(Note: this was originally published on my other blog site… which I’m gradually moving all things over to this blog.)
I love the “holidays”. Especially when Thanksgiving comes. For me it signals the beginning of the circle of the seasons. Beginning with Giving Thanks, the height of the fall/autumn/harvest season, the beginning of Advent, the soon coming winter Solstice the “darkest, longest night” of the year, followed by the birth of the Bright and Morning Star, the Sun (Son) Eternal, followed by Epiphany, the Lenten Spring, culminating in the Feast of Feasts, Pascha, the Resurrection of the Son of Man and Son of God, with the blessings of Pentecost where out of many tribes, tongues and nations we have the opportunity to become united in one Body, healing the divides between human beings and God, and between one another.
Tied up in Thanksgiving, I’m once again bothered by the “political correctness” that grips our American culture to the point of guilt, strangulation and making us prisoner to hide our desire to celebrate. This year’s disturbance caused me to jump on my “soapbox” because of reading a Facebook post which referenced another blog by Kathy Escobar, which you can read hear, A More Honest Thanksgiving.
I must say I do agree with much of what Kathy says,
“I don’t feel guilty for celebrating.
Gratitude is usually always a good thing. It heals. It helps bring light into darkness. It binds us together. It’s a spiritual practice.
But I also think it’s important to be more honest about the roots of Thanksgiving.
I read the Doctrine of Discovery a few years ago and the words have been embedded in my mind every since. Papal decrees in the 1400’s, it laid some of the tracks for what we live with today—oppression, discrimination, separation, and prejudice. All in the name of Jesus. The destructive roots of Christian colonialism are deep and strong.”
As many of you know I’m not one to keep quiet… (okay, you can stop laughing now). I did make my comments on both Facebook and her blog.
However, I thought I would post my more lengthy thoughts here…
Yes, what was later known as the “Doctrine of Discovery”” was a power grab, land grab, conquering grab. (It originally started out as a series of Papal Bulls between Spain and Portugal over territorial disputes.)
But remember it was a time of those in power to conquer or be conquered. It was s time of state formations and migrations of large people groups.
Much of the lands of Christiandom had just come through an assault by the Saracens/Turks/Islam with the bulk of Christians martyred and killed for their faith and the ancient lands of Christianity and Judaism, much of North Africa and into a large portion of Europe were overrun by the Saracens.
Unfortunately it was also a time where Eastern Christians had already split with the West and unless they bowed to Rome they could expect no help with the Saracens. It is in this climate where Christians began to make protests against the abuses in the church by those in authority and often in collusion with Rulers of other countries (the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation), thus sojourner/pilgrims began traveling from one country to another to freely worship God yet they were ignorant that they were still slaves to a “superiority” mindset over “barbarians” engrained from the culture in which they were raised.
On to North Americans…
I finished reading a book called “1491” by Charles C Mann (2nd Edition) based on the most current archeological artifacts and narratives of the Americas. It has a very different point of view that I had not heard in this dialogue and may upset some of the “politically correct” narratives. His follow-up book 1493 is also fascinating.
It mentioned there was quite a bit of tribal warfare between opposing tribes along with disease wiping out entire tribes brought by European traders & slavers.
Another good read is “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War” by Nathaniel Philbrick.
The basics of the back history to the Thanksgiving story is Chief Massasoit had been playing a political angle for better positioning and protection from an opposing tribal group. And there were two rival interpreters Squanto and another man (I can’t remember his name at this time) playing rival factions which all erupted in violence.
Chief Massasoit (smaller/weaker tribe) actually gave land with promised conditions of “my enemies are yours” so when another tribal group attacked, (a set up by one of the interpreters) the “pilgrims” were obligated to kill the opposing party. War broke out, and as in all wars there is decimation and devastation on both sides, but ultimately the settlers were the victors.
Long story short, rival tribal groups continued to play opposing sides with various European factions all the way up to the war of 1800’s. England was hiring one tribe to fight the newly formed United States of America who hired other native tribes to fight back.
Both European Americans and Native Americans were making promises that went unkept.
Along with European Americans having no idea that they brought diseases that native Americans had no immune system to fight against. They had a presumptuous false belief that God was blessing their “superior race” and punishing the heathens. Although many white people died from the small pox and influenza that swept through the colonies it did not wreck the devastation as it did on the natives.
As I mentioned before, we often forget this was a time period of European colonialism which spread across the globe. New political States/Countries we’re forming and boundary lines new constantly being redrawn.
Very different mindset and culture than we have today. The rise of Feudalism and “landed” people vs. “peasants”. It’s easy for us to slip into judgement of how “evil” the Western Caucasian Europeans were. But we should be cautious to label one “group of people” as the sole blame for “colonialism” when around the world it was s time of great upheaval and migration.
Let us also remember the conquests of the Asiatic cultures throughout Asia of one warring faction against another… names like: the Mongols, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, the Sultans of the “tribes” of Central Asia, the Saracens, Turks & Islam conquests eventually known as the Ottoman Empire.
Maybe let us go all the way back to the various warring tribes since the time of Cain and Abel, the Tower of Babel, “Ishmael against Issac”, Africans warring against and enslaving each other, all over the world where differing tribes try to conquer other tribes, including Europeans against Europeans (English vs. Irish, Catholic vs. Orthodox, French vs. English, etc.) up to the present day where we have Shiite’s vs. Sunni’s, Zulu’s vs. Hutu’s, and more.
Us against Them… we are still fighting over resources and differences.
Thanksgiving is a reminder we all are part of, in some way, a guilty tribe of one or the other.
Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity and a time to lay down our “arms” and open up our “arms” to “embrace the other without loss of the self” as Miroslav Volf would say in the latest book I’m reading, “Exclusion and Embrace” (given to me by my sister, Dr. Deborah Dunn, PhD, professor at Westmont College, Santa Barbara).
Thanksgiving is a time to remember how one “tribe” (Native Americans) decided to help another starving “tribe” (European settlers fleeing persecution, exclusion or annihilation) to survive.
At that time and place, having a meal together to celebrate and give thanks, was to recognize the benefits of the mutual survival of both tribes, a time of peace and diversity and sharing a common table and giving thanks.
Perhaps we can still learn from the “first thanksgiving” and not just about the food, and football and Macy’s parades.
Perhaps we can still seek the image of our creator God in the face of the other person, including one we would deem as our enemy or “not like us”.
Truly, each individual is made in His image, each one has unique gifts, talents, skills to enhance our own lives as much as we have to enhance theirs. Their is a universal law of the Sanctity of a Human Life.
Let us remember, let us repent, let us forgive, let us let go of the pain, let us embrace, let us heal, let us give thanks for each other and the God who created us all and longs to embrace us into One Body… His Love!
Let us celebrate and give Thanks for each other, our blessings, our God. Happy Thanksgiving