The Day After Thanksgiving: Some Thoughts on Yesterday’s Controversies

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You might find it odd that the day after Thanksgiving I am writing about Thanksgiving. The truth is that I am not really writing about Thanksgiving rather some of the nutty things that happened this year on Thanksgiving.

Of course I am talking about some the controversies that arose regarding the celebrations of Thanksgiving that don’t fit the mold of the religious Christian Thanksgiving. Two incidents in particular created some buzz but I am sure there were others as well.

First we turn to the Butterball Turkey situation. One blogger called upon her readers to boycott Butterball because they dared to have their Turkeys Halal certified. This means that it is slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law. It is very similar to Shechita, the method of slaughter required by Jewish law. According to Ms. Geller:

“Halal turkey, slaughtered according to the rules of Islamic law, is just the opposite of what Thanksgiving represents: freedom and inclusiveness, neither of which are allowed for under that same Islamic law.”

First of all, Thanksgiving DOES NOT represent freedom or inclusiveness. It never has and never will. I can provide Ms. Geller with a hint as to what the holiday represents – it’s in the name. Oh yes. It’s thanks and appreciation.

More importantly, any religious ceremony is by default not free or inclusive. Jewish law, Canon law, Islamic law, any religious law that makes specific requirements is not (on the surface) “freedom”. They are restrictions. Moreover, religious law is never going to be inclusive. It calls for rituals that make the performer of the ritual a religious person and by default the one who does not perform the ritual irreligious. This can create a barrier between the religious and irreligious. All religions suffer this potential flaw.

Just look at my Tim Tebow post from a couple days ago: Tim Tebow’s Relationship With His God. Not everyone is so comfortable with Tebow’s religious proclivities. But have a look at the comment left by the Christian fellow in the comments. Do you think his religion is “inclusive” of me? (Or Ms. Geller?) Is that the sound of freedom? In Ms. Geller’s world that makes Tebow the commenter people who should not allowed to celebrate Thanksgiving. They are not inclusive enough.

Ms. Geller calls Halal slaughtering a form of torture. This is obviously offensive to all kosher eating people as well.

But the real point is that Ms. Geller is being as two-faced as one can be. By denying an entire group the right to have a Thanksgiving dinner, Ms. Geller is being as freedom hating and non-inclusive as one can be. But that was obvious.

Finally, I imagine that the reason Butterball markets Halal turkeys is because it is good business. To me, that’s just the free market that Ms. Geller loves so much.

Now we turn to controversy number two. The President gave the traditional Presidential Thanksgiving address and neglected to mention God in his words. The president dedicated this year’s holiday celebration to the troops fighting our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also thanked the volunteers in soup kitchens across America. So what was the problem? He did not mention God. This is a terrible sin that violates the ancient and holy laws of Thanksgiving.

Never mind that in the Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation he did mention God.

The omission set off a firestorm of vitriol toward the president.

A particularly bombastic twitterer called Obama a “militant atheist” for not mentioning God in the address. As irresponsible and insane of a statement it is to “out” someone as an atheist when they clearly are not an atheist, the tweet ignores the Proclamation and Obama’s 2009 and 2010 Thanksgiving addresses where he did mention God.

How is this reconciled? Was he a believer before but now he is all of the sudden a “militant atheist”? Or maybe he was a “militant atheist” all along but he has finally decided to own up to his true non-beliefs?

As far as militant atheists go, Obama would hardly be very successful. He goes to Church, says the appropriate God Bless Americas and to my knowledge has never engaged a believer in debate trying to convince the believer that belief in God is wrong.

Obama is not an atheist and certainly is not a militant atheist. This the kind of message that someone tweets to pander to right wing conservative Christians and bait left wing liberal non-Christians. It’s a call for attention. Well, he got it. Congratulations. But at what cost? Credibility. You can only say so many crazy things before everything you say is considered crazy.

All the silliness aside, I think that Thanksgiving is one day that should be enjoyed and celebrated by people of all faiths and people of no faith. That Ms. Geller and the bombastic twitterer feel that Thanksgiving must be celebrated in one way and in no other is a fallacy. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to push aside our differences and be thankful for the wonderful things in our lives to whomever or whatever we attribute them to.

The irony is that both Ms. Geller and the bombastic twitterer are Jewish and that they would prefer a Christian version of the holiday than a non-denominational celebration tells me that they have sold out the ever important freedom of religion and inclusiveness of America’s Constitution for the sake making friends in religious right.

Thanksgiving is for everyone. Let’s keep it that way.

Links: American Thinker, Twitter

Further Reading: EconomistGawker

  • Edward Saslaw

    Once again, I remain amazed at an Orthodox rabbi who talks favorably about inclusiveness and tolerance.  It is a good sign, though, and another reason not to judge people by the labels they wear.

  • Must not have been such big controversies. I havn’t heard anything about them.

    • Mentioned in The Economist and Gawker is not enough?

      • For a “controversy”? Meh

      • Anonymous

        Economist and Gawker??? Nope. That’s nothing in the general sense of media-promulgated controversy.

  • Halal Turkeys: It’s about time we all started thinking clearly about our relationships with Muslims, especially outside the Middle East. It’s probably true that most Muslims in Western countries harbor some degree of opposition to Israel and/or hostility to Jews. The right thing to do about that is to fight back by challenging any anti-Israel or antisemitic messages and not by trying to make a special case that Muslims are not entitled to the same rights as everyone else in a Western society.

    Leaving aside the moral issue (and I think you would need much more pressing reasons to suspend civil liberties like freedom of contract than the fact that you don’t like Muslims) it’s crazy for one minority (Jews) to attempt to undermine the rights of another minority (Muslims). Were we to succeed we would be opening the door to potential persecution on ourselves.

  • “Obama the atheist”. What can I say; some people on the right are as irrational in their hatred of Obama as some on the left were (are) in their hatred of Bush.

    There are enough real issues to oppose Obama on without getting drawn into conspiracy theories and fantasies.