Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thoughts on Thanksgiving, Buß und Bettag, and Government Spirituality

The United States is unique in its celebration of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of every November. Does the fact that the whole country takes a day every year to thank God for His blessings somehow make the U.S. more spiritual?

The Free State of Saxony is the only state left in Germanic Europe that still celebrates Buß und Bettag every November, and if anything they are among the most secular states in Germany. Buß und Bettag is a day of prayer and repentance based on the act of repentance that the city of Nineveh carried out when Jonah warned them of God’s judgment. They actually pay a little from their paychecks every year to be able to celebrate the holiday. In spite of that, very little repentance goes on in Saxony that day. Just today in Dresden West (an area with nearly 100,000 inhabitants) an ecumenical service involving all churches in the area boasted less than 200 worshipers. (Based on the cobwebs on the pews in the sanctuary, it was a large attendance for the main Lutheran sanctuary that hosted.)

The point is secular proclamations of spiritual celebrations do nothing for the actual spiritual condition of the governed. Thanksgiving is basically a secular holiday built around family, feasting and football. That is not necessarily a bad thing; it simply does no good to pretend that the holiday is spiritual or Christian. Christians no doubt do make their own celebrations a spiritual matter, but hopefully they exercise thanksgiving more than once a year!

In a similar way, the fight to get government to “bring prayer back into schools” is sort of silly. Prayer will never leave schools as long as Christians are attending. (If home-school-ers have their way, then maybe eventually prayer will in fact completely leave schools.) The only thing officially, government sponsored prayer in school would achieve is a watered down, all inclusive, non-sense form of prayer, and who wants that? Remember that service shortly after 911? “In the name of the god of Abraham, Mohammed, and Jesus Christ…”

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