the way those in power use the name of Jesus to promote what they do with their power…

    I have actually been thinking alot about systems of power and justice lately.

    Here are some of my thoughts:

    • mayotron says:

      Wow I actually was about to write a post praising your video. I think the one thing that always comes up for me with these topics is how am I contributing to the systemic evil? I love the scene in Glory when Denzel Washington tells Matthew Broderick “Ain’t none of us clean” That’s the truth of the matter and I just want to clean up as much as I can and the one of the first steps in doing that is acknowledging and pointing out the evil that sometimes we allow to become a part of our history and our social imagination.

      • “Ain’t none of us clean,” is right…

        NT Wright has an interesting sermon out there (I think it might actually be printed in ‘Following Jesus’) on Namaan the Syrian general. In it he addresses how we are complicit in cultural evils that God hates, yet doesn’t want us to step out of, because we can’t actually avoid those evils and still maintain our missional calling to redemption. That compromise is a necessary evil.

        The novel thought here is that it is not just our individual holiness that God desires (which could be achieved by opting out of our culture; founding monasteries/suburbs) but rather that we would maintain our presence and influence in the culture and subvert it from within. To be in the world, yet not of it; it is a much harder task…

        Here is a post from way back on that concept that borrows heavily from Wright.

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