Stop Turning Thanksgiving into a Facebook Like
What do toilet paper, long bike rides down sun-dappled autumn roads, Diet Coke, and Justin Bieber have in common?
Answer: #Thanksgiving, internet style. I've seen expressions of appreciation for each show up on Facebook and Twitter this month. I've certainly populated the social media universe myself with mentions of the gifts I'm grateful for, among them family, friends, health, food, and employment. Other expressions of gratitude I've seen have hit similar themes.
I've seen many other gratitude lists that are simply inventories of coveted, then acquired consumer products: big-screen TVs, cute new sweaters, Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Thanks, then, is reduced to consuming or buying stuff. Ironically, the kinds of things that are on these shopping lists are hardwired into a deeper frustration that things aren't the way they are supposed to be in our society. Both the Tea Party and Occupy movements are grassroots responses to our floundering economy. We are in a down market for true gratitude if giving thanks is primarily linked to our purchasing power.
Gratitude is big business in our culture. Oprah regularly urged her viewers to keep a gratitude journal. With nearly 1,000 listings for "gratitude journals" on Amazon.com, it would appear that there are bucks to be made from the counting of blessings. Researchers tell us that giving thanks benefits the one doing the thanking. I can celebrate the positive effects that gratitude has in our lives. And I can't deny that this month's expressions of thanksgiving add a splash of warm 'n fuzzy sentiment to the atmosphere around the internet and in our culture, even those I don't fully understand. (See Bieber, above.)
But thanksgiving, by definition, is supposed to be about someone other than the one doing the thanking. Author Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts: Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are hit bestseller lists this year with a poetic, biblically anchored message about gratitude's power to transform both the way we live our lives and the way we relate to God. (See Her.meneutics' two reviews of the book.) Voskamp's book has inspired tens of thousands of readers to offer their thanks to the Giver for the ordinary moments of their days, a welcome redirect from Oprah's "Say thank you to the universe!" message.
I may sound a bit Scrooge-like, but I confess that I am growing increasingly uncomfortable with Twinkie-sweet emotion that strips away purpose from gratitude. In my estimation, gratitude has morphed into a feel-good trending topic instead of what it really is according to Scripture: a costly expression of worship.
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