Thirteen years ago, I wrote a Thanksgiving column for Beliefnet. If offer it here, as I do most every year, for your consideration. Happy Thanksgiving.
For me, the desire to give thanks is evidence, at a minimum, that human beings are innately religious. The theologian Karl Rahner wrote that there is a “God-shaped hole” in every one of us. With Rahner, I believe that it is God who put it there.
You can take that argument or leave it. But if you leave it, help me to understand why we experience this particular species of gratitude. I’m not talking about the kind of gratitude we feel toward someone who has done us a favor. I mean the sort of global gratitude inspired by gifts we could not have known enough to ask for, or the kind we feel when matters beyond our control end well for us.
Who do you thank for your sweetheart’s brown eyes; for growing up where it snows (or doesn’t); for being alive at the same time as Bruce Springsteen; or for seeing your children born into a country that is prosperous and at peace?
You might argue that there is no one to be thanked. Maybe all our purported blessings are a matter of random chance. Perhaps the desire to extend gratitude beyond the human is an evolutionary glitch–a useful social trait that got too big for its britches.
Or perhaps we awaken one day and realize that we are not now, nor have never been, masters of our own destinies; that our successes were not entirely of our own making; that our souls magnify the Lord, whether we like it or not.