Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Eve, 2005: An E-mail Exchange With a Right-Wing Friend in NY

May you and your family have an enjoyable Thanksgiving, and remember to keep the troops in your prayers. -- Howie

Howie--I am sincerely thankful that we have a strong military, and that there are thousands and thousands of Americans, young and not-so-young, who are willing to give their lives for what they believe in. I am sincerely thankful that we are a nation founded on Enlightenment values of liberty, equality, sovereignty vested in the PEOPLE, and religious freedom. I am sincerely thankful that we have a tradition--a very Christian tradition, by the way--of sacrifice for the sake of the "tired, poor, and huddled masses" who yearn to be free. I am thankful for so many things, not just at this time of year, but always, and these things are constantly in my prayers of thanks to God.

I hold in utter contempt, however, "leaders" who abuse the sacred trust given them by the PEOPLE to use military force only when it is necessary to protect American values. I hold in utter contempt "leaders" who distort and in some cases ignore those very values in the name of "security." I hold in utter contempt leaders who put the needs--in reality, in most cases, the wants--of corporations and the wealthy over the overwhelming needs of the PEOPLE. I hold in utter contempt leaders who lie, manipulate, and break laws--yes, even international laws--to further the goals of global capitalism.

I am thankful, though, that I see evidence that my faith in America and my hope for its future is not "mere" naive idealism. I am thankful that my belief that the PEOPLE, fully informed about what is going on in the world, will choose the right course, that they may be persuaded, in contempt of their sacred trust, by lies, but that once in possession of truth, they will not maintain a rigid orthodoxy. I am thankful not so much for being an American (although I am indeed thankful for that), but for being a member of the human race, blessed by God, for no good reason, with human intelligence and critical reasoning abilities, and thankful that more and more human beings are ackowledging and using these gifts.

I am thankful, too, to God for the awesome gift of your friendship, and you and Maria and your family will be in my prayers of thanksgiving this year, as always.

But my prayers of thanksgiving this year, as always, will be tempered not by false patriotism, but by a clear view of reality. There is no free lunch--EVER. If we have inordinate gifts in America--and we do--it cannot be without the sacrificies of others, voluntary or involuntary. If Americans hold and control a disproportionate share of the world's wealth--and we do--this is an injustice that we should not be thankful for, and for which, if we leave the situation untouched, we will have to answer for to that same God we will thank tomorrow. It is sacrilegious, I think, to thank God for gifts won unjustly. Read John Paul II's 1987 encyclical Solicitudo Rei Socialis. Please read it. I also urge you to buy and read Jacques Ellul's The Presence of the Kingdom. I have used this text in classes many times. The students, after four weeks of reading, discussing, and arguing over this book, are always exhausted and down-hearted. They enter a state of utter denial. They are threatened, and feel the effects of disrupted and subverted cultural assumptions. This is the first step to real learning.

And I will say once again this Thanksgiving a prayer I say every day--many times every day--which comes from the Gospel of Luke (chapter 18, verses 9-14). Here is the passage. See if you can find the prayer:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men -- robbers, evildoers, adulterers -- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

I pray that you will be as good as your word (for you believe that America is a "Christian" nation) and take Jesus's words to heart. Read it. Think about it. Really think about it. We have a long way to go before we can ever legitimately call ourselves a "Christian nation."

I love you, Howie. Happy Thanksgiving.