James K.A. Smith Offers Thougthful Analysis on Thanksgiving, Military, and American Idolatry

Posted: December 2, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Christ & Culture
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Check his post out, titled “The Secularization of Thanksgiving and the Sacralization of the Military”, at: http://forsclavigera.blogspot.com/2010/11/secularization-of-thanksgiving-and.html

Here are a few paragraphs:

But I think I’ve discerned the logic to this. I know I’ve noted (complained!) about this before, but I think I’ve further crystallized the linkage. For some reason, broadcast television always feels compelled to secularize religious and quasi-religious holidays; this is, in some ways, part and parcel of other secularizing currents in commercial culture. But when Thanksgiving is secularized, what’s lost is precisely the Object to whom we would render gratitude. In other words, we end up being thankful for “gifts” without being able to recognize the Giver.

So we come up with a substitute Giver, which is something like the idea of “America”–the land of the free. And while there are alternative conceptual histories that would actually honor how much the United States was conceptually forged–that the U.S. is really the experimental product of ideas–our current anti-intellectual climate would rather think of “America” as the product of force and might (as the national anthem prefers). So if we are thankful for America, we’re thankful to the military who, proverbially, “protect our freedom, ” “keep us free,” “make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” etc. Soldiers are thus revered as the warrior-priests of freedom.

And what are we free for? Well, to shop. And so the best expression of thanksgiving is precisely Black Friday, that Dionysian display of consumerist passion when people literally die in the frantic pursuit of consumer goods.

In sum, the secularization of thanksgiving leads to the sacralization of the military as the guardians of consumer freedom. Such secularization, then, is not a-religious but otherwise-religious. Thus a secularized thanksgiving yields a uniquely American idolatry.

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Comments
  1. […] the secularization of Thanksgiving? Posted on December 11, 2010 by Scott Kistler My friend Rick’s post pointed me to James K.A. Smith’s post called “The Secularization of Thanksgiving and […]

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