Greed Attacks Thanksgiving

BLOG #47, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
GREED ATTACKS THANKSGIVING

November 19, 2014

In case you haven’t noticed, the forces of Greed and Secularism appear determined to obliterate all remnants of the spiritual dimensions of America’s holidays: they’ve been all too successful with Easter, and even more successful with Halloween. For several generations now they’ve been attacking Christmas from every possible direction.

Now, they appear determined to bulldoze Thanksgiving (morphing Thanksgiving into Black Thursday) off the calendar. Abraham Lincoln founded Thanksgiving as a profoundly spiritual day. It remained so for over a hundred years. But not so today.

If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly urge you to track down Drew Harwell’s Nov. 17 Washington Post article, “Thanksgiving Day Shopping: Retailers vs. Black Thursday.”

Harwell quotes Peter Foley of Bloomberg News: “Shoppers rush through the doors at a Macy’s store in New York on Thanksgiving. Not long ago, the practice of a store staying closed on the holiday was simply a given, but now a core of retailers is pushing back, vowing to stay closed.”

Harwell’s lead paragraph is in the same vein: “Not so long ago, the practice of a store staying closed on Thanksgiving was simply a given; one more holiday in which workers assumed they’d get some time off. Then, amid the corporate tug-of-war over Black Friday crowds, retailers began eying the juicy hours of Turkey Day as the best time to kick off their crucial holiday shopping seasons. The move drew both sales and backlash from shoppers, who worried the sacred day was being plowed beneath the tough work schedules of Black Friday creep.”

What far too few of us appear to realize is this: every time Christians cave in to secular forces determined to destroy all Christian institutions and holidays, they simultaneously erode the remaining few opportunities families have of maintaining ties with each other. Requiring workers to work on religious days and holidays results in the attendant dismantling of the family structure and Judeo-Christian values.

Result: this year, 45% of Americans plan to shop on Thanksgiving, up from 38% last Thanksgiving.

Walmart, the nation’s biggest private employer, plans to be open all day. J.C. Penney, Best Buy, and Toys R Us will munificently wait until 5:00 p.m.; Kohl’s, Macy’s Sears, and Target, tiptoe in an hour later.

But we all know what that means: their employees will be forced to leave the Thanksgiving dinner table early, or miss it entirely, in order to get to the store in time to get ready for the crowds. Some of the stores will stay open all night and marathon into Black Friday.

A big question well worth serious thought is this: Every time Christians or strong believers in family values and togetherness votes with their feet by shopping on Thanksgiving, they are betraying their own core values.

Not all is lost, however. Harwell notes that “The stores refusing to open on the holiday, however, may feel the moral capital they gain from looking like the good guys could mean more for their brand in the long run. A study last month by retail site RichRelevance found more than 60% of Americans said they disliked that stories opened on Thanksgiving, and only 12% said they liked the trend. The movement is gaining steam: A ‘Boycott Black Thursday’ Facebook page has more than 79,000 likes.

It is indeed time for each of us to stand up and be counted on this issue. Next time you shop in stores that remain closed on Thanksgiving, take the time to speak to the managers personally and thank them. Do more: in gratitude for their stand—patronize them. Among those who this year put families and those who work them first, valuing them more than profits, are the likes of American Girl, Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Burlington Coat Factory, Costco [Costco is renowned for putting its employees first], Crate and Barrel, Dillard’s, DSW, GameStop, Hobby Lobby, HomeGoods, Home Depot, Jo Ann Fabrics, Lowe’s, Mardel’s, Marshall’s, Nordstrom, Patagonia, Petco, Pier 1, Publix, and REI.

What a statement it would make to all these purveyors of greed if Americans would unitedly rise in support of the “Good Guys,” and put teeth in this act by boycotting the “Bad Guys!”

Well, might it be possible….if we all get angry at once and say, Enough is Enough!

Christmas 2013

BLOG #52, SERIES #4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
CHRISTMAS 2013
December 25, 2013

Have you noticed how rarely anyone wishes you a “Merry Christmas” any more? This muddling of language has been happening for years now. No longer do people say “Good morning!” to us. Or “Have a great weekend! ” Instead , we are greeted with the inane “Have a good one!” Whatever that means. It matters not the occasion, no matter how significant, “Have a good one!” is becoming the new norm.

Only, at Christmas, we instead hear “Happy Holidays!” wherever we go. Since so many people wish to appear to be politically correct, they avoid specifics at all costs. Since “Christmas” appears to be a word burdened with spiritual associations, best not to mention it at all. Yet without Christmas there would be no “X number of shopping days until _____!” “Until what?” They’d be hard-put to tell you. Certainly not “until Thanksgiving,” or “until New Year’s Day.” No, they’re stuck with “Christmas” because of its well known tie-in to gift-buying which drives the economy every fall-into-winter.

But the little Lord Jesus in a manger does little to stampede the American people into shopping malls; it takes Santa Claus to do that. “Santa Claus,” who, as St. Nicholas, once was a deeply spiritual figure. Sadly, in American culture today, that rarely is the case any more.

IS THERE ANYTHING WE CAN DO?

I do believe there is: the next time someone unleashes another “Happy Holidays” on us, what if each of us greeted the perpetrator with a joyful smile and an enthusiastic, “And a very Merry Christmas to you!” If thousands of us did this, over time don’t you think we’d spike a lot of “Happy Holidays” cannons? Don’t you think it would at least be worth a try?

But that shouldn’t be all. What if we took the lead in organizing, supporting, and attending spiritual programs, films, concerts, events, etc.” What if we gave each other spiritually based Christmas books rather than those totally divorced from what the season ought to stand for? If not overtly dealing with spiritual matters, don’t you think that, at the least, the books we choose to give away, share, and read should be compatible with Judeo-Christian values?

All too often, we do our own version of a Pilate act: wringing our hands and complaining of how powerless we are to do anything about bad things. What if—instead—, we individually and collectively stood up for good things?

How about starting this Christmas season? After all, the Twelve Days of Christmas are just beginning. Christmas won’t be over until January 7.

Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”

BLOG #49, SERIES #3
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
STEVEN SPIELBERG’S LINCOLN
December 5, 2012

Everywhere I go, people, knowing I wrote Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage (Howard/Simon & Schuster, 2008), ask me if I’ve seen the new film. Finally, I’m able to answer film-related questions. Connie and I took our daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons to see a Maryland, Sunday matinee. The theater was packed. And, just as was true with our son’s earlier experience in Florida, there was enthusiastic applause at the end.

I’ve been burned so many times by attending so-called biographical films that I was a bit apprehensive about this one; but not too much, for Doris Kearns Goodwin was staking her reputation on the film’s authenticity. And of all the sixty-some Lincoln biographies I studied before writing my own, her Team of Rivals outshown them all. What prodigious scholarship!

In short, Goodwin did not let me down. Neither did Spielberg, Sally Field, Daniel Day Lewis, or the rest of the cast. Spielberg was wise to zero in on such a short time-period that suspense and character-revelation and development was possible. Lewis was magnificent as Lincoln. Somehow, in this film, he became Lincoln. It was almost eerie to me: after a lifetime of studying Lincoln and collecting stories written about Lincoln, Lincoln with all his complexities (so complex that even his closest associates were never able to pigeon-hole him or predict what he might or might not do), I felt that somehow Lewis had managed to get inside his skin. An incredible feat given the fact that there are over 16,000 books about Lincoln to draw from.

Most certainly, Goodwin was the mentor-in-chief who helped create this near miraculous resurrection of abstract history into flesh and blood reality. But mentoring alone is powerless to create living prototypes; it also takes a mentoree with rare gifts of assimilation.

And never was a film such as this one needed more, for, as famed historian and biographer David McCullouch put it, several weeks ago, “America is facing an unprecedented crisis of historical literacy.” Neither our schools nor our homes are passing on to children, youth, and young adults an even elementary understanding and knowledge of our past. And given that books, newspapers, and magazines are being beaten back, back, and back by electronic sound bytes, democracy itself is at risk.

Sally Field excelled in her portrayal of the tormented Mary Todd Lincoln, who had lost two of her sons to disease. Antibiotics were unknown back then and doctors and midwives, with unwashed hands, carried death from one patient to the next. Had it not been for her husband, she would have completely crumbled against the forces determined to bring her down. When she lost him too, it is little wonder that she all but broke.

To us today, who have just endured a brutal no-hands-barred election campaign decided by incredibly vicious attack ads created for and by anonymous sources accountable to no one, we certainly cannot claim clean hands. Lincoln had made a solemn vow to God that he would do his utmost to remove the quarter-millennium-old curse of slavery. A superb tactician, he accomplished what no other known man could have: winning the war in spite of 750,000 casualties [the latest figure]) when so many were willing to settle at any price, and then, by marshaling so completely the war-time powers of the Presidency, along with being a shrewd judge of human nature, almost unbelievably, orchestrating the passing of the Sixteenth Amendment.

Not surprisingly, given today’s secularism, Lincoln’s deep relationship with God was shortchanged in the film. Without doubt, he was America’s most spiritual president, who was convicted that, behind the scenes, God called the shots. He could only do his utmost, then leave the rest to God. Scholars today appear to share an agenda that calls for stripping from Lincoln the spirituality that made him what he was, and give him the strength to stand–alone–against forces that would have brought down a hundred lesser men. His clear-eyed vision, coupled with moment-by-moment dependency on God, carried him on to Ford’s Theatre, the safe harbor reached at last. Wisely, Spielberg concludes the film with the high tide of passing the Sixteenth Amendment rather than the assassin’s bullet that, ironically, insured Lincoln’s immortality, saving him from the horrors of Deconstruction that followed.

In spite of its flaws, which are amazingly few, the film ends up about as historically accurate as any such film I’ve ever seen—an amazing feat!