It is not yet the middle of November, and houses in my neighborhood are putting up Christmas lights. Two big local radio stations are now playing nothing but Christmas music. The TV is full of the sound of jingle bells and Christmas sales.
We passed over the holiday of giving thanks and zoomed right in on the holiday of greed. It reveals a lot about Americans at this moment in history.
We Americans value the appearance of faith. We like the idea of faith so much, it has become a selling point. Some presidential candidates spend more time talking about their faith than about their actual plans for running the country. The notables who speak for the black community always have the church title 'Reverend,' which gives them unquestioned gravitas.
All of which suggests that there is one important question to be asked as Thanksgiving approaches. But first, the holiday itself deserves a closer look. Of all our country's holidays, it is the only one which is truly a spiritual celebration. Christmas stopped being spiritual for most people decades ago, but Thanksgiving has never changed; it has always been about gathering together for a feast, at which everyone is thankful for all that they have. It is a time, in faith, to feel and express gratitude.
It may be that we Americans suffer from a kind of advertising brainwash; after all, there is little that can be advertised for Thanksgiving; stores can sell candy for Halloween and anything at all for Christmas, but the only thing people buy for Thanksgiving is turkeys.
So of course WalMart is going to jump from October candy commercials to ads about 'holiday' gifts and party supplies; the company is not going to spend millions of dollars advertising frozen turkeys.
Which means it's up to the people to celebrate Thanksgiving. But we hear little about this holiday except in terms of food and football.
In our limited defense, it could be that perhaps Americans are so dependent on the media feed that we no longer even pay attention to anything not heavily featured on television, the internet, newspaper and radio. Thanksgiving is easy to ignore. It's not a publicly declarative holiday; it's not an opportunity to stand up and thank veterans or moms or speak of patriotism, it doesn't have a three day weekend.
While it is an unrelated subject to wonder why every person of faith seems to be summed up under the cliched phrase "Religious Right," nonetheless, it is certainly correct to question why people expressing these values have not grabbed this holiday and elevated it as the one which most symbolizes the values they claim: family togetherness and a humble thankfulness to God for what has been given.
Even more strange, no one questions the oversight of Thanksgiving. It never even comes up. No one expects any religious leader to stand and chastise people for not giving reverence to a holiday set aside for being thankful. No one has ever yet made a statement that can be widely quoted, suggesting that for people of faith, Thanksgiving is about more than furniture sales.
So the question that should be asked as Thanksgiving approaches, in this country where the appearance of faith and the verbal expression of it is so very important, is this:
How would others know you were a person of faith if you didn't tell them?