I’ve kept mostly silent about the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown. On Social media I’ve attempted to direct people’s attention to Black and other voices from the margins around what happened and the continued unrest in the wake of the announcement of the grand jury’s decision.
In terms of white voices this post by Geoff Holsclaw is a good response from a position of privilege that is seeking to be open to move beyond privilege.
As the strange juxtaposition of the lit sign of Seasons Greetings and heavily armored police showed we are in the Holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving. I’ve never particularly seen Thanksgiving as a religious holiday, and the attempts to make it a Christian Holiday have always struck me (even as a child) as strange. As a child it was one of the few Holidays that my family celebrated that was really just about family. Christmas and Easter were times for family to gather but they were first feasts of the Church. It’s not that God was absent from the celebration, but I don’t remember ever attending a worship service on or around Thanksgiving. My Grandmother (on my mother’s side) was the daughter of a Swedish immigrants, My Grandfather (mother’s father )second generation Swedish American. My father was a naturalized citizen of the United States, his family were refugees and displaced persons after World War II (a story for another post). As immigrants who had been able to assimilate into White America we were genuinely thankful for the life we were able to lead in the U.S. As for me as a child the story of Thanksgiving never really touched me. It’s problematic and racist themes eventually came to mean that mostly Thanksgiving is an excuse and a means to see my family.
I say all this to draw attention to what looms on the horizon on Thanksgiving if one keeps the liturgical calendar of the Church: Advent. The transition between Thanksgiving and Advent always felt abrupt and jolting. The pallid whitewashed soporific mythology of the Pilgrims was in stark contrast to the jarring scriptures of wakefulness and prophetic words anticipating God’s justice come in human flesh. At Thanksgiving we were full and thankful, on the First Sunday in Advent we were in the dark, empty waiting for fulfillment. Hopeful, yet aware of things being out of whack. In Advent we were called to admit our failings and await God’s loving answer to our violence and hatred. Thanksgiving pretended all was as it should be. Advent said we were still waiting, but the dawning transformation of the world was on its way. In Advent we were to hunger for the righteous reign of God.
Clearly, the shooting of Michael Brown and now with the failure of a grand jury to indict Daren Wilson has jarred us from the whitewashed and soporific mythology of America that continues to be told on Thanksgiving. Many of course want things to just calm down to not look at the reality that the system of America is and always has been racist, that since I’m deemed white I have privileges that people of color and certain blacks continue to not have.
We’ve had an Advent moment come before Thanksgiving, don’t be lulled back to sleep, Stay woke. Being awake isn’t easy. To open your eyes to the world and the systems we inhabit. This Thanksgiving to be awake probably means to lament, to grieve and to confess. Sure there are also reasons to be thankful, but I doubt it is for the reasons that the Thanksgiving mythology wishes us to believe, and the source of that goodness isn’t from the god of the altar at which we are to burn the incense of our thanksgiving. But then as a member of the body of Christ our Thanksgiving (Eucharist) isn’t the founding of another principality of the world but in one crucified by the systems of the world. And this crucified one says wake up, stay awake.