So it's Thanksgiving.
Has anyone heard whether it's OK to offer "thanksgiving" on this day, or has the implication that there is a Supreme Being to whom thanks should be is given been declared a microaggression? Is "thanksgiving" sliding into the "thoughts and prayers" category in American life, both public and private?
That's the subject lurking beneath the surface of an interesting news-related think piece that ran the other day at The Catholic Thing website.
The headline: "Resist 'Prayer Shaming' This Thanksgiving."
I noticed the essay and started reading it. Then I noticed that this piece was written by veteran journalist Clemente Lisi, who is one of my faculty colleagues at The King's College in New York City. Lisi is a New Yorker through and through and has two decades of experience in various newsrooms in the Big Apple, including reporting and editing duties at The New York Post, ABC News and The New York Daily News.
The overture of this piece quickly links the holiday and recent news trends:
Thanksgiving and prayer are intimately linked. While the holiday ... has its roots in Protestant England (the very first Thanksgiving in 1621 was held by the Pilgrims who fled Europe seeking religious freedom), Americans of all faiths have since embraced this uniquely American holiday of giving thanks to God.
You wouldn’t know this from how the mainstream media has generally chosen to cover it in recent years. Thanksgiving has lost its religious meaning -- many people don’t offer a prayer before addressing the turkey -- and has been replaced with a focus on football games and Black Friday shopping. Christmas, unfortunately, has also become less about Jesus and more about consumerism. It’s part of a larger trend whereby our society becomes gradually secularized, even on explicitly religious holidays. And prayer, so central to the lives of millions of Americans, is invisible to those who deliver the news to you each day.
This raises an interesting question for any GetReligion readers who are online today, either before or after the feast.
The key question: Was there any "Thanksgiving" coverage in your newspaper today?
We are not, of course, talking about Black Friday coverage. However, I guess that it is possible that a real sense of thanksgiving could be worked into reports on whether local businesses required some workers to work on Thanksgiving -- another sign of the pre-Christmas economic stampede that is now central to American business and culture.
It is also possible that stories about families tensions during Thanksgiving meals could contain discussions of what Thanksgiving used to mean. That would, of course, be linked to the whole "It's dangerous to talk about anything because Donald Trump has ruined everything" theme for the day.
However, as Lisi said, prayer used to have something to do with many of these Thanksgiving rites.
Alas, prayer is now controversial. Has this shaped the news or has the topic been shaped by coverage of the news?
The coverage ignoring the true meaning of Thanksgiving (and the religious life of so many everyday Americans) is due to the dangerous trend by media outlets of “prayer shaming.” If you admit to praying on social media, then you are ridiculed. Emma Green, writing for The Atlantic, first coined the phrase “praying shaming” in 2015: “Democrats care about doing something and taking action while Republicans waste time offering meaningless prayers. These two reactions, policy-making and praying, are portrayed as mutually exclusive, coming from totally contrasting worldviews.” Mainstream news outlets such as Slate, Esquire, and the Huffington Post have all run articles giving “prayer shaming” a thumbs up.
The issue came to the forefront in the aftermath of the San Bernardino shootings in 2015 and again recently following the Las Vegas massacre. Several Republican presidential candidates – including Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Rand Paul – offered “thoughts and prayers.” The New York Daily News ran a front-page headline that encapsulated the anti-prayer mood: “God Isn’t Fixing This.” Below that was: “As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.”
Mature believers know, however, that God isn’t there simply to fix things.
This is provocative stuff. So please read it all.
Dare I say it? Have a blessed Thanksgiving and, for those who are not rolling straight into Christmas, a blessed Advent or Nativity Lent.