SUMMARY: Heroes. Brothers and sisters in Christ. Freedom fighters. Most Americans hold the Pilgrims in high regard, but unfortunately, many of these beliefs would be rejected by Pilgrims today- not the least a scheduled day of Thanksgiving.
Why does it matter?
“Authentic education requires a great deal of us. It demands searching self-reflection and evaluation…It invariably ‘engages the heart,’ and it always changes who we are,” author Robert Tracy McKenzie writes. “This is a view of history long out of fashion among academic historians. As Christians, I think it’s one we need to recapture.”
While the focus in The First Thanksgiving is most certainly on the Pilgrims and their story, McKenzie deftly weaves the reasons why and how Christians can faithfully study history, the common pitfalls of studying history, and why telling a balanced history is crucial.
One poignant and universally-applicable passage was the definition and differentiation between moral judgement and moral reflection.
“Moral judgement renders a verdict but requires nothing of the knowing heart,” McKenzie says. “Moral reflection is deeply introspective and never leaves the heart untouched.”
One of his most visited warnings for Christians is to approach history humbly – to be slow to judge, to work to get proper historical context, and to avoid “forging idols in history.”
“Our tendency to make sense of people from the past with reference to our own experience — to label them in terms of categories that come from our mental universe, not theirs — means that the danger for misunderstanding them is ever present,” McKenzie says. “It’s particularly great, however, when studying groups like the Pilgrims who do share some of our ways of looking at the world.”
The First Thanksgiving is a master class about reading history through a Christian lens. Not will you only learn about the Pilgrims, but you will learn how to study history from a Christian perspective.
If you liked The First Thanksgiving then we recommend The Pilgrims documentary.
KEY QUOTE: “Entering into conversation with the Pilgrims may help us examine our own values, but God has given them no moral authority over us, and we must not forget that. Our goal is to learn from our adopted ancestors, not turn them into idols.”
BONUS: IVP and McKenzie put together five short videos on Thanksgiving that are worth your time. One of them is embedded below.
BONUS II: IVP has a 22-page teachers guide that would be suitable for a high school, college call, or to help facilitate a deep dive in a small group setting.
DID YOU KNOW? Sunday to Saturday has a Good Reads page where we post all of the books we have read – even the ones that didn’t make the cut.
DIG IN: We have a learning capsule about Thanksgiving with resources to help faithfully learn about the holiday.
Our latest curated books on Thanksgiving:
Most Americans have learned about Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims at the center of the story. A story about a people fleeing religious persecution and landing on the shore of a wild, uncivilized country where they are befriended and saved by kind natives. They celebrate Thanksgiving and live happily ever after. It is a deeply ingrained origin story about the beginning of the United States. Not surprisingly, much of the Thanksgiving story is a myth.Read more