Newsletter 591 – Thanksgiving Day Without Thanksgiving?

Even if you live abroad, surely you know that the last Thursday in November is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. It is a huge holiday here, in some ways bigger than Christmas. It builds on a story, perhaps mythical, of the early Pilgrims who held a feast to express thanks to God for their crops. The native Americans were invited but there is no evidence that the Pilgrims used their best china (or any china) and served roast turkey followed by pumpkin pie.

football2Over the years Thanksgiving Day has morphed into a long holiday weekend that focuses on shopping, big dinners with or without any mention of thanksgiving, parades, and endless rounds of American-style football. For several years the men of our church would gather early on Thanksgiving Day to play football, go home for dinner, then presumably gather around television sets to watch football games in the late afternoon and evening.

Football dominates much of American culture–like more traditional football is so big in other countries. According to Mark Edmundson’s new book Why Football Matters: My Education in the Game, football is both an elixir and a poison. It can “do great good: build the body, create a stronger, more resilient will, impart confidence, stimulate bravery, cultivate loyalty” and be a spectator sport that brings pleasure to millions of people. But football is a dangerous game. There are physical injuries that can last a lifetime, cripple the brain and bring lasting physical pain. Football has many racial implications, “can brutalize a man and make him aggressive, even violent,” and can stifle gentleness or reflection. Edmundson (a former player and admirer of the game, now a college professor) wonders why so many Christians follow the Prince of Peace but try to make their beliefs compatible with the blatant violence and “smashmouth values of football.” In another recent book, Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto by Steve Almond writes a powerful criticism of the game.

This month I read both of these fascinating books but why mention them here?  These writers made me wonder where else in our lives do we enthusiastically embrace and enjoy cultural values, see the unquestionable benefits but ignore or even promote the ultimate harm that these bring? Do we see similar inconsistencies in our parenting, coaching, caregiving or even our ministries? If so, what do we do about this?

What do you think? Please comment.


  1. Can I add a comment to my own newsletter? I sent out this post and turned for a look at my inbox. At the top was an advertisement for a Thanksgiving sale with these attention grabbing words:
    “Thanksgiving — the day we express gratitude for family, food and football. (But mostly football.)”
    I read this about one minute after I sent my newsletter.


  2. I moved from Ghana to the United States so my idea of thanksgiving I thought is a moment to thank God and even to appreciate those that are in our lives. But as you rightly said it just a matter of festivity and not a moment of thanksgiving! To me everyday is thanksgiving day. I wish this can more reflective on the goodness of God. And calming down to appreciate the gift of life.


  3. Some, such as I, reared in the USA in a marginal community, never participated in sports nor came to enjoy them, although we sometimes felt ourselves to be inferior or excluded.
    When my work required me to reside some years overseas, I came to see how my host community remained preoccupied with pursuits that I found trivial at best and harmful at worst.
    Upon returning to North America, I was able to see cultural feuds and fascinations in a similar light. I no longer feel culturally deprived, but sometimes I experience shame at our trivial pursuits.


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