Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Into the Darkness

The Indian-owned shopping malls in this Kenyan city are ablaze with holiday lights.  In the big supermarkets there’s an extra aisle of cheap Chinese toys.  There are even artificial Christmas trees in multiple sizes, and strings of coloured lights for sale.  Local advertising on my Fb page ensures that I am daily assaulted by invitations to drink and meet the ladies at holiday-themed excuses to party and get drunk at the local clubs positioning themselves as dispensers of holiday cheer.  I read people’s descriptions back home of going to this office Christmas party and that Christmas soiree at the neighbors, Online newspapers carry stories about whose Christmas light display are a must see, and whose are just tacky.  And then retail stores have been bribing people since Halloween to come and leave their money in their cash registers.  And when a huge storm dumps more than a foot of snow across my North Carolina and Virginia homelands, children get off from school, but businesses grumble because nobody is out spending money, and that is what this season is all about, after all.  Religious people gather in their churches on Sunday and start singing Christmas carols and light a candle in the Advent Wreath.  Churches without hymns and carols do their normal rock concert worship extravaganza and wont be bothered by marking seasons and days and will march on with the sermon series on ten steps to a successful life, which is what people seem to want to hear about anyway.  At home, mothers are busy baking Christmas cookies for the upcoming and highly anticipated Christmas cookie exchange, ensuring that there’s enough for the family and enough to distribute to the neighbours.  And fathers are busy eating, and with the help of Christmas parties, Christmas drinks, Christmas desserts, Christmas candy and Christmas cookies, well on the way to putting on their traditional 10 pounds of Christmas joy.

Whatever Christmas has been in past centuries, this is what Christmas is today.  So much celebration, so many excuses to eat and drink to excess.  So many lights.

But Christmas isn’t about lights and celebrations.  Christmas, the real Christmas - or as we Orthodox call it - Nativity - is really about the darkness.  For most of Christian history, the 40 days before the Nativity of Christ was a time of fasting and spiritual preparation.  A mere vestige of this remains in the Western Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches, and observance has been minimised to a prayer and a candle with a carol on Sunday morning at church, if that. Fasting and repentance?  Nah.  We Orthodox still do things the original way, still keep a vegan fast (which causes issues when we have obligations in the part of our society that thinks eating, drinking and being merry is how the holidays should be marked).  We also schedule even more seeker-unfriendly services than usual.  Moreover we are told that fasting from certain foods is useless unless we are also fasting from sin, which introduces an element of repentance into the picture, which rests rather awkwardly alongside the so-called spirit of Christmas, or the other more politically correct wishes for a happy holiday.

We fast in preparation for Christmas because of the reason that made Christmas necessary - our brokenness.  And the brokenness we inflict on each other.  Individually.  In our families.  In our communities.  In our nation.  Across the globe.

I can’t escape the brokenness where I live.  I go to bed alone.  I wake up alone.  I wash my dishes alone.  Enjoy a cup of tea alone.  Because my brokenness, and the brokenness of my wife of 32 years made it impossible for us carry on together.  I also walk by brokenness every day.  The women selling their bodies so they can feed their children in the squalid shack where they live.  The boys who sleep rough on the streets and hustle for a few shillings and sniff glue til they can’t see straight.  Police who take bribes and refuse to enforce the laws.  And the next thing one hears is that a coach’s steering or brakes failed and the driver lost control and the bus careened down an embankment and 56 people are dead.  Too many clergy in all denominations are scamming their own flock or unsuspecting foreigners for money because, despite what they preach or say, they actually believe that money is what is all about. 

This is not too much changed from the world of Herod the Great during those years when BC turned to AD.  The powerful and the rich had everything, and most everyone else had next to nothing.  Rulers enforced their will with cruel, often petty brutality.  Corruption simply awaited an opportunity.  There were just as many hypocrites then as now.  And just like today, everybody died.  It’s just, except for home remedies, there were no effective medicines.  No surgeries to help backs that hurt, knees that didn’t work, bones that didn’t set, and tumours that appeared from nowhere.  Many, sometimes most children died.  There was no morphine pump to ease one’s transition into the afterlife.  Sure, there were glimpses of joy, of happiness, something of what this human life was meant to be.  But glimpses alone.  The rest was hard.

The religion of the Hebrews, the covenant with God at Mt. Sinai, the faith of the exiles returning from Babylon, Judaism put into words the darkness, the great need, the overwhelming danger facing humanity.  Israel was intended to be God’s light for the world, but was itself caught up in the vortex of darkness, idolatry and brokenness. The world’s solution has ever been to promote one conqueror after another, one ideology after another, each one imposing the jagged edges of its brokenness on an already broken humanity.  And each one has been simply the world again in different garb. Instead it would take a Savior.  Not one in the mould of the world.  But a servant.  One who could and would enter into the very heart of the darkness itself,

The darkness is not something out there, not something done to us, not something we find ourselves in.  We are the darkness.  I am, you are, the darkness comes from us, from my heart, from yours.  Our plight is that serious.

That’s why a prophet cannot save us, and will not ever make a difference.  That’s why gods of our own making are worthless in the face of the darkness, because they themselves come from the darkness.  And only someone whose either blind to history or has lost their memory could seriously entertain the secular hope of progress.  The genocides of the 20th century and the ideological reasons used to justify them should have long ago shamed us human beings into repentance.  But we are peerless when it comes to denial.

A baby boy was born in the night, in the darkness.  His mother had heard that she would give birth to the Savior.  Her betrothed had a dream and was told that the baby would save his people from their sin.  He was born like every other boy and girl.  But somehow he was also Emmanuel, God with us.  This was no theophany, no light show from heaven.  This was no worship extravaganza, no media scrum with their satellite trucks and gonzo reporters, no marshalling of the rich and powerful lining up to welcome another they assume will be just like them.  This was a rescue mission.  And first responders do not wait in the fire station for the people needing to be rescued to come to them.  No, Jesus was born into our world.  He became like us.  He came into the darkness, and took it upon Himself.

This is why we fast during Advent.  Because we need a Savior.  And when we see just what God did, just what it took to begin the process that will end in our salvation, then it’s just possible that there might be better ways to respond than frivolity, decorations, shopping, and eating more cookies.

Sunday, December 2, 2018


John Chau, Christian Missionary, killed attempting contact with the Sentinelese People on 17 November 2018.

I have been listening with some concern to the blistering commentary swirling around the attempt of the young 26-year-old would-be missionary John Chau to gain access to an off-limits island in the Andaman chain off the coast of India.  To do so broke Indian laws, which were in place not only to protect from contact with the outside world the isolated tribe of people who lived there, but also to protect any adventurer who might be tempted to wade ashore from being summarily shot with arrows by people who had shown no qualms about killing in the past to preserve their isolation.  Chau was motivated by his Christian conviction that all peoples of the world needed the opportunity to hear the good news about the Saviour Jesus Christ, come to this planet to save us from sin and death.  He knew the risks.  He made his preparations.  He waded ashore with his eyes open.  He was promptly killed by tribesman who did not want him there.

Much of the hateful commentary about Chau’s Christianity, Chau’s missionary vocation and Chau himself came from people who were manifestly ignorant about all three.  It reveals instead a knee-jerk reaction to despise all things Christian, and especially those Christians who seek to live in a manner consistent with what they believe.  People were appalled that anybody would try to convert another person to their religion.  They felt it was the apogee of Western imperialism and colonialism that someone was trying to do so today.  Attempted conversion means that one party believes that he or she is right, and that the other party is wrong - how unacceptably judgmental!  Needless to say, Chau the missionary pushed every conceivable button in our culture’s down-hill slide into liberal totalitarianism.  Many people whose comments I read were glad that he was killed.  They felt he got what he deserved.  Another said the planet was a better place now that there was one less Christian bigot running trying to convert people. Even Christians whose comments I read felt Chau had acted precipitously, and that it was wrong to put his life in such obvious danger.  And wrong to put the tribesmen in danger by possibly exposing them to some disease against which they had no immunity.  The general consensus seems to be that John Chau was a fool.

My how quickly things change.  First a word about Chau.  He was no fanatical yahoo running heedless into danger.  He had prepared for years to engage these people, studied language-learning and survival, and was obviously a bright guy.  He was also a committed Christian who took seriously Jesus’ commandment to his followers to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

What has changed is that now there is a vocal minority (soon to become a vocal majority) in America, that has no connection with Christianity except  either to hate it or be prejudiced against it.   Theirs is a radically anti-Christian ethic that puts the satisfaction of personal desire and fulfilment as the most important thing.  This criteria is used to justify the whole raft of changes in contemporary morality - from abortion on demand to the legitimizing of the LGBQT etc agenda, to the piggy-backing of the transgender cause as well as the bewildering kaleidoscope of identity issues, all coalescing into a succession of ‘social justice’ hysterias.  ‘Outrage’ is the operative word, and the collection of ‘movements’ seem to derive their energy from affronted indignation that anybody might disagree with them or think them wrong.  Such people become the oppressor.  Dissent is immediately labeled as ‘hatred’ and the one disagreeing is a ‘bigot’.  An earlier generation of these people used to label Christians as ‘narrow-minded’.  But such committed Christians now seem the epitome of open-mindedness compared to the incapacity of the current wave of liberal thought now crashing on our shore to consider any opinion that doesn’t affirm their victimhood or entertain any thought other than their own.  This is not the liberalism I grew up with.  If this were a medical issue, the descriptive term I might use for the change is metastasis.

Just a couple of decades ago, people like John Chau would have been lionised in the Christian community.  There might have been disagreement with his methodology, but his commitment would have been admired and held up as an example of following Jesus.  There is a very long history of Christians motivated by their love of Christ and their desire for he salvation of all people, going into difficult, even dangerous situations because of their commitment to Christ.  Chau is not the first American Christian to lose his life attempting to reach a population considered to be hostile to outsiders.   Jim Eliot, along with Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Flemming, and Nate Saint were Christian missionaries attempting to make contact with the unreached Auca Indians when they killed with arrows and spears in Ecuador on January 8, 1956.  Eliot had previously written in his journal, ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’ 

At that time, Christians were in a majority in the United States, and the societal consensus was that Christian morality should be reflected in our civil laws.  It is generally agreed that this morality was not universally applied for all people at all times, as the Abolitionist movement and later Civil Rights movement rightly pointed out.  And hypocrisy is always a problem with any moral system (including the present social-justice moral consensus).  For those operating within a Christian world view, missions is what we do.  It is our reason for existing.  It has nothing to do with extending the cultural reach or political power of a dominant nation (though this did happen parallel to missionary efforts in Africa and Asia, for example.  Colonial governments actively sought to co-opt missionaries in their efforts to pacify restive populations unhappy with being dominated and plundered by a European power.)  Instead Christian missionaries at their best are responding to the call they understand to come from Christ himself to be the means people separated from God are reconciled to Him through the gospel.

But the times have changed.  And in our day, the people who control our culture and media, who police our national discourse, and who are the new arbiters of what is moral and immoral, have no place for men and women like John Chau.  And as with oppressors in any age, the people we do not understand or fear, we dismiss them with dehumanising labels and choose to believe the worst about them, and then rejoice in their demise, as if they were not human beings just like we are, but only an obstacle we are glad to be rid of.  In the America of 2018, John Chau was a fool.

I, too, am a fool.  I am a Christian missionary.  I gave up a well-paid career  as a Presbyterian clergyperson, and as a university professor to move to Ethiopia in 2000.  There are people who cannot understand why I ‘wasted’ my Cambridge degree to spend my productive years in Africa - Africa of all places - teaching a schools with no standing or reputation in the West, teaching students who seem hopelessly addicted to plagiarism (there are wonderful exceptions, but enough of the other to be very discouraging), repeatedly battered by local church politics, with my motives questioned constantly from without and from within.  There are people whom I respect who have suggested that I have wasted my life, though they have said it with as much kindness as they can.  And from outside the circle of faith, they are absolutely correct.  My choices make no sense to the world in which we live.  Even in a church I once served as pastor, somebody important cornered me on Sunday and asked me, ‘How can you take your wife and your children and move to Africa?  How can you put them in danger like that? What good can you possibly accomplish by wasting all your potential like that?’

The only answer I had, the only answer I have, is that this is Jesus’ idea.  My life does not belong to me.  I don’t snap religious components in and out based on how I feel or what I need.  I don’t use the gospel or my faith to get what I want.  Christianity is not a career track for me.  I’ve heard Christ call, and I have tried to the best of my ability to respond.  With shortcomings, yes; with mistakes, yes.  There have been devastating heartbreaks along the way when I thought it was over and I could not go on.  And I am too often still my own worst enemy - off-putting in my self-centredness, much too quick to speak, slow to let go of past hurts.  But the Lord Jesus evidently loves to call broken people with plenty of room to grow as the one’s He uses.   As the Apostle Paul says, ‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  Now we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassingly great power is from God and not from us.’ (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)

John Chau gave his life for a cause that was bigger than him.  That ‘the world’ cannot fathom motives deeper than victimhood and exacting sweet revenge on oppressors and thinks the world is a better place without him says much more about their own hearts than it does about John Chau.  In their small, sad world, he will forever be a fool.   But blindness isn’t cured by seminars, or listening to radical lecturers, or by trying to intimidate others to agree with your views. by shouting down theirs.  And I can only hope that as Jesus gave sight to the son of Timeaus, who moments before had been a blind beggar by the side of the road, so may Christ open their, indeed all of our eyes, to see him as He is, that we may experience ‘the glory of God in the face of Christ’.  Until then, it’s going to be difficult.  But at least we can begin to see that if Jesus is who He says He is, then people like John Chau begin to make sense.  If Jesus is who He says He is, then it’s not people like John Chau who are the fools.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Polite Notice en route to Kigali

My present locale.
One of the departure terminals at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya

I read this sign as I was passing through the final security check before boarding my flight to Kigali, Rwanda today on my way to Thanksgiving with my daughter and son-in-law:

'Kindly notify our check-in staff if you are carrying firearms, harpoons or spearguns in your baggage.'

Laws are not made in a vacuum.  This probably means that someone has actually attempted to bring their harpoon on board a flight.  I wonder how that discussion went?  I suppose if one can have an emotional-support peacock with you, why not an emotional-support harpoon, or spear gun?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Uncomfortably Radical Thoughts on Stewardship

Luke 12:16-21
The Lord said this parable: "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." As he said these things, he cried out: "He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Does anyone know who the richest person in the world is?  Let me give you a list of the five wealthiest people on the planet right now.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon $166 Billion (16.6 Trillion Kenya shillings)
Bill Gates, Microsoft, $90 Billion
Warren Buffet, Hathaway, $84 Billion
Bernard Arnault, LVMH, $72 Billion
Mark Zuckerburg, Facebook, $71 Billion
Now does anyone know who the richest person in Kenya is?
I’ve seen several lists, but most of them have most of these names on them:

  1. Danial arap Moi (former president) and family (3 b ksh)
  2. Manu Chandaria (2.5 b ksh)
  3. Mama Ngina Kenyatta (widow of former president) (1 b ksh)
  4. Uhuru Kenyatta (current president) (500 m ksh)
  5. Naushad  Merali (432 m ksh)
  6. Raila Odinga (longtime opposition leader) (400 m ksh)
Also included on many lists:
 Musalia Mudavadi (politician)
 William Ruto (current deputy president)
 Mwai Kibaki (former president)
Some people are very good at accumulating wealth.  The man in Jesus’ parable that we just heard read is one of those people.  He was a successful land owner.  He was so successful that there wasn’t enough space in his existing warehouses to store all the harvest.  Gosh, what to do?  Well the obvious solution, according to this man, was to build even bigger warehouses so he could accommodate everything his land was producing.

But just as he gets his huge expansion project underway, he is informed that tonight he will die.  Which means tonight he has an appointment with God.  And God is going to ask him to give an account of what he has done with his life and with all the things God has entrusted to him.
Two weeks ago we talked about another parable, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  And remember what we said about parables then?  We said that parables are stories that have a point. We said that parables have an ending that is often a surprise or unexpected.  We said that to make an allegory out of a parable, to give each person or part a spiritual interpretation, is almost always not what Jesus intended.  Nor does Jesus intend us to understand this parable as a literal, historical event.  It’s a story.  A story with a point.  A story with a sharp point.  It’s how Jesus gets under, around and through our defences.  He disarms us with a story.  And then he has us.
We celebrate rich people.  We’re sort of in awe of them.  We admire their success.  And even if they came into their riches by shady means, we envy their lifestyle.  And with money comes power.  It’s interesting, in my country very few of the very wealthy go into politics.  With the exception of a certain current president.  In this country most of the country’s most wealthy people have been in politics or served in government.  And just as an outside observer I have noted that not too many people here go into politics as wealthy men and women,  But when they emerge from their time of ‘serving the people’, many of them have more money than even they can count.  I’ll leave you to connect the dots.
The rich sit at the top of the mountain that everybody is trying to climb.  And we observe that they did whatever it takes to get there, and so we think it’s Ok to do what ever we need to do in order to climb the next step up the ladder of success and wealth.  The rich define the culture, they set the standards and write the rules.  When we talk about ‘the world’, we are talking about their world.  In Ethiopia where I lived for 8 years, if someone looks at you and says ‘Betam wufram yebecal!’ - ‘You’ve become very fat!’  It’s meant as a complement.  It means you are prospering.  Because only the people who have money can afford to eat enough to get fat.
So everything that this rich man does seems normal to us. He has property.  His crops have done well.  He’s expanding what he does.  In our world we would call this ‘business as usual.’  Many people would even say he’s been blessed by God.  And he congratulates himself on having achieved the Kenyan dream, or the American dream, of having accumulated enough, more than enough, so that he doesn’t have to worry about anything.
And then suddenly, this rich man is called to account.  The reality that he has created for himself is shattered by the real reality.  ‘What have you done?’ God asks.  ‘You have played the fool.  You have stored up all these things for yourself.  But tonight your soul is required of you. And what will you do?’
This is the surprise ending, the twist in the plot we don’t expect.  Essentially God says, ‘You have abused the calling I gave you.  I raised you up and put you here and gave you all of these many things.  But you have lived as if these things are yours, as if these things belonged to you.  And you have used it all for yourself, to advance your agenda, to advance your reputation, to advance your brand, to advance your power and influence.  But now you must die like everyone else.’
And Jesus ends his little story by saying, ‘So it will be for everyone who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God. ‘  Rich towards God.  That is the point of this story.  To ask you, to ask me, to ask everyone who is listening to Jesus - are you rich towards God?  This could be the most important question anybody ever asks you.  Are you rich towards God?
How can a person like you and me be rich towards God?  We learn something about what it doesn’t mean from this story.  It means we don’t look at our money, our possessions, our gifts, our opportunities as if they are somehow ‘ours’.  What we have has been given to us by God.  We are called to be stewards, to be managers of his blessing.  A steward in Jesus’ day was a slave brought on by the big landowner to manage the business or the home.  The slave had a lot of responsibility.  He touched a lot of money.  He may have worked in luxury and been given fine clothes to wear and been able to tool around town in the owner’s chariot.  But none of that belonged to him, it belonged to the owner, to the master. He was a slave.  His job was to manage all of it for the sake of the owner.  But the rich man, he got it into his mind that it was all his.  He forgot that he was just a steward.  He deluded himself into thinking that he was the owner.  And he could do whatever he wanted with everything that was ‘his’.  
You and I face the very same temptation. To think that the things that we have, the money that we have, the time we have, the abilities we have, to think these all belong to us.  But all of it comes from God.  We come into this world with nothing.  We leave this world with nothing.  And what we have in the in-between time is what God has given us, to use for God’s purposes and for God’s glory.  And that is what my job is, what your job is.  You see this house?  I live here.  But it isn’t mine.  I’m just the steward, the manager.  And right now part of my calling is to make this place a good place for you to come and worship and serve the Lord.  The same with the truck.  The same with sodas and biscuits and cold water to drink.  The same with my guest room.  You, too, are a steward. You have been given many many things.  How are you using what you have been given for the Kingdom?  Or are you like the rich man in the parable, you are using it for yourself?
So I only want to go as far as Jesus goes in his story this morning.  But that is plenty far, isn’t?  Are you rich towards God?  If you aren’t, what are you prepared to change in terms of your priorities, in terms of how you are using what you have, in terms of your stewardship.
We just started the Advent Fast on Thursday.  That means we are doing without meat and chicken and dairy from now until Christmas.  But to give up certain kinds of foods just to give them up is useless and pointless, unless we are matching our fasting from food with fasting from sin.  In particular, is there something that God has given you that God is calling you to use differently for the sake of the kingdom, for the sake of Christ’s mission, for the sake Jesus’ love?  Using what God has given you for God’s glory is what Jesus means when he talks about being rich towards God.
Remember all those rich people we talked about a few minutes ago.  The day is coming when God will say to each one of them:
'Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’
And it is the same thing God will say to you and to me if we haven’t understood what this life is all about and changed our direction and taken the necessary steps to become rich towards God.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
A sermon preached on Sunday, November 18, 2018
St. Moses the African Orthodox Church, Kisumu, Kenya

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Thanksgiving Idiocy

There is an all-guns-are-good NRA idiocy. And there is gender-queer (I refuse to be normal despite appearances) idiocy.  As well as Drag Queens: Let’s expose our children at library story hour to how normal they are - idiocy.  And then there is euthanasia for all (even those who don’t think they want it) idiocy.  As well as dig more coal, burn more coal idiocy.  And now in a British paper this morning:  The claim is made that ‘many American’s’ do not celebrate ‘the controversial holiday’ because ‘it is viewed by many to be a celebration of the conquest of Native Americans.’  It is, according to the article, ‘steeped in cultural appropriation’ and the history of the day is ‘whitewashed’ and that as a result ‘many’ are ignoring the 'controversial' holiday.  Again, according to the author, ‘Thanksgiving is considered by some to be a “national day of mourning.”’

This is being reported as ‘news’.  Not opinion.  It's in the British paper/news website The Independent.  Somehow I’m not buying this.

And if it's not enough to cast aspersion on the cultural roots of Thanksgiving, the author finds ways to complain even about the traditional Thanksgiving feast that is the centrepiece of the holiday for so many. The author/s quotes a Texas academician who thinks that Thanksgiving and its self-indulgent feasting should be replaced by a national day of Atonement accompanied self-reflective fasting.

Really?  I’m sure people are rushing to sign up for this one.  You think that will fix it?

And then there is the anguished  handwringing in the article because children are taught about the ‘first thanksgiving’ between the pilgrims and the Native Americans, and then directed to make hand turkeys and Indian headdresses and pilgrim hats as art projects.    Oh the shame.  I can see clearly now that our national traumas have their roots in childhood school art projects and the stories they serve to illustrate.  Please.

Full disclosure.  I made my share of hand turkeys when I was in play school and kindergarten.  It never before occurred to me that maybe this explains all my problems, indeed all those problems currently vexing Trumpian America.  Personally, I think the ref needs to signal overreach and doc the opposing side 15 yards and a loss of downs.  If hand turkeys are not safe and become evidence of all the genocidal wrongs of our English (read: white) ancestors, then we are in serious trouble.

Our national holiday of Thanksgiving does not have its roots in the cultural appropriation of a meal shared by two different cultures in Plymouth Bay colony, nor does it reflect some conspiratorial celebration that Native Americans were overwhelmed by the tide of hostile migrants coming from England, Germany, France, Scandinavia, etc.  The only time thanksgiving has ever celebrated the genocide of Native Americans is in these people’s heads, not in any kind of objective reality or history.  

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) was an honest to goodness English 'puritan' who corresponded with John Eliot (below), an honest to goodness American 'puritan', about his missionary work with the Massachusetts Indians  Eliot, the founding minister of Roxbury Congregational Church, is best known as the man who spearheaded the Christian mission to reach the neighbouring Native Americans with the Gospel.  He was remarkably successful.   Among other things, Eliot learned the local language and translated the entire Bible into it, and then taught the Indians how to read so they could read the Scriptures in their own language. And when tensions between the colonists and the other Indians grew, Eliot was the Indians' chief defender.  To no avail.  King Philip's War was a huge defeat for the Indians of eastern Massachusetts.  Eliot's Christian Indian villages, moreover, were completely destroyed and the inhabitants killed. 

So if one is attempting to accuse American Thanksgiving as being a celebration of the  destruction of native American populations, one is being both simplistic and naive in ones understanding and one's use fo the actual history.

Our celebration of Thanksgiving is instead rooted in the English Christian practice of declaring national days of Thanksgiving, or of Prayer and Fasting, or of Mourning.  It’s a time when the community is directed to focus their attention of one thing and seek God in prayer about that one thing.  And the reason that English (and later American) society could get away with having such an avowedly Christian day of prayer is because the vast majority of people were Christians, or at least would self-identify as Christian even if they would prefer the Alehouse to the meetinghouse.  The pilgrim immigrant - Native American pot luck may have been the first time some sort of thanksgiving had happened in North America, but it wasn’t the last.  Many such days of thanksgiving or prayer were called by communities, states and whole countries.  When Lincoln declared a particular day in November to be set aside for National Thanksgiving, there was already a long tradition of calling on Americans to do so.  Lincoln issued his proclamation because, finally, good things were happening (from his perspective) in what had been a god-awful war.  If the above mentioned culture police are so concerned about ‘cultural appropriation’, they perhaps would be better directed to aim their concern at the fact that Thanksgiving as we know it is a cultural imposition of the north upon the south.  But fortunately people whose capacity to reason more clearly than today’s ‘Man the barricades because I’m offended’ mentality (and I chose the word ‘man’ on purpose) were able to see genuine cultural, religious and relationship benefits to an annual holiday whose sole purpose is to thank God for his blessings and to share a wonderful meal together.

I admit to being offended at the offence taken by the authors of this article.  They write as if this is a growing ‘thing’ in America, and they give the impression that a lot of people are pissed that we have to have this terrible holiday on our calendar.  But I have lived a long time, and this is the first I have heard about their ‘movement’.  I myself am an academic, teaching and writing history, and I’ve never come across the attitudes the authors so confidently assume are widespread.  Moreover, the arguments they make against Thanksgiving are made by people who rather obviously haven’t done their home work.  They are arguing against a construct created in their own mind, and then discussed with disgust by a small circle of other people who think (or don’t think, as the case may be) just as they do.  They are offended at something they themselves have assumed and attributed to everyone else.  Actually I can’t think of anyone, ANYONE! who uses Thanksgiving to celebrate the victory of immigrant America over the original inhabitants.  And if there is nobody gathering to do so next Thursday, such claims are simply propaganda (which means the authors are using manufactured lies to push an anti-colonial, dare we say anti-white ideology (or reverse-racism) against what had until recently been the majority culture in America) posing in British newspapers to be rational, academic discourse.  

But this is neither rational, nor academic.  It’s idiocy.  It's classic chip on one's shoulder, for reasons the author doesn't divulge.

The author/s of this article sound a lot like the ‘puritans’ created by that host of 19th century literary and cultural movers and shakers in both America and England (think Nathaniel Hawthorn's The Scarlet Letter and Herman Melville's Moby Dick).  Their caricatures of actual English and American puritanism sold a lot of books and articles, and the sour and hypocritical fictions they foisted on the reading public have had a long afterlife in the assumptions of the culture. But they created a ‘puritanism’ that never actually existed in 16th and 17th century England and America.  Those ‘puritans’ who purportedly are looking high and low to rain on anybody who might possibly be enjoying themselves, existed only in two places - in the minds of 19th century authors and in the minds and actions of 21sr century LBTGQetc anti white privilege anti cultural appropriation social justice warriors that have infected most institutions of higher learning, as well as a few other bastions of the cultural elite. We should call these people the new puritans, because they are having the same effect that those 19th century anti-puritans were sure the original puritans were having on their society.  The only problem is, the ‘puritanism’ of the 19th century imagination never existed.  These SJW people today are alive and kicking and looking for anything that doesn’t meet their list of approved characteristics to knock down.  Hence articles like this one rubbishing Thanksgiving.

I wish these people would go back to school and learn how to do history (both 16th and 17th century American and English history), and philosophy, and religion (particularly Christianity - which means going deeper than what you think Christianity is and finding out what actual Christians think their faith is all about), as well as some unbiased political science studies on the current divisions in American culture (this will be pretty hard to find as things are rather polarised at present.  But it’s not impossible.  Especially if genuine science, as opposed to the social justice bullies and their propaganda, is allowed to win out).  I think such perspective would possibly make one better informed on a number of issues, and not just American Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, this sort of ideological mush served up as some sort of substantial broadside against privileged white culture and our horrible Thanksgiving holiday is sort of where we are, or at least where certain people in the media and academia who pride themselves on being on the cutting edge of our society think we are.  The sad thing is that  too many people in this crowd who are hopping on the bandwagon are just as uninformed and just soft-in-the-head (no evidence, please; unless it supports my prejudice!) as the current crop of pseudo-intellectual SJW bullies.  They get swept up by the drama and the appearance of a cause without taking the time to ask some hard questions of their movement and of themselves.  The unwillingness to entertain criticism is a sure sign that the train has already left the rails.  What’s left is simply propaganda and intimidation, something the world saw way too much of in the 20th century, and which only someone totally ignorant of actual history could be blind to the warning signs slicing through our national discourse today.

As with any revolution, actual or desired, it is much easier to tear down than it is to fix or build from scratch, much like a sandcastle on the beach under attack from a couple of three year olds.  And revolutions, historically speaking, tend to replace the offending society with one that reflects all the weaknesses and shortcomings of the revolutionaries, which often ends up being worse (um, France after 1789 comes to mind, as does Russia after 1917).  I could have some sympathy for going after commercial Christmas (just go ahead and change the name to Amazon Day) or ridiculous Halloween (there is nothing worth saving here).  But Thanksgiving?  It’s a family-centred, meal-sharing respite from all the marketing overkill that characterises too many American holidays.  If trying to take down American Thanksgiving doesn’t make one a pathetic kill-joy of the H.L Menken variety (Menken infamously, cleverly, and wrongly defined Puritanism as 'the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.'), then we just need to come up with a new variation on pathetic. 

So let the whole lot of them sulk (the 'many' our author so confidently asserts), and grumble and complain at all the people going home to spend time with family.  Let them feign disgust as family members work to prepare a big traditional feast and then share it together and and eat too much and then laugh that they shouldn’t have had that last piece of pumpkin pie.  Let them roll their eyes at the opportunity to show gratitude to a God who made them but in whom they refuse to believe.  

I happen to live very far from anyone in my family and at great expense am going to visit my daughter and son-in-law, who also live very far from any family.  And we will make special dishes, and get caught up on our lives.  We’ll pack up our contribution and take it to a friend’s house, where other orphans from far away families are gathering, and will will gladly remember that everything we have and are is God’s gift to us and be thankful for it.  We will happily eat as much as we can, and we won’t feel guilty.  Because sometimes it is good to celebrate.  And we might help the children make hand turkeys and color them, just to give them something to do.

And even though I think their ideas are idiocy, I can only hope for the authors of this article, and whoever (all those Americans stewing over the injustice of it all!) they represent, that on this Thanksgiving they have a family to belong to where they feel safe and secure, or a community that can serve the same purpose, And I can only hope that there is enough good in their lives that they too would have something to thank God for if they were on speaking terms.