Faith-based editors, like preachers, approach holidays with ambivalence:
there are so many meaningful things to say, yet so few that seem
remotely fresh. One approach is to dramatically vary the tone year to
Our local ministerial association met recently to flesh out
the details of the annual community Thanksgiving service. The meeting is always
a riot, but it deals with some tense theological questions too.
Fernando did not look like what I thought a refugee should look like. He was fat, for one thing. The beige polyester suit he wore was tight on him, especially around the belly. He reeked of cologne. He had one gold front tooth and around his neck was a matching gold chain. The pendant dangling from the chain appeared to be a phallus.
It’s almost Thanksgiving, and soon my church in New York City will be serving turkey with all the trimmings to over 400 people. I play a major role in this volunteer effort and sometimes I feel quite virtuous. At last, I tell myself, I’m learning how to feel useful during a holiday that is emotionally fraught for many. But sometimes the annual meal looks less like a joyful act of holiday giving than a thinly disguised act of “slumming.” Those of us serving the meal will be almost uniformly white, after all, while those being served will be mostly black and Hispanic. After the meal is over, the “out-of-towners” will go home and eat healthier, more gourmet Thanksgiving meals.
We have relegated to the “remember when” columns all resistance to the updating of Thanksgiving Day to lengthen time for Christmas shopping. This year it was a September Saturday when the first school boy (“Earn $50 this easy way!”) came to our door to sell us greeting cards. Now, finally, almost anachronistically, Advent announces itself as the beginning of preparation for the Nativity.
When I was a youngster my parents always took me to community Thanksgiving services. I was an unwilling and unhappy participant. I didn’t much like them: there weren’t many people there, I didn’t know most of those who were, and I surely didn’t care for the preaching. “Why do we have to attend these things every year?” My mother answered, “Because of the hymns. They’re the best in the book.”
Support the Christian Century
The Century's work relies primarily on subscriptions and donations. Thank you for supporting nonprofit journalism.