Who Should I Thank?

Imagine you are sitting in a nice restaurant. It doesn’t matter who is with you if anyone. You have just finished your three-course meal which involved pan-seared brussel sprouts with bacon bits; a main course of grilled salmon, mashed potatoes, and vegetables; and a dessert of apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream. That was me imagining myself there. When the server comes to pick up your plates, he or she sets down the bill and says, “Someone paid for your meal in full already, have a nice evening.” What comes to your mind immediately? You will probably insist that the server tell you who did it. If that’s the case, why would you insist that the server tell you who paid for your meal? It is more than likely because you feel compelled to express gratitude in thanking the person who paid for your nice dinner.

This is, of course, is a hypothetical situation, but we know this kind of thing happens all the time. It’s happened to me multiple times. I know that some might respond differently, but I could safely assume that most would respond the way I described above. I use this example to show the natural impulse in humans to be thankful. Not only do humans have a natural impulse to be thankful, but we have a desire to know what the object is to which our gratitude should be directed. The truth of the matter is that we cannot express gratitude and thankfulness unless there is someone that can receive it.

“there seems to be something innate in humans that gives us the sense that we are undeserving, and that there is a mind and heart behind the things that are given to us that we don’t deserve.”

I don’t want to deduce it down to semantics, but there’s a need to see the difference between being thankful for something and being thankful to someone. In keeping with tradition, there will be many families who go around the table and have each person state what they are thankful for. You can imagine the things that people will express thanks for: job, house, family, etc. If these are things to be thankful for, to whom should the thanks be given? Who can I give thanks to for these things that I do not deserve?

The main thrust of giving thanks comes from the idea in the last question. The Greek word for “thanksgiving” (eucharistia) contains the word for “grace” (charis). The most simplistic definition of grace is to get something that you don’t deserve. When we talk about giving thanks and getting what we don’t deserve, there is an element of being. What I mean by this is that there is a heart and mind behind the granting of such things that we don’t deserve. There’s also a moral thread that we need to be aware of in realizing that we are undeserving. If we felt like we truly deserve what we have, there’s really no sense in being thankful for it. Have you ever met a child are even adult that felt entitled to something? Are they very thankful?

From this, there seems to be something innate in humans that gives us the sense that we are undeserving, and that there is a mind and heart behind the things that are given to us that we don’t deserve. Okay, I’ll stop dancing around it. The reason why we have a sense of being undeserving is because we are. And the mind and heart behind that which is given to us is God. Even those who don’t believe in God or utterly reject him are still beneficiaries of his common grace. What’s interesting is that many people like this will gladly celebrate Thanksgiving without thinking about what they are actually doing.

What does it look like for them to take their worldview to its logical conclusion? I just read an article this morning from Forbes by Ethan Siegel called Be Thankful For the Universe That Created You. In the article, Siegel works his way through all of the things that we should be thankful for that make our existence possible. It is hard to ignore the tone of the article that clearly suggests that it is quite a miracle that we exist at all. The first sentence of the article says, “We all have a lot to be thankful for, but the biggest one we all have in common is that we all exist.” The reason why Siegel says this is because the scenario that he puts forth for our existence suggests that we really shouldn’t exist under it. And yet, here we are, we exist. But, why should we even be thankful we exist? Why is existence a good thing? That’s a topic for another post, but Siegel says we should be thankful for the various things in the universe that our existence is dependent upon, including gravitational forces, nuclear fusion, and molecular clouds. The last sentence of the article says, “Be thankful for the Universe that created you; it’s the one story we all have in common.” Well, I am thankful for the universe and its fine-tuning, but to whom should I be thankful for it? If there is no mind or heart behind my existence, why should I be thankful, especially if my existence is dependent upon randomness and chance?

The way I see it is that I shouldn’t exist, nor do I deserve to exist, and I should be thankful to the One that is the source of my existence. This is the only scenario that being thankful makes sense in. I also realize that I don’t deserve all that I have and that I should be thankful to the One that has granted to me all that I have. This is the only scenario that being thankful today makes sense in. Today means not only am I thankful for the common grace I have received, but also the grace I have received through Christ.

As you are sitting around the table today, think about the object of your gratitude. Giving thanks only makes sense when there is a heart and mind that has granted to you that which you are thankful for. Just like in the example I used in the first paragraph, you wouldn’t ask, “what paid for my meal?” you would ask, “who paid for my meal?” There is always a heart and mind behind a situation like this, and we shouldn’t think it’s any different when we offer thanks for what we have on a day like today. The heart and mind behind all we have is that of a good God who is gracious enough to even allow those who reject and despise him to benefit from his grace. And if God isn’t the object of your gratitude, then I would ask you to ponder who is the object of your gratitude.

We all know that it is important to make sure that people who deserve it are thanked, and that the gratitude goes to the right person. It’s easy to remember how it feels when we aren’t thanked or when someone else gets the gratitude for something we did. Is there anything that gets us more worked up than that? This is why I call to attention the need to be aware of the fact that gratitude, especially today, must be given and that it really matters who gets that gratitude. Lastly, if you are having trouble thinking of something to be thankful for, let me end with a quote from Ethan Siegel, “We all have a lot to be thankful for, but the biggest one we all have in common is that we all exist.”

This is How I Voted and Why

voted

In case you can’t tell by the lack of posts on my blog, this is my first entry, and what better way to start blog than by ruffling some feathers in talking about the election? This Thanksgiving has the potential to be the most tense and awkward holiday in history for so many Americans. It is likely going to be the first time that friends and family have seen or talked to each other since the circus that was the 2016 presidential election ended. I predict there will be multiple handfuls of stuffing that fly across tables in America on Thursday.

In order to avoid a face full of stuffing, I am going to go ahead and state my piece now so that people have some time to calm down. You may ask, “why should I care how you voted?” I don’t care if you don’t care, but you might like to know that I am part of the reason why there was so much shock and surprise on November 8th. Uh-oh, I may have just shown my hand.

It may also come as a shock to you that I voted for Donald Trump and that I am not a racist, or bigot, or sexist. Also, I didn’t and still don’t support Trump. And if you are still tempted to call me names, let me tell you why I voted the way that I did if you are still reading and still care. I am not so much going to address the candidates themselves as much as what their positions are on certain issues because everyone knows that neither candidate is up for any moral achievement award. There were many issues to consider in this election, but there were two primary issues I had in mind when I voted: Abortion and the Supreme Court.

Why abortion?

The discussion on this particular issue should be reserved for another post, but I see the great holocaust of our time in the form of a search and destroy mission on the unborn. We would rather refer to it in more euphemistic terms like “pro-choice”, “women’s health”, or “reproductive health.” Call it what you like, but we all know what really happens. Those against Trump have cited that he is the first presidential candidate endorsed by the KKK, which is certainly appalling, but I have not yet seen Trump celebrate their endorsement. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton was the first presidential candidate to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood,which is certainly appalling, and we have seen her celebrate their endorsement. You can read the whole transcript from the third presidential debate here, but this is just part of what Clinton said on the issue,

“Well, I strongly support Roe v. Wade which guarantees a constitutional right to a woman to make the most intimate, most difficult in many cases, decisions about her health care that one can imagine. And in this case, it is not only about Roe v. Wade. It is about what is happening right now in America.”

I actually agree with that last sentence, it is about what is happening right now in America. What is going on in America right now on this issue is something that I hope future generations look back on in disgust and horror. Due to the extreme stance that Hillary Clinton has decided to take on the issue of abortion, I could not bring myself to connect the line for the arrow next to her name (that’s how we do it California).

Let me be clear and say that I am not at all impressed by Donald Trump’s position on abortion either.  He claims to be pro-life, but he cited his reasons for being pro-life more so out of disgust for late-term abortion (see transcript). He was also quoted as saying in an interview with Raymond Arroyo for EWTN that he is pro-life because he knows a magnificent person who was almost aborted, which is hardly a convincing reason to be against abortion if at all. What if that person wasn’t a magnificent person? Would it have been okay for them to be aborted? In the end, on the issue of abortion it came down to who would be more likely to protect the lives of the unborn. What helped is Trump’s claim of the type of justice he would likely appoint to the Supreme Court, which brings me to issue number 2.

What about the Supreme Court?

First, Americans on all sides should be worried at how the Supreme Court has functioned in recent years. The latest example is last year’s Obergefell decision. This is not my slip to talk about same-sex marriage, rather, it is to point how the court acted in making the decision.

The Supreme Court functions to ensure that there is a balance of power and striking down laws that are unconstitutional. Justice Kennedy stated that the majority made their decision based on the idea that same-sex couples cannot be denied according to the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The problem with that is, marriage is not mentioned in these clauses, let alone mentioned at all in the Constitution. In the end, the court made their decision based on philosophy of policy rather than law. They ultimately made a decision that the Constitution leaves for the people to decide. That, like I said, should worry Americans on all sides.

We had better start now in learning how to get along because our cultural and political landscape is looking grim for the near future and it will not get any better until we start talking about issues.

If you read the first part of the transcript of the third presidential debate, it is clear what Hillary Clinton intended for the Supreme Court. She stated that she wants justices who will be on the side of the American people, but she said nothing about the justices and what they are supposed to do with the Constitution, which was the question she was supposed to answer. She only mentions the constitutional process of nominating and selecting justices. If she were to have had her way with putting forward progressive liberal justices, we could guarantee that the court would continue to function the same way it has in recent years.

On the other hand, after watching the debate and reading the transcript, I was not entirely impressed with Trump’s take on appointing justices because he babbled mostly about people saying mean things about him. Surprise! But, he finally got to what I had hoped he was going to say about nominating justices, not in the most eloquent fashion,

“They will interpret the constitution the way the founders wanted it interpreted and I believe that’s very important. I don’t think we should have justices appointed that decide what they want to hear. It is all about the constitution of, and it is so important. The constitution the way it was meant to be. And those are the people that I will appoint.”

This would at least be a move in the right direction to get the Supreme Court back to how it is supposed to function, not because I do not agree with many of the progressive liberal ideas being put forward, but because of the way that the court is being used to propagate those ideas. I would have issue if the conservatives tried to do the same. Either way, the candidate who was to win the 2016 presidential election was going to have a significant say in how the Supreme Court was going to function for the next 25 or so years.

In conclusion

At this point, some people may agree with what I have said so far. Some people might be disappointed that I am not giving Trump enough credit for what he accomplished. Frankly, he did not accomplish much, yet. The Democrats are probably the most culpable for how the election turned out, not because Trump ran a magnificent campaign. There also may be some people who are seething if you have read this far and will jump down to the comments to vent. I would encourage you to do so, but just be civil in how you do it. This brings me to my last point.

There was a video put out by Jonathan Pie (Tom Walker) that I came across after the election. I am not going to link it because he says some vulgar things. But, he said exactly what many of us have been feeling for a while, and he is in no way a conservative. Many of the progressives yelled and bullied people into not speaking their minds on the election. If they knew they were going to vote Trump but did not exactly support him, they didn’t want to be called a racist, bigot, and sexist for saying who they were going to vote for. This is why I did not tell anyone who I was voting for until right now. Many of the liberals were saying, “Anyone but Trump.” Many of the conservatives were saying, “Anyone but her.” Both sides have good reasons for taking those stands. What it came down to in this election, at least for me, was not which candidate was better, but the issues that were at stake. And this is where the great divide lies: where do we stand on these issues?

This would be a great opportunity for liberals to practice what they preach: Tolerance. We all have differing opinions and ideas according to our worldview. Just because we disagree does not mean we have to belittle everyone who has a different opinion. The essence of tolerance is to treat people cordially and respectfully despite differences of opinion or ideas. And for you preachers of tolerance– tolerance does not always go with acceptance and affirmation. If you affirm and accept something, there’s no need to be tolerant of it.

In conclusion, for real this time

No doubt there will be temptation to talk about these issues at our Thanksgiving gatherings. Some may enact the policy of no political talk. I would encourage you not to do that. Use it as an opportunity to have meaningful discussion about things that really matter despite the differences that you may have. Don’t focus on how childish the Trump protesters are, or the ones going to Starbucks and telling the barista that their name is “Trump” just so that they have to yell it out when their drink is ready. Seriously, can we stop with this nonsense and have actual conversations? Oh yeah, that was my point. We had better start now in learning how to get along because our cultural and political landscape is looking grim for the near future and it will not get any better until we start talking about issues.

Lastly, make sure you take a few moments this Thanksgiving to be thankful that you live in a country where you can exercise the political freedoms you have, because it’s tough to tell how long they are going to last.