History is complicated. Facts are, indeed, stubborn things. But sometimes facts get buried in tradition or hidden. Take Thanksgiving, for example.
But first, a message from:
“The Shameless Commerce Division”
This is a shameless plug for “Finding Your Bearings: How Words that Guided Jesus through Crisis Can Guide Us.” I’ve recently discussed it on podcasts by three creative colleagues.
James Howell, “Maybe I’m Amazed” (October 13)
Matt Miofsky, “The F Word: Conversations on Faith” (October 14)
Max Wilkins, “Brilliant Gaze” (October 21)
I hope you’ll drop in on the conversations and listen to more of their podcasts along the way.
Now, back to Thanksgiving.
The Complicated History of Thanksgiving
Permanently imbedded in our cultural imagination is the image of the first Thanksgiving in November, 1621. After the Pilgrims’ first successful harvest, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast with their Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit.
That’s a fact, but there’s more.
Journals obtained by the Florida Historical Society confirm that 55 years before the Mayflower Pilgrims set foot in Plymouth Colony, the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé invited members of the local Timucua tribe to a dinner in St. Augustine, Florida, making it the ‘real first’ American Thanksgiving. But in the 18th century, the British won out over Spain and France and the celebration of the Pilgrim’s “thanksgiving” took hold.
But Native Americans remind us that the traditional narrative hides the long and bloody history of conflict that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of the original inhabitants of this land. Since 1970, protesters have gathered on Thanksgiving at the top of Cole’s Hill, overlooking Plymouth Rock, to commemorate a “National Day of Mourning.”
Then, in the height of the Civil War, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He urged the “whole American people” to “implore the interposition of the almighty to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it … to full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.” It was, of course, rejected by the Confederacy, but it’s a call we desparately need to hear today!
Most recently, The 1619 Project, has called our attention the 400th anniversary of the day the first slaves where unloaded in Virginia, imbedding the evil of racial segregation and slavery in the earliest roots of our history. (Read Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent.) And, predictably, we’re seeing the negative and sometimes violent reaction of those who would rather live in the myth of our white past rather than give thanks for our increasingly more diverse society with its complicated history.
Kyle, Ahmaud, and Thanksgiving
Yesterday, the Ahmaud Arbery case when to the jury. It follows on the heels of the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse. Surrounding the jury verdicts are a truckload of complex facts, emotions, convictions and experiences. Just like the history of Thanksgiving, it is possible for more than one fact to be true at the same time. But in the background are painful and divisive questions about the racism that continues to infect our history even when we (white people) try to deny it.
What if a Black teenager from a different state had shown up in Kenosha with a military style weapon swinging over his shoulder?
What if a white young man had been running through a suburb of Brunswick or had been seen walking through houses under construction?
How might the verdicts be different if either jury had reflected the racial diversity of their community?
How will this piece our history be remembered and retold by people of different races, politicians of different parties, and ranting commentators on social media?
Facts are stubborn things, but how we remember and retell our stories can make a difference.
There has not been a better Thanksgiving since the Civil War for us to heed Lincoln’s call to “commend to [God’s] tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife,” to search for ways to “heal the wounds of the nation,” and to hope that with all of our religious, racial, and political diversity, we may find our way “to full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.”
Thanks be to God!
5 thoughts on “Thanksgiving with Kyle and Amhaud”
This is excellent, but the pictures didn’t show. I don’t know if you look at it after you post it.Bon
The FACT is, you don’t know that either verdict would be different. But, you hold these verdicts up as further evidence of what a racist country we live in. You indict 24 jurors whom you don’t know, as racists. All because their verdicts don’t fit your liberal narrative. You indict the American legal system as incapable of overcoming our racist past. And you offer all this, plus the country’s past murder of indigenous peoples, two days before Thanksgiving. You sure do know how to create a spirit of thanksgiving to our wonderful God, who has given us everything.
Hello Jim, the more I read of your writing, the less I want to read (and this coming from a big fan of your preaching). When are we going to stop digging up things that happened long, long ago that we had nothing to do with creating? When are we going to stop calling everyone and everything that happens racist or race-related? When are we going to stop trying to find out what is wrong about everything because it doesn’t fit a certain narrative? You how a powerful voice and platform to inspire people to live out their Christianity, yet everything I have read on this blog seems to be far from trying to “heal the wounds of the nation”. A few questions to consider before your next post:
– is my writing healing or hurting?
– is my writing to promote my political views?
– do I know for a fact that everything I write is true?
– and most importantly, am I equipping others that I impact (particularly future pastors) with tools that would help them spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and not create dissension and discourse?
There is time for you to change your writing so it’s not like “ranting commentators on social media” that you mentioned in your post.
Pastors of my grandfathers generation (who served 35 years as a United Methodist pastor) would be ashamed of what has happened in society and with the United Methodist Church including most United Methodist pastors. I used to be proud of my United Methodist heritage and my nearly life long membership in the United Methodist Church. No more.
Despite our vast differences, I do wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and pray that you’ll consider and reflect upon what you are grateful for and that before you post again, you’ll take a pause to consider the content of your writing.
Well said, Tim. My sentiments exactly!
David and Tim:
Thanks for taking my words seriously enough to disagree with them. The point of the post is that history — the stories we tell and how we tell time — really matters. With all its complexity, our history shapes the way we live in the present and what we hope for the future. That’s why “remember” is such an important word in the Bible. In their own ways, your critiques of me and my words may demonstrate that point. I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving. Jim