WHAT THANKSGIVING MEANS TO ME
Photo: by Pixabay from Pexels
You might find it odd that I despise Thanksgiving Day, at least how it's celebrated in my homeland of the United States.
It's not that I have a problem with gratitude; on the contrary, I celebrate it, embrace it; it's one of the primary ways I access the Presence of God in my everyday life. Therefore, I make it a point to spend as much of my time as possible in that frame of mind.
And I don't take issue with our national tradition of setting aside a day for remembering things for which I'm thankful. Indeed, what 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens" is, to me, a lovely value to build a tradition upon, so that we may come together as a People to commemorate God's providence.
Lincoln wasn't the first president to proclaim a national Thanksgiving Day for the United States. The Continental Congress, which governed the fledgling country from 1774 to 1789, issued several "national days of prayer, humiliation, and thanksgiving," a practice our first president, George Washington honored and most holders of his office have followed suit.
Thanksgiving is an opportune time for charity, for in giving thanks for what we have, we may pause and remember those who are less fortunate and in need of what we might give. We are reminded that we can serve as God's vessels of blessing, that through us can flow abundance to those who are, as Jesus so eloquently put it, "the least of these." And, in that counter-intuitive way, of course, it is in the act of giving that we are likewise blessed.
So what is it that I can't stand about Thanksgiving Day? It's this predication on colonialism, this odd value that European settlers somehow enjoyed a divine blessing that justified their exploitation of the New World. Sure, it's subtle, and you may disagree it's even there, but when I look at the literature of the time, it's nearly universally accepted (among English settlers and their descendants, anyway) that God's providence is responsible for the colony's very survival at Plymouth; that his providential hand is on the People of the United States throughout its founding, from the earliest battles of the Revolution through the War of 1812, up through the preservation of the Union in 1865. And it's odd that I should find myself at odds with such a pernicious doctrine, given that my ancestors are from Europe and my faith is rooted in that same Puritan grace. After all, my European culture has exploited those lies and benefited from them.
Yet I feel this dissonance between what I was taught about that first meal held in 1621 by the 90 Wampanoag and the 53 pilgrim colonists who settled Plymouth Colony and what I've come to understand since then. Not surprisingly, the disconnect is owing to the propaganda against First Nations people that so pervaded my childhood. It is the same programming, the so-called "Monroe Doctrine" that made it alright for white men to sprawl westward, wiping out natives who'd already been living there untold generations.
It turns out it's easy to rewrite a people's history once you've wiped that people from the face of the Earth; take them out of history and you can re-create another version of them—out of your own imagination—and re-insert them in a history you likewise fabricated. Then you may insert yourself and position your role any way that suits that narrative.
So many of us all around the world have a tradition of giving thanks. Wouldn't it be better if ours wasn't based on this propagandistic lie. Muslims thank Allah for his blessings. Sikhs give thanks the Almighty. Christians hold hands and give Father thanks, "in Jesus' name." Jews thank God for all good things. Could we not unite in this commonality of gratitude, despite our differences of faith? Wouldn't that unity have more integrity if we dispensed with the propaganda that elevates one people above all others, all so that one people may grab the land, pillage the resources, and destroy the cultures of all the rest?
Dom De Bellis is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, coach, and minister of the Gospel. When he's not collecting brain injuries or serving his church and Scout Troop, he teaches people in cities grow organic food and produce clean energy.