A Thanksgiving Pastoral Letter
A Thanksgiving Pastoral Letter
Thanksgiving Day 2021
Little Havana, FL
As this nation experiences the growing pangs of spiritual and social evolution, the upsetting of the narratives which sustained for such a long time the dominant and distorted views of history are undergoing the same painful process. Presently, this can be witnessed by anyone who tunes into any news programming across the spectrum of political identity in this country. All claim to have a monopoly on truth and all claim the other side to be disinherited from their role as unbiased journalists.
Despite the undeniable conflict we are all undergoing in this country, the question of Thanksgiving is one that is not immune from the review of historical accuracy and scrutiny. Perhaps if instead of Native Americans being ridiculed, underestimated, and marginalized, in the media, schools, and the cinema, this nation’s history would have been significantly different. But I do recall the times when the Lone Ranger’s “sidekick” and not partner – was referred to as “Tonto” which in Spanish means “Fool”, while the white masked man is called “Ke-mo sah-bee” or friend. This is a microcosm of the exact problem posed by the myth of Thanksgiving.
I use the word “myth”, as applied by the premier scholar on the matter, Joseph Campbell. That is to say, myth as in a timeless archetype which transmit universal principles of truth and human aspirations. These ends are shared by all human beings regardless of the historical time period they lived on this ancient planet. In this context of Thanksgiving, the myth provides a goal which we in this country should aspire to – that is – to make the entirety of the story we share with each other and the world – finally true. That we actually lived into the ability to share meals with people of all races, beliefs, gender, sexuality, religious differences, political differences, and see one another as being of the same human family, not as strangers worthy of suspicion or hate.
The story of Thanksgiving can also be a meaningful parable for families who cannot aspire to live in community with the rest of the world unless they’re able to do the same amongst themselves. All in all, the story of Thanksgiving aligns with the tendencies that are deeply rooted in all people. We can change and become the best versions of ourselves. The Native Americans encountered by the Pilgrims were not all peaceful. They had the same challenges of coexistence with others and the threats associated with any other tribe, nation, or empire. What is true, however, is that we could and still can avoid the narrative of believing our contribution were wholly pacific – and Christian.
The Pilgrims, like most Europeans of that time, believed themselves to be ethnically, culturally, racially, and intellectually superiority to those they broke bread with. This is now our challenge – to break bread with others and see them as equals and as family. Perhaps the need to celebrate Thanksgiving is the practice of a liturgy of peace that one day we will all be able to put into sincere practice. As we may to some extent – fake it while we make it – we do not lose sight of the undeniable costs of human life and dreams all our ancestors somehow contributed to. Perhaps this is the first step in the right direction. Perhaps, the issue of gratitude before and to Almighty God commences with humility and acknowledgement of what is before all of us – to leave this world slightly better than the way we found it.
Rev. Dr. Daniel Medina