Thanksgiving gives us pause to be thankful for all the wonder and joy in our lives.
I’m thankful for my spouse, Maxine, who supports me and offers a calm and thoughtful sounding board for my ideas, some of which she heads off at the gate. I’m thankful for my children, who are no longer children, but adults with their own ideas. And I’m particularly thankful for the kids, who are not mine, but have needs of their own and have allowed me to offer guidance, a helping hand and to be part of their lives as they’ve grown and matured.
I’m also grateful for those who make my life happy and joyful. Like my grandchildren, who I don’t see near enough. And the new little guy who is already 2 years old, and his brother who’s even newer and almost 1.
Even though I’ve been blessed, I recognize that supportive and respectful relationships are not felt by everyone, and that there are a growing number of people who strike out at those less fortunate or who are different than themselves.
I was raised a Christian — a Lutheran to be exact. I went to church every Sunday, to Sunday school and to youth groups. I was an acolyte, a member of the choir and I eventually taught Sunday school.
Later on I joined the Presbyterian Church. I became a trustee.
I was married in the church — both times. My children were all baptized and brought up in the church.
At Dickinson College, I majored in religion and nearly became a minister.
And through it all I believed in the teachings of Jesus, and I still do.
And that is the problem. The thing that tears at my heart.
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How can I, in good conscience, celebrate Thanksgiving, enjoy the closeness of my family and friends, while not taking a position on the fanaticism that has been permeating our political discussion? Even within my own circle, there are those who preach nonsense based on misinformation, name-calling, malice and hatred of others. It’s not unlike cancer being driven into our psyche by some in government, television personalities, social media, and friends right here at home.
The teachings of Jesus are recorded in the Gospels and Epistles. The writings are open to some interpretation depending on your view of the world, your orthodoxy, your background, your church. Yet, the teachings of Jesus about how we should conduct ourselves through life leave little room for interpretation.
Jesus was a man of peace and of great love. His message of repentance and turning to God was coupled with a message of God’s generosity, forgiveness, love and justice.
The miracles that Jesus performed demonstrated his love for humanity. He healed the sick, cast out the demons of mental illness, fed thousands with a handful of fish, calmed the sea in the midst of his followers’ anguish and brought the dead back to life.
And Jesus taught through parables. Love one’s neighbor. Be like the good Samaritan, who was considered a foreigner and an outcast, and yet was the only person to stop and offer help to a Jew dying along a roadway. The Samaritan invested in another person’s life when he could have just saved his time and money by simply passing on the other side. Jesus insisted that to love one’s neighbor as one’s self applied to all regardless of ethnic and religious barriers.
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Jesus ignored social lines. He mingled with the tax collector, the adulterer and the prostitute. He warned us to remember our own imperfections before condemning others. Throw the first stone only if you are without sin.
Jesus taught that we should not judge others, rather love fellow human beings. Judgment is God’s alone.
Jesus taught that the expected Kingdom of God would be a new reign of justice for the poor, the rejected, the outcasts, the oppressed.
Yet, in spite of the teachings of Jesus, a number of us water down, or just plain ignore, what it takes to be Christian. We tend to ignore, or at least recharacterize, the words of Jesus to condone wrongful beliefs, words and actions.
There are people right here in America who even now insist on ignoring the will of voters to anoint a former president as a deity for life. This is a man who supposedly can do no wrong, who condones lying, stealing, the breaking of commandments, disrespect of women and outright approval of doing whatever it takes to fatten his own pocketbook. This is a man who would be God.
Why have we gone so far astray that the teachings of Jesus are no longer central to our beliefs?
We Americans are 350 million strong. Yet, we rail against thousands of souls making their way on foot to our border. People who hunger for freedom, safety for their children away from drug gangs, a job and something to eat. We would rather suffer as a nation with millions of empty jobs than to be a good Samaritans and allow those who hunger to eat.
Of course, Jesus did not teach that we should make bad decisions, that we should not protect ourselves from harm or enemies. But Jesus did teach that we should not kick the downtrodden either.
Please do not misinterpret my thoughts. I’m not supporting a porous border or advocating for illegal entry into the United States. Nor do I support those who would scam our social support netting or transit and sell drugs.
Rather I’m expressing my observation that all things I have been taught, ever since I was a little boy, have a bearing on life. I believe that solutions to our problems may require a softer hand, a dose of empathy, an intelligent plan and a consistent method. This does not mean finger-pointing, name-calling, hate-mongering or fantasizing about taking down our government with armed resistance and civil war.
So I ask you, are the teachings of Jesus that I have held close my entire life nothing but platitudes and make believe? Or did Jesus stand against selfishness, greed and hatred?
I respectfully ask that you consider these thoughts as you enjoy your Thanksgiving blessings.
Bill Gindlesperger is a central Pennsylvanian, Dickinson College graduate, Pennsylvania System Of Higher Education (PASSHE) Governor, Shippensburg University Trustee, and Chairman of eLynxx Solutions. eLynxx software coordinates and drives communication, specifying, approval, procurement or production, reporting and activities necessary to obtaining direct mail, marketing materials and all other printing. He is a board member, campaign advisor, successful entrepreneur, published author and commentator. He can be reached at [email protected].