Acton Commentary

Thanksgiving in A Troubled Time


We live in a materialistic age, and thankfulness can be a difficult disposition to cultivate. But, as recent events have taught us, thankfulness is mostly a matter of perspective. After September 11—we are told—everything has changed. Gratitude is seemingly better grounded in the things that matter: life, family, and our role as creators.

Truth be told, however, many of our lives have not changed as a result of the attacks. We have roughly the same number of material things as we did last Thanksgiving and, for some of us, perhaps a few more.

While our external circumstances may not have changed, it is clear that our internal perspective has—our life, our worldview, our priorities have been reoriented. Hopefully, we are more serious; we are more reflective about the things that matter most. Our families and friends should mean more to us. Our safety and the safety of those we love is something we no longer take for granted. We are suddenly and tragically aware that the freedoms we enjoy are unknown in many parts of the world. The cost of attaining and maintaining our freedom is as high for us as has always been in previous generations. Our perspective on the value of human life is less flippant.

And our perspective on human life makes all the difference in the world. Life is, quite simply, a gift to be thankful for. Acknowledging God's presence in our lives enables a depth and richness to our time on Earth that is often indescribable. Ignoring this presence has always and will always lead to an alienation of what is truly important, in this life and the next.

I would not go so far as to say that the events of September 11 have dismantled some of the vacuous worldviews that can be dominant in our culture. It is worth noting, however, that the terrorist attacks have presented a serious challenge to these empty ideologies. For instance, we know that the attacks were, in a word, evil. Anyone who debates that point obviously has not watched the evening news in the last two months. And if he has, his relativism has so marginalized his view that it is no longer considered tenable.

Perhaps we have relearned old lessons. Life is too fragile and valuable to be meaningless and to be treated as meaningless. Life is too important to be empty of truth, beauty, and goodness. The moral categories of good and evil, right and wrong do exist and they have a profound impact on the quality and depth of our lives.

In the sense that we are now re-subscribing to eternal truths, little has changed for most of us. In another, more significant sense, everything has changed because the very way we think about who we are has shifted.

May the God who created us and redeemed us, the One who gives us meaning and purpose, the One in whom we live and move and have our being, bless us and give us hearts and minds to know what it means to be thankful.