10. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This means that in the U.S., Christians are allowed to worship Jesus Christ, go to church whenever they feel like it, and publish little blogs like this one without any interference – or encouragement – from the government.
9. The fact the First Amendment to the United State Constitution also preserves the rights of non-Christians and that many Christians do, in fact, value this.
8. A two-thousand year history of countless individuals wrestling with the outrageous claims of our faith. Now, from where I’m sitting, some of them got some things very, very, VERY wrong; for example, the notion of predestination first put forth (to my knowledge) by the father of the Protestant Reformation…Saint Augustine. But for every point made about our faith over the centuries, there are countless counterpoints and it behooves us to consider the many well-considered alternative views written by people of profound faith and exceptional intelligence.
7. Theology. There’s nothing quite like it in any other religion, although Judaism scholars have been dabbling in the enterprise since WWII. Incarnation, atonement, resurrection, and that pesky Trinity are so unbelievable, and yet so compelling, Christians had to invent a whole liberal arts discipline just to talk about it.
6. Three very different Christian traditions: Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Protestantism. Truly, a little something for everyone.
4. Non-Christian people of faith. These folks have so much to teach Christians. From Buddhist friends, I’ve learned how to pray without doing all the talking. From Mormon[iii] friends, I’ve learned the importance of congregational members doing the business of church. From Wiccan and pagan friends, I’ve learned the significance of sacred space. From Muslim friends, I’ve been reminded of the value of intimate engagement with sacred text. From Jewish friends, I’ve be reminded of the value of academic engagement with sacred text. None of this detracts from my Christian faith one measly iota; on the contrary, I am a better Christian for the fresh perspectives and spiritual gifts that people of other faiths have shared with me.
3. Agnostics and atheists. Any person of faith who has no agnostic and atheist friends is in peril of taking his or her religion too seriously, and people who do that are a threat to society and the world. Maybe even the universe. Agnostics and atheists routinely raise questions about religion that I believe people of faith are morally bound to ask themselves, but rarely, if ever, do.
2. Abraham Lincoln. He freed the slaves, preserved the Union, and set the precedent for Thanksgiving as a national holiday, rather than a day celebrated primarily in the northern states.
And the number one thing every Christian should be thankful for:
1. At least 26 shopping days left until Christmas. God help us every one.
[i] I’m counting 4 Maccabees as a book, even though my Harper-Collins Study Bible lists it as an appendix.
[ii] Non-Protestant Bibles also contain supplemental material in the books of Esther and Daniel.
[iii] Okay, okay, so Mormons are Christians, but like Anglicans and Lutherans, they don’t fit neatly into any of the other categories. Because they don’t follow the Pope, Calvin, or Wesley, I’m just not sure what to do with them.
© Marian the Seminarian, 2012