Monday, November 24, 2008

The New Assault on Thanksgiving

Christmas has been under attack from radical secularists for years. Easter has been reduced to a mythical bunny delivering hardboiled eggs and chocolate. Now one more holiday has been targeted for de-Christianization. In the war on all things godly, I do believe I witnessed the opening shot against Thanksgiving one afternoon as I watched a children’s cartoon with my then three-year-old son.

The story took place in late fall. The characters were eating a holiday meal which included turkey, dressing, and all the fixings, complete with pumpkin pie. It was a time of family gatherings, the retelling of old stories, and passing on long-held traditions. Everyone brought his or her own dish and shared in a common meal. It made a lovely Thanksgiving special…only they were not celebrating Thanksgiving. It was called “Fall Feast,” and it consisted of all the usual trappings of the traditional American holiday, but under a different name.

It should come as no surprise that Thanksgiving has been blacklisted by the political correctness police. After all, the person to whom we “give thanks” is God – the number one guy on the radical left’s Most Wanted List. The left knows that the popular history of Thanksgiving is thoroughly God-centered. Pilgrims and Indians celebrated the abundant fall harvest with a common meal, giving thanks to Divine Providence for their food and newfound friends, and asking God to bless them through the long winter ahead. God was the focus of the Pilgrims’ celebration and of their lives, as He was also their reason for coming to the New World in the first place. The word “pilgrim” denotes one who is on a religious journey.

Sharing a common meal as a way of giving thanks to God is an integral part of many religious faiths, especially the Judeo-Christian tradition which shapes our own cultural understanding of God. Every year observant Jews celebrate the Passover meal thanking God for delivering their ancestors out of bondage in Egypt. Christians adapted the Passover ceremony to reflect what Jesus did at His Last Supper. Christians give “thanks” to God for delivering humanity from the bondage of sin. These Jewish and Christian meals put the faithful in contact with God. And the ritualized form of these shared meals creates a visible link between all those who share the faith around the world and throughout history.

Historically Christians have given a specific name to their ceremonial meal, a name that aptly describes a key element of its purpose. Most Christians in the first few centuries A.D. were Greek-speaking converts to the new religion. Greek was the language regularly used by the early Church. And in Greek the ritual bread-breaking ceremony was often called eucharistia. From this we derive the term Eucharist which is still used today by many Christian denominations to describe the action and the object of their Sunday celebration. The Greek word eucharistia means “thanksgiving.”

Now, the Christian worship service and the American celebration of Thanksgiving are not directly linked in any tangible way. I do not mean to suggest that Thanksgiving is in any way equal to a Christian Sunday service. Our November holiday does not rise to that level of worship and is at best a pale reflection of the Communion meal or any religious feast. But the word “thanksgiving” carries with it a wealth of religious meaning that should not be lost on any Christian (or any member of any faith). To give “thanks” to something greater than ourselves implies that there exists a Being to receive that thanks and bless us in return. And our celebration of Thanksgiving should retain that vital element. Without God, there is no one to receive the "thanks" we "give."

The secular atheists realize all of this, which is why they see the word “thanksgiving” as such a threat to their agenda. A happy “Fall Feast” can be had without any mention of God and without the religious implications of the word Thanksgiving. So before this annual tradition becomes just another “Happy Holiday,” take time this year to be with those who matter most, get out the best china, roast the bird, and remember to give thanks in whatever way your faith guides you.

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