Thursday, November 22, 2007

It Never Fails

Every year around this time (and Christmas, and the 4th of July, and Veterans and Memorial Days), I can expect WorldNetDaily's columnists to start guilt-tripping me, along with the rest of Blue State America, into what colossal ingrates we all are.

Joe Farah kicks things off by moaning that Americans have "forgotten the meaning of Thanksgiving." Quick, Charlie Brown, do tell us! Is it stuffing? No, wait, funny hats? The joys of boating? Cross-cultural exchange? Maize?

The Pilgrims had a rough time when they first landed on Plymouth Rock. Finally, the friendly native Americans taught the European plunderers how to fish and plant corn. The harvest feast held by William Bradford and the gang was a way for the Pilgrims to thank the Indians for saving their lives. Thus, Thanksgiving.

Wait, is this your sarcastic version of Thanksgiving curriculum? Or what you think the curriculum should be? I can't keep up.

In Seattle, recently, the school district suggested Thanksgiving should actually be portrayed as a time of national mourning!

Well, considering there are a lot of Indians near and in Seattle, this might not be that big a surprise. Kind of like how you might think twice before praising the merits of the Opium War or Japanese internment camps in, say, Chinatown.

Apparently Farah really likes Thanksgiving. Which is great. He and I even seem to share some common Thanksgiving interests- family, reflection, feast. Of course, he adds praising God, but hey, that's ok. More power to him.

Oh wait, I forgot. Joe Farah is crazy.

Though it's a uniquely American tradition, the roots of Thanksgiving go back to ancient Israel. In a real sense, the Jews invented Thanksgiving. I count 29 references to the word "thanksgiving" in the King James Bible – all but nine in the Old Testament. For the ancient children of Israel, thanksgiving was a time of feasting and fasting, of praising God, of singing songs. It was a rich celebration – and still is for observant Jews today.

Hey Joe, didn't anyone tell you the King James is an awful translation? That's like saying the Jews invented the color red because Adam and Esau are both referred to as "adam." Besides, what are you doing with the KJV at all? I thought you guys were busy pimping out the "authentic" Pilgrim Bible?

Bradford himself studied the Hebrew Scriptures. The Pilgrims took them very seriously. The idea of giving thanks to God with a feast was inspired by that knowledge of the Bible. In a very real way, the Pilgrims saw themselves, too, as chosen people of God being led to a Promised Land.

Yes, complete with their very own Amalekites. It was too bad for the Wampanoags, but hey, at least Bradford got to be Joshua.

Today the whole notion of Thanksgiving has been dumbed down to little more than multicultural gibberish. It's no longer a day to thank God – it's a day to thank indigenous peoples for their contributions to humanity. Ironically, Thanksgiving is truly a multicultural tradition in the best sense of the term – having been inspired by the ancient Hebrew pilgrims of the Old World and born anew by Christian people seeking a promised land of religious liberty of their own.

Wait, the "Hebrew Pilgrims" of the Old World? Like what, Jews in Amsterdam? What the hell are you talking about? And how about acknowledging the fact that, God or no God, mere faith and tenacity wasn't enough to keep the Pilgrims alive? And that without both aid and mercy (and protection) from Natives, the Pilgrims would have ended up like the Vikings before them?

This week, America is in crisis again. We are besieged by an army of well-funded and motivated terrorists who seek to destroy us. A non-Judeo-Christian worldview is at war with Americans, Christians, Jews and Western civilization. In times past, those who came before us got down on their knees to pray for divine intervention. Moses did it. Joshua did it. David did it. Jesus Himself did it. Washington did it. Lee did it. Patton did it.

Actually, Jews don't pray on their knees, Joe. You'd know that if you bothered to spend even a moderate amount of time investigating the whole "Judeo" part of that Judeo-Christian bullplop you love to spout. But thanks for that nice dollop of tokenism-slash cultural appropriation. Now who's spinning multicultural gibberish?

But it gets better. Check out Tristan Emmanuel, who's previously graced WND with such gems as, "Atheists are fools- the Bible says so," "tolerance originally meant something else, but liberals don't care about definitions because post-modernism doesn't believe in meaning," and downplaying some of the really scary ideas of Christian dominionists by saying the alternative is an atheist, agnostic, humanist, socialist and Marxist state doomed to destruction like the USSR- adding, "
Concepts such as justice, liberty and equality under the law were established in North America precisely because there were predominantly Christian communities." Yeah. Brilliant.

So yeah. Mr. Name-O-God, boy genius, says Thanksgiving makes secularists pop their top. Funny, I'd say I'm probably the most faithful person who was at the dinner table this evening, and other than the regular sullenness we've come to expect from my brother, Deacon Yid, everybody else seemed just peachy. Sure, there was some minor quibbling here and there, but it was mostly over petty issues like someone wanting to take turkey home to their dog and an older guest being hard of hearing and asking the same question three times in a row.

After all, when you don't believe in God, whom do you "thank" at Thanksgiving?

No one. Quite simple, really. We say, "We are thankful"- thankful for family, friends, prosperity. God doesn't enter into it. He doesn't have to.

Emmanuel then gives a laundry list of how American and Canadian pioneers and governments associated Thanksgiving with religion. Which, of course, is just skippy- but has no impact on how individual people, or larger groups of people, should or must view the holiday today.

What all of these proclamations – in both countries – had in common was the notion that people should be thanking God. Imagine it. Civil rulers telling citizens to acknowledge God and thank Him for His "mercies."

No wonder secularists go mad at the thought of "Thanksgiving"!

Again, not really. Maybe it's all the tryptophan in my system, but I'm just not feeling this supposed outrage, Tristan. George Washington thought a lot of stuff, not all of it, in my view, necessarily good, and not all of it necessarily right. I don't doubt the Pilgrims' faith or religiosity- but the reality is, I really don't much care what THEY thought about Thanksgiving, particularly since most of the holiday is retconned from the Victorians (and, for the majority of its history, was confined to New England) anyway. Thanksgiving is a mish-mash, and I don't have to give a fig about its original intent in order to eat a damn turkey with my family.

Emmanuel also heard about the Seattle school thing, where a psychologist made the mortal sin of pointing out that, um, Indian kids might have an issue with Thanksgiving, and suggested teachers check out some websites that question the links between the holiday and the American psyche. Actively interrogate reasons why Americans do things? Nooo!

It is amazing to me how selective revisionists are. No doubt, there were white Europeans who took advantage of the Indians. But what so many revisionists fail to mention is that corruption, oppression and injustice are not a one-way street. They try to perpetuate the myth that Native American Indians were pure, innocent, noble savages, all living in complete harmony with one another and "mother earth" until the evil white man came along and introduced Christian civilization.

Emmanuel makes an excellent point that historical revisionism is a dangerous path to tread, but ignores the fact that there is a legitimate argument in saying that Thanksgiving often gets whitewashed. Neither the Pilgrims nor the Indians were innocent, yet the very nature of the holiday tends to privilege the Pilgrims over the Natives they went on to conquer and kill, just like Columbus Day invariably tended to take ol' Chris' side (and as with Thanksgiving, people who dare to point out the dirty details about Columbus are also charged with being anti-American revisionists).
I partly understand the motivation. Liberals have a vested interest in their "story" because many of them hate Christianity. They greatly prefer paganism.

Moron. I don't hate Christianity. I don't particularly hate anyone. I do have a strong distaste for dogma, and for people that feel the need to manipulate truth, facts and history in order to fit their agenda. Or who need to justify their own religious or cultural perspectives by connecting themselves to some grand tapestry of American religiosity.

You don't need the Pilgrims to be a Christian. And you don't need to beat the rest of us over the head to have a religious Thanksgiving- in YOUR house.

For all his talk about revisionism, Emmanuel falls into his own dogmatic trap- for him, it all comes back to the premise that man is an animal, only tempered by faith.

If it is possible for people with deep religious convictions to act like savages, what would the culture be like if the secularists succeeded in taking God out of the picture entirely, and allowed us all to return to our natural pagan selves?

That's why this holiday is important. That's why we need to celebrate it, to teach it and to remember that our peace and welfare ultimately rests on God's common grace.

Frankly, I think I'll stick with the company at my house. At least the agnostics I hang out with aren't nearly as blowhard-y.

Last, Jane Chastain, too, is mad that people aren't faithful. How could people make fun of Sonny Perdue? she asks. Rather than spend some time pondering this culture gulf, she instead moves on to a favorite Conservative strawman, the nonexistence of a church-state separation.

The phrase "separation of church and state" is not in our Constitution.

True enough. Of course, there's also no mention of God, Christianity, or much of anything religious.

The First Amendment does not limit the practice of religion but rather protects its free exercise by everyone, including those elected to public office. Sonny Purdue did not require anyone to attend his prayer vigil but simply offered Georgians of all faiths the opportunity to come together to seek Divine intervention for their plight.

If you were offended by that, too bad!

The Constitution does not protect us from being offended. That would be impossible to achieve and just plain silly.

Also true, and also fair. Perdue has the right to be as religious as he wants, and as wacky as he wants. Of course, Georgians who disagree with him, and with the image he portrays of them and their state, have the right to voice that opposition, too. And, of course, let's not forget that conservatives play the "offended" card as well. You may not think Piss-Christ is good art, or terribly intelligent, either, but as the lady said, not being offended ain't a right.
Ninety-five percent of the people in this country believe in God.

Sort of, kind of. Baylor U had a really interesting study back in 2006 showing that most Americans did indeed believe in God, but that there was a lot of disagreement over what that meant, or what kind of being God was. Not that this is a bad thing, but it certainly seems to belie Chastain's erroneous implication that there's some kind of large-scale unity among that 95%. Oh, and while Baylor said that about half the population attended church regularly, a 2003 Harris poll said it was more like a third. Which doesn't exactly sound uber-religious to me.

We worship Him in different ways, but most believe that it is fitting and right that we come together to thank Him, praise Him and ask for His blessings. The few atheists or agnostics who make a big deal over others praying also need a lesson in tolerance.

Maybe so, but Chastain is also presuming to speak for all the "believers" who may still feel differently than she does. Belief in God doesn't mean you want to be represented by fringe evangelicals, anymore than identification as a Jew or atheist means you want Meir Kahane or Christopher Hitchens to be seen as your spokesman. Something tells me Joe Farah and Pat Robertson would take issue with Muslim chaplains offering public prayers on behalf of Americans- yet according to their argument, since they're God-believers, there should be no issue at all. And hell, Hindus believe in "God(s)"- why not them?

Like Farah and Emmanuel, Chastain feels the need to connect herself to leaders past- they too were Christian (maybe), and they too made public statements saying to thank God- even if their conceptions of God may have been entirely different from the WND crowd's.

Today a Thanksgiving in the United States is all about feasting, and God is usually invited to come along. Is it any wonder we've lost our way?

This is what I find most ironic of all. The same people that seem to constantly be championing America as the best nation on earth are quite quick to condemn it, as well. The great lovers of freedom of choice and the market chastise people that dare have a celebration without inviting God into it.

WND can think what they want, but I think that today demonstrated that America functions quite well, thank you. To me, Thanksgiving is wonderful because it has a limited degree of commercialism, and because at its core, it's really more about community than religion, per se. And community, unlike religion, truly is universal. Unlike so many holidays today, I feel that Thanksgiving, precisely because it so often is a private holiday, really does seem to have a split consciousness- we may argue about what it means or why we do what we do, but ultimately, your Thanksgiving is a personal one, which is one reason why so many people work so hard to get there the day of- there's no Thanksgiving season; it's a single moment in time. And if people want to whine about the culture war, they can, but I get comfort from the fact that Thanksgiving is not likely to change from being a private observance. Thanksgiving truly is a family holiday, in the most eclectic ways- like so many families, it is simultaneously happy and sad, frustrating and rewarding. And ultimately, I believe, it is the home observance of Thanksgiving that makes it immune to most pundit bullcrap. Talking heads can talk until they turn blue, but the day will still, for so many people, be about togetherness and poultry, and there's something beautifully honest in that simplicity.

At the end of the day, most people in this country, if they were lucky enough, spent the day eating a meal, with people they love and care about, and whether they started and ended with a prayer or not, had a perfectly decent time. In my America, at least, there is enough room for me and WND. They may think we're on the highway to hell, but that's ok. Because I still know who I am, and what I believe in (or don't). At the end of the day, they aren't going to keep me from the things important to me.

Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. Farah. To you and yours. Be thankful in your way today and all days, and enjoy your bounty. And I'll do the same.

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