Thanksgiving is over. Thus we can begin another year of wanton greed.
I kid, I kid…sort of. But now that it’s over, I want to talk about how more than ever it seems, our tradition of Thanksgiving, and giving thanks in general, is tainted by our never before so high awareness of the checkered history of the holiday and our history. Some bloggers like Eugene Cho, who I greatly respect, call Thanksgiving a commemoration of genocide.
While you may think that’s flippant or overkill, maybe it isn’t. Here’s what I mean.
God had nothing to do with this
Early in America, people had this idea of “Manifest Destiny.” That meant that God was on the side of America, so people could do whatever it took to conquer the continent. Most of Europe had similar ideas in carving up Africa, India, and Indo-China.
If you believe that God really led the Israelites to conquer the “innocent” people of Canaan, maybe this sounds logical. But most of us have enough compassion and logic to think that God didn’t really tell the whites to kill Indians and enslave blacks.
Did it all work out for the best in the end? Depends on who you ask, I guess. I’m glad that America exists, despite it’s past. But our existence hinges on a lot of actions that God probably didn’t like too well. Those of us who feel “blessed” probably in some distant way, are blessed by the sins of our ancestors.
So the question is, when we thank God for all we have, are we implicating God in our sins? Do we have what we have because God really orchestrated a chain of events, including genocide and slavery, so you can live a comfy 21st century life? Or is it the result of a chain of human sins, and God’s saying, “Don’t give me credit for that!”
God only has so many blessings
Most of you who read this blog are probably in the habit of thanking God for what you have. Heck, even football players point at the sky when they make a touchdown.
But touchdowns (or “goals” for the Brits and Aussies) are made because some other hapless fool messed up or Jesus doesn’t love him as much. Someone can’t be “blessed” by God unless someone else is “cursed” by being a loser.
Let’s say that God really has blessed all of us as Westerners. Is blessing in life the same way? As a middle class white male, I’m used to being told that everything I have is because it was taken from someone else. (Not that this is totally true. My ancestors came to America as indebted prisoners, somewhat slaves themselves.) But is blessing a zero sum gain? Is every blessing I have balanced by some curse on someone else? Are there only so many blessings to go around, and the rich get richer while the poor get poorer?
If that’s the case, God kind of screwed up on that one. Big time.
What if we’re not blessed?
What if America isn’t a blessed land? What if we are the cursed ones? It’s entirely possible.
As we’ve gained more and more, we’ve grown less happy, I think. We take more prescription medications than anyone else. We have high rates of crime, depression, and stupidity. We’re all killing ourselves by eating junk and watching garbage on TV.
But worst of all, we’ve grown far away from God.
But go to a place where the people have “nothing” (as only a stupid American could so blindly put it), and the people are joyful, and most of all, thankful. They love God. Then I think of Jesus who seemed to favor the poor while saying the rich and “blessed” would be last in the Kingdom.
It wouldn’t be the first time that God has let a “cursed” nation get rich and then use them to judge the guys God loves. Kind of makes you wonder what a “blessing” is, huh?
Why do I have all this stuff?
I can’t deny it. I have a lot that others don’t. Maybe some small part is because of my ancestors’ misdeeds. I probably had some ancestor who screwed some other poor chap over, and now I have a bigger television.
I can’t rewrite history, nor can I pay for it. In some ways, I don’t think I should have to. Did you know Germany just finished paying war reparations for World War I? I guess now they can finally start chipping away at that whole Hitler fiasco. Is that justified? You decide. The point is the cost of our ancestors’ sins is enormous, more than you or I can afford.
I don’t know how God doles out the blessings. But I feel blessed. I can’t rewrite the history that led to my life. I can only be a good steward of what I have, for whatever reason I have it.
And I have to believe that I am dead last in the Kingdom. If God sends me to hell, just for being a rich white American Christian slob, I really have nothing to say about it, do I?
Well what do you think? Is America a blessed or a cursed land? Should we be paying reparations? How old do the wrongs have to be before we call it even? Does a blessing from God mean a curse on another person?