Contemplating Thanksgiving

I wanted to write this weekend about the juxtaposition of the world of consumerism and entitlement over a world in which we, as a country, have intentionally set aside a day for the giving of thanks in a relatively public forum, known as the extended family. I would have gone on to explain the ridiculousness of consumerism given the fact we are prone to give thanks one day while the next pay homage to the fact that we as a civilization and world believe that we are never in possession of what constitutes enough. However, in my meanderings, I realized a simple, albeit debatable and controversial, fact: Thanksgiving is an odd holiday! This is of course separate from but linked to the fact that Thanksgiving spawned Black Friday.

The history of Thanksgiving aside, the tradition of setting aside a day for the giving of thanks is altruistic and not without its benefits. However, I have three problems with the idea of Thanksgiving Day that I’d like to discuss and about which I’d like to make suggestions for the future: 1) the day during which we are urged as a country to give thanks for what we have is simultaneously the day that Americans choose to ritualistically engorge themselves on food, and 2) as a subset of point one, a day that celebrates the sharing of said food with others is also a day when many continue to go hungry. For a current aside and a future standalone post, I am also questioning the fact that this American holiday is forced onto citizens who are not originally from this country and who neither understand the tradition nor care about it.

Foremost in my opinion is the idea of enough. In a consumerist society, separating needs from desires can be a difficult task, as we are culturally bombarded with the ideas surrounding the biggest and best. When we are not in possession of those things that others have, then we are without and therefore do not have enough”. However, the other side of enough, and the tenuous line that every consumer must walk is engorgement. Engorgement, unfortunately, is part of the culture of both Thanksgiving and Black Friday, let alone all the other days of the year. On Thanksgiving Day, full tables amidst full plates and full stomaches go to show the sharp contrast between what is right and what is good. In this instance, what seems to be good is the giving of thanks itself, while what is right would be the deprivation of one’s desires for engorgement for the benefit of others, especially given the ideas surrounding the giving of thanks for what we already have, not what we can get. In addition, given the amount of food that is thrown away on such a day, bound for landfills and nearby water sources, I am reminded that I should merely be thankful to eat at all, let alone have a full stomach (more on that later).

Regarding the aforementioned aside for a future post, I’ll pose a question: what is Thanksgiving to someone from any other country in the world? In a word, so far as I can tell, nothing. In an immigrant culture like that of the United States, how can we set aside a day as holy (or not to be tampered with) when a fair amount of the country does not associate with such a tradition. Don’t get me wrong, the addition of people to the groups of thanks givers is a great thing and should be welcomed but the fuss over stores or services being open on Thanksgiving must stop if we are to move forward in a land built on the equality of different ways of thinking. Similarly, the culture in which stores were to remain closed or not sell certain commodities on Sundays, still a problem in many states, assumes that the majority of the affected constituents care about what Sunday means to Christians. Why don’t we demand on behalf of our Jewish brethren that all store be closed on Saturdays for their sabbath? Such a suggestion to the general public would most likely be met with incredulity and confusion. Once I think through this further, I will post more thoughts, along with more research.

Onto the suggestion, which will not be popular: if you celebrate Thanksgiving, why not fast for the day of Thanksgiving and Black Friday. In other words, abstain from the intake of copious amounts of food on Thanksgiving and abstain from the practice of consumerism on Black Friday. In these two instances, let us be reminded of the fact that in fasting we can provide for those that have nothing the rest of the year and those that have difficulty providing for their families, let alone feed themselves or their children. Beginning a new tradition of fasting would be a simple practice in abstention and perhaps a clear indictment of the culture of consumerism by which we are surrounded, the same culture that I would say has led to some with too much and others with nothing. Let us redefine our idea of enough and focus instead on the hope of harmony among family, friends, and strangers on a day when no matter where you are from, no matter what you believe, you can be provided for and be thankful for it.

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The Challenges of 2020

TL;DR: Follow this link.

One of the craziest things about Christianity during the protests of the last few weeks is the fact that there are churches out there not discussing the issues honestly, not taking the time to have the hard conversations, not devoting their Sunday services to betterment of the world and people around them. If you’re church isn’t talking about racism right now, if they don’t mention that black lives matter, instead focusing on platitudes that equate to the all lives matter” sentiment, it is time to start looking for a new church.

My wife and I meet with my home” church virtually via Zoom since the pandemic is still a thing. Kimball Avenue United Church of Christ & La Iglesia Episcopal de Nuestra Señora de las Américas (KANSA, together) combined in a collaborative way to create a single denomination focused on the needs of their community. They follow Christ together toward the vision of love, reconciliation, peace and justice. The justice looks like the demolition and rehabilitation of an old church building and its grounds into a community garden and labyrinth open to all who seek peace through contemplation.

I give this elevator speech to mention that COVID has not been kind to faith communities in general. Budgets have been slashed, funding and grants have been cut, and congregations in need are also working to serve those in need, who are less likely to be able to financially support their church in these times. KANSA in one of the good ones. They speak truth, they have the difficult conversations, they preach in a loud voice every Sunday that black lives matter, that racism has no place in the church, that the LGBTQ community deserves respect and support, and that Jesus was a social justice warrior, who fought for the least of these no matter who they were, where they were from, what they looked like.

In fact, Jesus was most harsh to those who had the means to help and decided not to answer the call.

These systems of oppression we are protesting have been around a long time; they have screwed up a lot of lives, they have been the reason for revolution and the downfall of entire civilizations, they don’t work. We need to find a better way to live by supporting each other. And support has to come in systemic, social, financial, and political ways, both national and local.

I am not local to KANSA anymore, but I support their mission, the way that mission manifests in the world, and the simple fact that they follow Jesus no matter how ostracizing that position can be at times. Which brings me to the point:

Thanks to a $10,000 matching gift’ from an anonymous donor, the challenge has become an opportunity. Over the next two months, we plan to raise at least $10,000 to meet the challenge. Through August 31, 2020, every donation we receive toward our 2020 Challenge” no matter how small or how large will be doubled by the matching gift.

KANSA is hurting financially and needs support, they do good work and are unabashedly progressive in their approach to our world. Donate now and see your contribution matched to keep one of the good ones fighting the good fight.

Thank you for your consideration.