It is only through a random quirk of fate that I am tasked with the column that posts on this site on Thanksgiving Day. As I have said many times in this space, Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday of the year. In times past, I would devote this space on this day to a message of thankfulness, putting aside any purposeful courting of controversy or any attempt to move the audience to see something in a new way. I admit that in these days of partisan rancor and a raging pandemic it’s difficult to hold to that practice. I am currently sitting in my own home when normally I would be in parents’ home, preparing to celebrate the holiday. Moreover, many of the things I am thankful for this year are things that would upset at least some segment of the readership. It is truly a shame that our visions of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how we should live it out in today’s age often seem to create more division than unity. Even so – I forge ahead with a few things that I find myself thankful for as we gather around our tables today .
First, I am thankful that, even in some small way, our nation this year was forced and moved to have a reckoning on the issue of race. The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, along with police violence and murders against countless others, led so many people to change their positions, or wake up from their ambivalence, on the treatment of people of color in our society. Of course the backlash was swift and predictable, but I also know that the outrage was heard by people who never had their ears pricked before. I could be upset that it took this long and took more deaths for some to come to a new understanding – and sometimes I am. Unfortunately, I am also sure that someone else in the future will die and someone who was around for these deaths will all of a sudden get the point. However, I also realize that everyone (including me) had their wake-up moments about the suffering and oppression of others outside their natural communities. In the end I am grateful that these moments happened and that each person who had them will make a change that will make this society, this world, a better place.
Second, I am thankful for what I perceive to be a national change in how we address this pandemic, come next January. My heart grieves for those families who first may not even be gathering for this holiday but who’s tables would be missing members even if they were, due to this virus. This grief stems largely from my faith. My belief in the value of every human life. My sympathy and empathy for those, not only who lost their lives or are grieving the loss of a loved one, but also those who caught it and suffered and may continue to suffer because of this virus. No one can reasonably make the argument that there was any way to avoid the massive disruption this pandemic caused. However, I believe that our national suffering could have been lessened by more effective leadership. It did not have to be this bad. This many people did not have to get the disease and die. I am looking forward to a change in the national conversation around the pandemic, a focus on stemming the tide of this disease, and moving us uniformly to a place where we can begin to create a new sense of normalcy.
Third and finally, am I truly grateful for the Spectrum community. My first piece was published on this website over ten years ago, and I have never regretted my association with Spectrum or Adventist Forum. I am thankful to Bonnie Dwyer for her leadership over the years and the many editors who have covered for me and encouraged me along the way. I am grateful for every single person who has read my thoughts across the screen. I am grateful even for the people who disagreed with me over the years. In a time and space when actual church attendance is difficult for me, this community is one of the many ways that I connect with Adventist culture writ large.I am thankful that Adventist Forum and Spectrum exist – places where we can learn from one another, grow together, and share the interesting and unique places that our common faith is taking us.
 Both of which have overtly religious connections and overtones in our society.
 And I say that as much as a criticism of myself than of anyone who disagrees with me.
 And yes, here I mean white people.
Specifically: Jared Wright, Alexander Carpenter, Alisa Williams, and especially Rich Hannon, who to this very day shows great patience in dealing with me.
 For some reason I feel it important to say that my difficulties in church attendance are more about the external circumstances than any theological or cultural issue.
Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at AdventHealth University. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at www.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.
Previous Spectrum columns by Jason Hines can be found at: https://spectrummagazine.org/author/jason-hines
Image Credit: Unsplash.com
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