Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The political theology of Thanksgiving

Joe Knippenberg is elegant in reminding us that Thanksgiving is a bit of a complicated holiday, at once civil and religious. While it celebrates human accomplishments, it rightly insists that they are in some way dependent on God’s will. We are called upon to be humble, penitent, and generous. Lovely reminder. Thanks, Joe.

Discussions - 9 Comments

Thanks, Peter, for the kind words. And I’m also thankful in an appropriately pious way for the opportunity to participate in the conversation at this site.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Glad to know everyone’s being "appropriately pious" here. Hey, I forgot to check in about Bob Taft’s speech at Ashbrook! Peter didn’t mention how it went. Any good advice from Taft on how to maintain ethical standards, or how to invest in rare coins? Was he appropriately pious?

This concept that human accomplishments are "in some way dependent on God’s will" is rubbish. What that usually translates to in practice is that an individual must take all the blame upon themselves personally for any and every failure in their life, but extend credit to unrevealed supernatural forces for every success. Sounds like a raw deal to me, and ripe for abuse in its application by pundits and politicos.

True, if you have no understanding of theology. I see you don’t.

Can KT expect answer? He has good question
for people of Ohio.

But then again, neither does "Calvin". But it’s so easy to make dumb assumptions and lob groundless claims, so he does.

Fortune or Virtue Mr. Scanlon? Do you not believe that a lot of success can be attributed to being at the right place at the right time? Or conversely not?

I actually agree with you, but perhaps all of us have to be thankfull at least for being born american(fortune), or being born with an I.Q. above 90(fortune), or with a healthy immune system(fortune), or conversely at least being born in a time when any defect can find remedy(fortune).

Thanksgiving is a celebration of Human achievement, but while I fully agree with the folks at capmag I still can sit back and list innumerably the number of instances and manifestations that were not completly of my doing which nevertheless impacted me. In other words life itself, is not fully dependent on man’s will, that people say that the part that is not dependent on man’s will is God’s will or the will of nature is perfectly acceptable, in that it is giving expression to a concept to fill the void.

In general I believe people should get less credit for success and less blame for failure, than is commonly given, especially the powerfull who take credit for way too much, and get blammed likewise.

In an Ironic twist to the comments of Craig Scanlon it is my experience that the powerfull receive credit for doing what they did not do precisely by denying credit for Success, and taking all blame upon themselves personally for all failures. To see a quick example of this watch the post game interviews of the winning and loosing football coaches.

In truth we know that a winning football team especially late in the season wins due to having the good fortune of no-injuries...Of course isolating the degree to which virtue can conquer fortune is most difficult...and in a certain sense the american experiment and key to success and achievement and everything having to do with Thanksgiving rests with and depends upon the extent to which we can conquer nature.

Did Moses really get the ten commandments from God? Does a quaterbacks great performance really depend upon the offensive line, likewise is his poor performance really due to his suddenly missing reads, or is he the politician of the team who by playing games with the question of merit and deserts subtly asserts his greatness in the minds of his teamates? How far do quaterbacks or wide receivers get who immediately place blame on teamates, or desire glory only for themselves? The persuit of power is all a giant game, played out by the falsely humble.

"And if you’re going to give thanks, you’ll need someone to give thanks to. Typically, that would be God-"(Jonah Goldberg)

This is an interesting statement, seeing as how most of the time we say "thank you" (or at least I hear) we are saying it to somebody, as in "thanks, for holding the door" "thanks, for the helping hand" exct... in other words we are thanking other people... As Jonah says: "If Messrs. Newdow and Jillette got their way, we’d direct our thanks to a large coalition of benefactors..."

Sounds fair enough to me, it would be disingenuous to thank someone you didn’t believe or didn’t credit with being of help...

The problem is that if human accomplishments all come about as a result of virtue or in a less machiavellian vein, our own efforts then there really isn’t anyone to thank... perhaps we could say thank you self for having the incredible self-discipline to do the right thing and get rewarded for it...In otherwords thanksgiving is a celebration of our own virtue and a time for recognizing that virtue in others.... thank you for doing a good job, I know you could have quit or not given it your all, but you didn’t... Of course then you almost have to wonder if it is insulting to thank someone... that is to say that the only reason you thank them is because you recognize that they could have done ill instead of good, but what then of character?

What is the nature of thanks? Most of the time we thank someone for something that they did for us that we either didn’t have time to do ourselves and at the very least did not have a right to expect of them...In other words we are thankfull of receiving the unearned....

If we deserved it, then would we really be thankfull? (perhaps in a different sense and this merits exploring), but do you thank your boss for the paycheck?

It is hard to be thankfull for something you believe you deserve...

Which is why the christian God has a near monopoly on the "concept" of thanks, that is to say that forgiveness of sins is the ultimate in receiving the unearned, the kindergarden kid who said he was thankfull for Jesus Christ definately understood that it was a gift beyond him, something that he couldn’t achieve on his own, heaven being an accomplishment entirely within the realm of God’s will.

Yet the point of contention for the man of virtue is with this rare fortune, for in his experience there is no such thing as a free lunch, and his creed is really that you ought to live your life so as to be thankfull unto others the least amount possible. Those to whom you owe thanks have power over you. Thus you must not even desire the unearned, or be thankfull in receiving it, since it is a snare...

The best way to show thanks is to exchange value for value...the inability to repay a debt destroys autonomy...in the end the question is do we feel thankfull or spitefull towards those who give us what we cannot or did not earn? Perhaps this is a question to ask this Thanksgiving in the context of our role in Iraq...

What is man’s reaction to the unearned gift?

In other words the political theology of thanksgiving is really just the teachings of the Prince, for thanksgiving follows liberality, but liberality if it is not merely an apperance leads to ruin... lol

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