As the nation recovers from the terrible tragedies of September 11, President George Bush said in his official Thanksgiving Proclamation, that the holiday is an opportunity for "Americans of every belief and heritage to give thanks to God for the many blessings we enjoy as a free, faithful, and fair-minded land."
The traditional address this year focuses on using Thanksgiving to find "particular assurance" during extraordinary times. The holiday, Bush said, "reminds us that we, as a people and individually, always have reason to hope and trust in God, despite great adversity."
Several Thanksgivings of the past, he said, were likewise celebrated in the "throes of great difficulty:"
In 1621 in New England, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God, in whom they placed their hope, even though a bitter winter had taken many of their brethren. In the winter of 1777, General George Washington and his army, having just suffered great misfortune, stopped near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to give thanks to God. And there, in the throes of great difficulty, they found the hope they needed to persevere. That hope in freedom eventually inspired them to victory.
In another holiday tradition, Bush pardoned the official White House turkey. At the event, Bush told a crowd of children that, "Thanksgiving reminds us that the greatest gifts don't come from the hands of man, but from the Maker of Heaven and Earth."
He also joked that the White House has two Thanksgiving turkeys, but one was not available because "he's in a secure and undisclosed location."
Ramadan at the White House
Thanksgiving is not the only holiday this week at the White House. On Monday night, Bush became the first president to host a traditional Ramadan dinner, or iftar.
The event was attended by representatives of 53 Muslim countries and senior U.S. officials. The Pentagon and State Department plan Ramadan meals for next week.
Continuing the interfaith message that Bush has repeated since the start of the war on terrorism, Bush told attendees that Ramadan, Christmas, and Hanukkah are opportunities for nations to celebrate together and understand one another better.
"America respects people of all faiths and America seeks peace with people of all faiths," the president said at Monday's dinner. "I thank you for your friendship and I wish you a blessed Ramadan."
Clueless "moral lethargists"
Why did our cultural institutions seem so impossibly clueless after September 11? ask Kay S. Hymowitz and Harry Stein in the Autumn 2001 number of City Journal. Answer: The non-judgmentalism of multiculturalism, the hazy spirituality of the New Age, and the self-focus of the therapeutic culture have created a generation of "moral lethargists."
The cultural institutions Hymowitz and Stein focus on in "Earth to Ivory Tower: Get Real!" are our universities, the mainstream press, the entertainment industry, and "liberal churches." Their best reporting of egregious inability to perceive moral evil is from the near self-parodies of academic voices. One sample: Eric Foner, last year's president of the American Historical Association, who asserted, "I'm not sure which is more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House."
Hymowitz and Stein paint the "liberal churches" with a broad brush, citing only a service held at Manhattan's landmark Riverside Church, starring Thich Nhat Hanh and Judy Collins (they asked the congregation to "disintegrate hatred"), and a proclamation issued by the National Council of Churches (which seemed unable to tell the difference between "vengeance" and "waging war on those who would destroy our civilization").
Too bad the authors didn't glean as many examples from the religious community as they did from the "clueless academics … living on the dregs of the sixties." The article would have been much more entertaining.
Will the Dead Sea Scrolls be in the Macy's parade?
In tribute to its resilience in the face of the September 11 terrorist attacks, New York City has been given a Dead Sea Scroll. Professor Emmanuel Tov, professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, dedicated the "Thanksgiving Scroll" to the city last week. The scroll includes a Hebrew song of thanksgiving and praise:
Rejoice with everlasting joy / [Un]ceasingly, worship in the common assembly. Bless the one who /Wonderfully does majestic deeds, and makes known his strong hand.
The tribute was made at the same time that Tov, editor-in-chief of the international committee working with the scrolls, announced that after more than half a century of research, the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls is nearly complete. The last volumes of "Discoveries in the Judean Desert" are now in the final stages of preparation.
"After 54 years of excitement, expectation, tribulation, much criticism, and a little praise, the publication has been finalized," Tov told The Jerusalem Post News. "These 2,000-year-old scrolls give us an excellent picture of the literature of ancient Israel."
Shelter Now workers:
- Waco church celebrates 'miracle' rescue | Two freed aid workers deliver recorded message to their congregation (The Baltimore Sun)
- Home parish of two aid workers exults in 'miracle' of their release | Texas congregation credits prayer for safety of Curry and Mercer (The Washington Post)
- Trauma right up to the very end for the aid workers held hostage | U.S. helicopter mission nearly went wrong (The Guardian, London)
- Islamic growth trend predicted in Britain | Muslims in Great Britain who regularly attend mosque will outnumber worshiping Anglicans within years (Los Angeles Times)
- Prayer amid the tension | As Ramadan begins, dedication to Islam is getting Muslims through what many view as the most difficult period in their years in the Conejo Valley (Los Angeles Times)
- Face-off | The bombing of Afghanistan is hardening Muslim attitudes toward the U.S. But in Southeast Asia, a new class of moderate Muslims able to reconcile the West with Islam is emerging. Can they prevail? (AsiaWeek)
- Imam, rabbi, minister see new meaning in annual trialogue | Every year since 1996, three of New York's spiritual leaders have joined to lead the Thanksgiving service at a Manhattan church (Associated Press)
- Not all Christians reach out to Islam | Franklin Graham's comments stir controversy (USA Today)
- Ford Motor workers get on the job training in religious tolerance | Several hundred Ford Motor workers of many faiths and jobs turned out today for "An Islamic perspective on the events of September 11" (The New York Times)
- Muslims and others meet in good faith | The meeting was intended not only to open up the world of Islam to non-Muslims, but to encourage Muslims to get more involved in American life (The Chicago Tribune)
- Lutheran organizations join to encourage peace and understanding | Joint effort provides training on addressing the special needs of the Muslim, Arab and Middle Eastern people living in their communities (Business Wire)
- US ambassador in Ramadan fast | The United States ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlin, is fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan (BBC)
- Others fast in solidarity with Muslims | The nation's largest ecumenical organization and a Roman Catholic leader called on their members to practice a weekly day of fasting. (Chicago Sun Times)
Faith and Business:
- Putting worship into their workday | More federal employees participating in prayer services at the office (The Washington Post)
- In this company's struggle, God has many proxies | At the ServiceMaster Corporation, the forces of God and Mammon are in a tug of war (The New York Times)
- In a first, Vatican delivers papal text by Net | The Pope himself will press the send button at a ceremony in the Vatican on Thursday (CNN)
- Also: Oceania a voyage too far for frail Pope | In past years, Pope John Paul II traveled to distant continents to deliver a special message to his bishops. (CNN)
- N.Y. woman is ordained Catholic priest | Breakaway N.Y. parish defies another Vatican tradition (The Washington Post)
Church and state:
- Board of education gets religion | Apparently prayer permitted in public school when it's of the non-Judeo-Christian variety (Arnold Ahlert, New York Post)
- Prayer warriors fight church-state division | City Council members in Harvey, Illinois, have called for voluntary prayer in the public schools (The New York Times)
- Nigeria 'arrests Pakistani preachers' | Six Pakistani Muslim preachers have been arrested in south-west Nigeria for allegedly inciting religious violence (BBC)
- North Nigerian women reject Shari'ah | Non-Muslim women say that devotion to Shari'ah does not go much beyond the surface (Daily Mail & Guardian)
- Beijing embraces war on terrorism | China cracks down on minority Muslims violence (MSNBC)
Kidnapped Italian Priest:
- Manila search for Italian priest takes gruesome turn | Officials first reported he had been rescued, then said his body had been found and later that the corpse was not his (Reuters)
- Also: Found body not that of kidnapped priest| The alleged captors of Italian missionary Giuseppe Pierantoni confirm the body is neither that of the priest nor of the missing Canadian national (Inquirer News Service)
- Kidnapped Italian priest still alive but not well | Fr. Giuseppe Pierantoni has been sighted in the towns of Sultan Gumander, Malabang, Kapatagan Dos, and parts of Pualas (Inquirer News Service)
Politics and law:
- A resurrected Ashcroft becomes cabinet power | A year ago, John Ashcroft's political future looked grim until the terrorist attacks "raised a call he could not shirk" (International Herald Tribune)
- Bush's counselor Hughes lets faith be her guide | Washington is "heady stuff" and faith helps temper it (San Antonio Express-News)
- Faith bill advances amid religious mood | Administration yields on expanding grants (Boston Globe)
- U.K.'s blasphemy law to be scrapped soon | Home secretary wants new law against inciting religious hatred to replace old provision (The Guardian)
- MPs say religious hate law would be unworkable | Plans to make incitement to religious hatred a crime are unworkable and should be dropped, a Commons committee has said (The Daily Telegraph)
- Court refuses spanking request | A private Christian school in Liverpool lost its battle for the right to spank unruly pupils with parental consent (Associated Press)
- Also: Christian schools' smacking plea fails (The Daily Telegraph)
Other stories of interest:
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