Barry Hankins on America’s Perfect Civil Religion Holiday – Thanksgiving 2019

The third post today is a brief note from Barry Hankins. Hankins is Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of History and Resident Scholar, Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.

Christians can celebrate Thanksgiving by infusing it with all kinds of religious and national significance.  But, people of other faiths and of no faith at all can celebrate the holiday equally.  Christians have no corner on being thankful.  Moreover, Thanksgiving has an advantage in this respect over Christmas and Easter.  Although those holidays, especially Christmas, are commercialized and secularized to a large extent, they are still specifically Christian.  In fact, they are the two central events of the Christian liturgical calendar, which means that to celebrate them commercially non-Christians have to ignore their potent religious meaning.  Not so for Thanksgiving, which commemorates a national event, not a religious event.  So, Thanksgiving is what I call “America’s perfect civil religion holiday.”

To read all articles in this series, click Thanksgiving 2019. Tomorrow I have a post from retired Grove City College history professor and first professor emeritus from the school, Gary Scott Smith on America as a blessed but not chosen nation.

2 thoughts on “Barry Hankins on America’s Perfect Civil Religion Holiday – Thanksgiving 2019”

  1. Agreed. Admittedly those of no faith at least some of us are wondering why the current president thinks we are against Thanksgiving. Off hand the only group against it are Jehovah’s Witnesses. I recognize it as a harvest festival, a chance to enjoy good food with family and friends. I think of those who invite all they know whether college student not going home for the holiday or an elderly widow to come to their Thanksgiving. I think of the local restaurant whose owner for the past quarter century serves a free meal to all on Thanksgiving day until he runs out (1500 people fed last year). I think of the workers, many undocumented, who ensure we have food to eat.

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