Our country is raging, and nobody needs another hot take to see it. We have accepted that this is who we are and have entered into the phase of wondering, what have we become? Even more so, is there a way to undo what we have become? Is there any way out of this downward cultural spiral into the abyss of our own animosity?
These are the takes we are desperate for—not diagnostic but therapeutic. Are there real practical steps we can take to heal our land?
My suggestion is that we all pay special attention to this week’s cherished tradition of giving thanks. If ever our country needed to pause and celebrate Thanksgiving, it is now. We need this holiday, not just as a daylong respite from our divide, but more so as an audacious protest against the divide.
Giving thanks is much more than a patronizing feel-good sentiment that ignores the very real problems in our lives and world around us. Instead, it is a call to stand in defiance of such things. It is a valiant disposition that refuses to surrender to difficult circumstances by declaring our blessings greater than our troubles.
The Bible is written from the perspective of the enslaved, exiled, marginalized, and persecuted. Therefore, one might expect it to be an incredibly bitter and angry book. And yet the opposite is true. Over and over again the Bible commends, even demands, thanksgiving. This is not because the writers are naïve to circumstances, but precisely because they are keenly aware of circumstances. Biblically speaking, thanksgiving is a deadly weapon in the battle against the cynicism and hatred in our hearts and the world around us.
Consider, for example, the audacity of that first Thanksgiving the Pilgrims shared with the Native Americans. Circumstantially speaking, there was no reason to feast. From the Pilgrim perspective, they were dealing with the deaths of half their population. From the Native American perspective, they were dealing with the bewildering arrival of foreigners in their land. Even still, these two weary communities came together for the cause of thanksgiving.
And this is not an anomaly of history. Every culture throughout the centuries has relied upon the unique power of thankfulness as a way of perseverance, and we would do well to heed this ancient wisdom in our modern day.
But the challenge of thanksgiving is its elusive nature. We can force a smile and pleasantries, but we cannot manufacture true thanksgiving. But we can fight to cultivate it, and that fight takes place in the arena of perspective.
As a Christian, I believe that everything we enjoy is born of grace. Everything from the momentary breath in my lungs to the eternal salvation of my soul is an undeserved gift from my Creator, and this perspective is devastating to my proclivity toward bitterness, for how can I complain, when all is a gift? Perhaps you don’t share this worldview that demands such extreme thankfulness, but at the very least, you can admit that your blessings far exceed your troubles.
This is the perspective our culture is desperate for. We don’t need more social media debates, or YouTube “owned” videos, or partisan memes, or comment section fights, or cable news talking points—these things that never change anyone’s minds and only reinforce our tribal dogma. What we need to do is give thanks. We need to stand in defiance of our divide with healing power of Thanksgiving.
So let us gather with family and friends, let us enact our beloved traditions, let us laugh and feast until it hurts, and let us remember just how blessed we truly are—far more blessed than we are divided.