Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays… it is centered most around family and food, two things I love dearly. In addition, because of my family”s Christian heritage, we saw it fit to share what we were thankful for… attempting to embody this thing called gratefulness. But is that really the right posture we ought to have as Christians towards Thanksgiving day?
The central issues that ought be considered have to do with history, memory, narrative, and power. As they say… the winner gets to right the history books. In this case, it is a warm fuzzy story of indigenous Americans helping the Europeans through a rough start, and them sharing a meal. The picture in my mind just leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy all over. However, what is not mentioned is that while the natives did in fact show much hospitality, the Western Europeans came and took everything from them. It is a story of conquest, imperialism, colonization, disease, suffering, loss, and almost complete genocide.
I do not dare suggest that a heart of gratitude is always an appropriate attitude to have at all times. We ought to be people that give thanks. But we should also be discerning people who give thanks for appropriate things. In this case, this “holiday” is a power move by the strong, to narrate history in a way that favors what was done. I am sure that this holiday is seen as hurtful and insulting to many 1st nations peoples.
This would be like their being a holiday to celebrate how helpful the African indentured servants were in 1619 in Jamestown, and how appreciative the westerners were of their hardwork. So because of this beautiful collaboration we are going to celebrate Unity Day through large festivities and parties. If this did exist, I am pretty sure what position I would take in response. So why is thanksgiving any different? Well as I write I am heading off to church and then family to “celebrate”. It must be our apathy towards others that allow us to ignore the sufferings of others.
Published by Drew G. I. Hart, PhD
Drew G. I. Hart is a theology professor in the Biblical & Religious Studies department at Messiah College with ten years of pastoral experience. Hart majored in Biblical Studies at Messiah College as an undergraduate student, he attained his M.Div. with an urban concentration from Missio Seminary in Philadelphia, and he received his Ph.D. in theology and ethics from Lutheran Theological Seminary-Philadelphia. Drew was born and raised in Norristown, Pa and has lived extensively in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, PA as well.
Dr. Hart’s dissertation research explored how Christian discipleship, as framed by Black theologies and contemporary Anabaptist theologies, gesture the Church towards untangling the forces of white supremacy and the inertia of western Christendom which have plagued its witness in society for too long. As two traditions that emerged from the underside of violent and oppressive western Christian societies, he found Black theology and Anabaptism each repeatedly turning to the particularity of Jesus in the gospel narratives. From that arises an ethic of solidarity with the oppressed and pursuing liberation in Black theology and an ethic of radical peacemaking and ecclesial nonconformity in the Anabaptist tradition. Each challenge the violent and oppressive logics of mainstream western Christianity and salvage the call to follow the way of Christ. Together in dialogue they deepen our analysis of the churches failures and the need for Jesus-shaped repentance.
His work beyond teaching and writing has included pastoring in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, working for an inner-city afterschool program for black and brown middle school boys, delivering lectures and leading anti-racism workshops, collaborating with local faith-based organizers and activists in his city, and doing a broad range of public theology. He is also a co-leader for a local Harrisburg faith-based relational network called FREE Together which has collaborated with POWER Interfaith, MILPA, the Shut Down Berks Detention Center movement, and a little with the Poor People’s Campaign.
Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart, has received great reviews by Publisher’s Weekly and Englewood Review of Books. Endorsing this resource, Shane Claiborne said, “This book is a gift from the heart of one of the sharpest young theologians in the United States. Hold it carefully, and allow it to transform you--and our blood-stained streets.” As a text, Trouble I’ve Seen utilizes personal and everyday stories, Jesus-shaped theological ethics, and anti-racism frameworks to transform the church’s understanding and social witness. Trouble I’ve Seen focuses on white supremacy as an overarching framework for understanding racism, with careful attention to its systemic and socializing dimensions. However, unlike sociology textbooks on the subject Dr. Hart also considers the subversive vocation of Jesus and the nonviolent yet revolutionary implications his life ought to have for his followers today.
His newest book project is entitled Who Will Be a Witness?: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance and will be published September 1, 2020. Who Will Be A Witness? invites the church to liberate its centuries long captivity to supremacist practices, and to expand its restricted political imagination in view of Jesus’ messianic reign. The book guides disciples of Jesus into joining God’s delivering presence through scriptural reasoning, historical reflection, practical theology for congregational life, social change theory, and the Christian call to love our neighbor. It is written for congregations, leaders, and students that understand that pursuing God’s justice goes way beyond waiting around for electoral seasons to come around. It is about the ongoing vocation of the Church right now, at the grassroots level, seeking after the wellbeing of their neighbors through faithful, strategic, and concrete action.
Drew recently joined the Inverse Podcast team serving as a cohost along with Australian peace activist Jarrod Mckenna. Together they interview interesting people and explore how scripture can turn our ethical imagination and the violent and unjust systems of our world upside-down, which contrasts with interpreting the Bible as a tool for the status quo.
Dr. Drew Hart was the recipient of bcmPEACE’s 2017 Peacemaker Award, a 2019 W.E.B. Dubois Award from a Disciples of Christ congregation, and in October 2019, Dr. Hart was chosen as Elizabethtown College’s 2019 Peace Fellow. Each award recognized him for his local and national justice work and public theology. You can find Drew Hart on Twitter and Facebook, or you can catch him as he travels and speaks regularly across the country to colleges, conferences, and churches. Drew and Renee, and their three boys (Micah, Dietrich, and Vincent) live in Harrisburg, PA and attend Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren.
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2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving? (Repost)”
Renee will remember Jack S. from Abundant Life who married Dawn. He works locally and I see him occasionally. When I bumped into him this past week I was relating a similar story and his reaction was not quite what I expected – but all the same – way too true…
“We know it’s happened. We know it’s happening and we know it’s going to continue to happen…. God told\tells us in the Bible. But he is going to work it all out. We just have to be aware of our part in it and conduct ourselves according to His standards.” And with that he went back to his work and I went on with my day.
Never one to mince words that Jack.
I think that is fair, I just hope we realize and are aware of the ways we are complicit unconsciously, so we are able to conduct ourselves according to His standards. We live in a very complex world, and it is probably impossible to avoid participating in injustice as an American, because so much that we consume is connected to others discrimination. But our response can’t be oh well, but rather trying to be as faithful as we can with what we have, seeking always to do better. I know for myself, it is easy to be apathetic towards the suffering of others that does not affect me directly. Yet I know I don’t want to think of issues of systemic injustice in America as optional, so neither should I towards others struggles. We are all interconnected in a complex web and need one another to rally behind one another.