Gizzards, Pigskins, and Carbs

I am not sure why you might feel the need to turn Thanksgiving into another testimonial for Holy Mother Church. Can’t Protestants have anything to themselves? The converts say no.

Taylor Marshall claims:

The first American Thanksgiving was actually celebrated on September 8 (feast of the birth of the Blessed Virgin) in 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida. The Native Americans and Spanish settlers held a feast and the Holy Mass was offered. This was 56 years before the Puritan pilgrims of Massachusetts. Don Pedro Menendez came ashore amid the sounding of trumpets, artillery salutes and the firing of cannons to claim the land for King Philip II and Spain. The ship chaplain Fr. Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales chanted the Te Deum and presented a crucifix that Menendez ceremoniously kissed. Then the 500 soldiers, 200 sailors and 100 families and artisans, along with the Timucuan Indians celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in gratitude to God.

Christine Niles acknowledges Thanksgiving’s associations with English Protestants but also points out how marginal those Protestants were:

Queen Elizabeth had little patience for Catholics, but even less for Calvinists, who complained the Church of England remained too papist. In their desire to complete the Reformation and “purify” religion of popish trumperies, the Puritans broke from the Anglican Church, rejected the Book of Common Prayer, and preferred the anti-royalist Geneva Bible to the King James version. They instituted an independent congregationalist ideal that upheld the notion of the common priesthood of all believers, and thus granted an equal say among congregants in the election of the minister (some claim the roots of American democracy lie here). All of this naturally brought down on them the wrath of the Crown, and persecution commenced. A number of Puritans fled England and sought refuge in Holland, where they lived for a dozen years, before deciding to leave for the New World. After meeting another group of Puritans in Southampton, all boarded the Mayflower on September 16, 1620. Sixty-five days later, they sighted Cape Cod. The communal meal we know of as “Thanksgiving” took place in 1621 with about ninety Native Americans, and lasted three days.

And then Ray Cavanaugh argues that Squanto, a convert to Roman Catholicism, made the first Thanksgiving possible:

He bequeathed his possessions to his English friends, all of them Protestant Puritans who, despite their own need for religious freedom, were not especially tolerant of Catholicism. One wonders if these Puritans even knew of their benefactor’s Catholic conversion.

But the guy who wrote the book on the first Thanksgiving, Robert Tracy McKenzie, reminds readers that:

Overwhelmed by God’s gracious intervention, the Pilgrims immediately called for another providential holiday. “We thought it would be great ingratitude,” Winslow explained, if we should “content ourselves with private thanksgiving for that which by private prayer could not be obtained. And therefore another solemn day was set apart and appointed for that end; wherein we returned glory, honor, and praise, with all thankfulness, to our good God.” This occasion, likely held at the end of July, 1623, perfectly matches the Pilgrims’ definition of a thanksgiving holy day. It was a “solemn” observance, as Winslow noted, called to acknowledge a very specific, extraordinary blessing from the Lord. In sum, it was what the Pilgrims themselves would have viewed as their “First Thanksgiving” in America, and we have all but forgotten it.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, perhaps we might remember both of these occasions. The Pilgrims’ harvest celebration of 1621 is an important reminder to see God’s gracious hand in the bounty of nature. But the Pilgrims’ holiday of 1623—what they would have called “The First Thanksgiving”—more forthrightly challenges us to look for God’s ongoing, supernatural intervention in our lives.

None of these accounts can dissuade me from my ambivalence about this holiday at this point in this nation’s history. On the one hand, it is the best holiday of the year from the perspective of food, drink, and leisure. On the other hand, the covenant theology that informs a national day of thanksgiving (or fasting) does not fit the conviction that no nation occupies the status that Mosaic Israel did (not to mention fitting a society inhabited by Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and agnostics). Over at Front Porch Republic I develop this ambivalence.

Not All About Me (sort of)

I will be speaking tomorrow at the Front Porch Republic conference at Hope College. Here are a few specifics:

Registration is now open for our Second Annual Conference to be held on September 15. This time we will be in Holland, MI on the beautiful campus of Hope College. We’ve got a stellar line-up of speakers including Bill Kauffman, Mary Berry Smith, Patrick Deneen, Jason Peters, Richard Gamble, William Schambra, Kate Dalton, D.G. Hart, Jeff Polet, Matt Bonzo, Authur Verslius, and a keynote address by Eric Jacobsen, author of the New Urbanist book, Sidewalks in the Kingdom.

Cost is $30 for the day, $15 for students. Lunch is included. Porchers in the mid-west, this is your chance. There will be plenty of time for discussion during the day, and we are making arrangements for a post-conference gathering at a local establishment where the conversation can continue. We are looking forward to a great event, and we hope to see you there.

For location and other matters, go here:

And here is the conference schedule:

Panel 1: Politics and Economics 9:15-10:30

Jeff Polet, Hope College
Patrick Deneen, University of Notre Dame
Richard Gamble, Hillsdale College

Panel 2: Local Culture 10:45-12:00

Bill Kauffman, author of Ain’t My America
William Schambra, Hudson Institute
Mark T. Mitchell, Patrick Henry College

Lunch: 12:15-1:00

Keynote Address: Eric Jacobsen, author of The Space Between, 1:00-1:45

Panel 3: Environment and Place 2:00-3:15

Jason Peters, Augustana College
Arthur Verslius, author of Island Farm
D. G. Hart, Hillsdale College

Panel 4: Food and Farming 3:30-4:45

Mary Berry Smith, The Berry Center
Katherine Dalton, Contributing editor to Chronicles magazine
Matt Bonzo, Cornerstone University

Closing Remarks: 4:45-5:00

The title of my talk will be “Confessions of an East Coast Snob.”

When This and That Comes Home

The best college basketball coach in the United States works in Philadelphia and no one knows about him. Congratulations to Herb Magee for winning his 903rd game at Philadelphia University. His closest competitor is Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski with 856 wins. But does Herb get to do ads for American Express? I don’t think so.

Rabbi Bret almost makes up with the Bayly Bros. when he writes the following against 2k (amazing how unifying 2k thinking is):

. . . there are other preachers out there who do raise their voices against R2Kt. Doug Wilson does a fine job revealing its weaknesses. Also, the Bayly Brothers came out with guns blazing against it in the past week. A gentleman named Rev. Ken Pierce also spoke out strongly against it. Now, at least as concerns the Bayly’s and Rev. Pierce they are not as consistent as they might be on the subject given their disavowal of theonomy, theocracy and a bold optimistic eschatology, but still in many respects, they acquitted themselves well in speaking out against R2Kt. I think more and more people are slowly awakening to the danger that R2Kt represents and I fully expect, in the near future, that you’ll hear more Reformed ministers raising their voices against it.

But then Rabbi Bret blows it when he takes on the experimental Calvinism in ways that make the Bayly Bros. wild about the evils of 2k (isn’t this the point of Scott Clark’s Recovering the Reformed Confession?):

There is a strain in Reformed theology that emphasizes the kind of subjectivism that Alexander warns against. This kind of subjectivism would have us find assurance of faith by examining our faith, or our repentance, or our love for God, or our performance in order to discern whether or not our faith, repentance, love or performance are genuine and not spurious. The problem with this is that when scrupulously honest regenerated people dwell in a concentrated way in examining these realities the more likely they are to conclude that they are unconverted. When we seek to anchor our faith in the quality of our faith, repentance, love, or performance we are sure to be ruined from one of two directions.

If we examine ourselves and find assurance because of the quality of our spiritual virtues we run the danger of being ruined from the sense of a self-satisfaction that may easily give way to self righteousness. We also run the danger of developing a spiritual inertia that does not allow us the capacity to see our real sin since our assurance becomes wrapped up in our ability to convince ourselves of the thorough genuineness of our spiritual virtues.

On the other hand if we examine ourselves and don’t find assurance because of the real lack of quality of our spiritual virtues – thus becoming convinced that our faith, repentance, love, works, etc. are spurious – we run the danger of concluding that God’s genuine work in our lives is false. When sinners such as ourselves turn our gaze inward in order to examine our spiritual virtues what else should we expect to find except the reality that our spiritual virtues are not so virtuous?

Here are a couple of thoughts for the front porch republican heart that beats within the average Old Lifer.

Thanks to John Fea I have new reasons for thinking myself superior. It’s because Ann and I live with Cordelia and Isabelle.

Where is Justin Taylor When You Need Him?

MeSome bloggers use their page as a clearance house for what others are saying – sort of like Matt Drudge does the news. So if you want to know what John MacArthur thinks about the Manhattan Declaration, you could go here. Such places allow you to keep tabs on the doings and whereabouts of certain evangelicals with star power.

Others use the blog to promote their own appearances, merchandise, and ideas published elsewhere. Of course, Oldlife promotes the views of its editors and sometimes reprints material first published in the Nicotine Theological Journal (a subscription would make a nice stocking stuffer, by the way). But we have resisted using this e-space to publicize current activities and duties. This is supposed to be a place to discuss what it means to be Reformed – not a vehicle to learn about the Muether or Hart family vacation plans.

All of this is a way of explaining the awkwardness of what follows: I have posted a piece over at Front Porch Republic on the Manhattan Declaration. Because some of the comments in recent weeks have asked for my impressions of the statement, this notice is a tad more understandable. And because the specter of J. Gresham Machen hovers over the keyboards of the NTJ’s editors, and because my study of Machen has clearly informed my take on the Declaration, mentioning that post here also makes sense. But self-promotion still feels odd.

And so to complete the circle, readers may also be interested to know that I will be dining today (dv) at lunch on hot pork sandwiches purchased at Reading Terminal Market while watching – I haven’t yet decided – either Barton Fink or Blood Simple. This is less a Thank-God-It’s-Friday moment than it is a reaction to the end of the semester at Temple University. Later today, my wife and I will be watching films from Temple’s city archives at the program of Secret Cinema, a wonderful cultural resource in Philadelphia. On Sunday, we will be worshiping with the saints a Calvary OPC, Glenside.

Question: Who cares? Answer: I do and my wife does sometimes. It’s hard to tell if our cats, Isabelle and Cordelia, even think.