Thanksgiving trumps Christmas. Cultural fundamentalists and sentimental Christians may read that statement as heresy.

The former may read it as another salvo in the mislabeled war being waged against Christians via the shift last year in the commercial greetings from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays.” The latter may read it as retreating from the Christmas tradition with songs about the little town in Bethlehem, scenes of shepherds at mangers and scriptures predicting a child upon whose shoulder government would rest.

But the heresy is what Christmas has become. Heresy is more than false doctrine. It can be a betrayal through behavior.

Our behavior in this once sacred season is one of self-indulgence that cultivates the vice of covetousness and advances the sin of avarice, driven by a blitz of commercials and baptized by Christians through their full-court collusion with consumerism.

Rather than bemoan what the season is or scream Christian persecution, let’s recognize it for what it is, a time when there is no separation between church and market, between sacred and secular.

Let’s accept what we can not change–change what we can. Let people of good will claim another holiday as their own another.

If Christmas is about greed, then Thanksgiving is about gratitude.

Thanksgiving cultivates a grateful heart for and nurtures a spirit of giving, especially to those at the edges of our abundant society.

Because giving thanks is as old as the Hebrew Bible and as thoroughly America as the pilgrims, Thanksgiving is a perfect holiday for a diverse people. At Thanksgiving, we have no messianic disputes, clashes between faith and science, foolish Fox News rants about war-on-Christmas, manic-depressive shopping.

So, people of faith and no faith ought to lay claim to Thanksgiving as their time to be gratefully for and pitch in generously for the good, instead of letting Thanksgiving shrink into a gateway to Christmas. We need to preserve Thanksgiving for Thanksgiving.

In some ways, Nashville preserves the best of the Thanksgiving tradition as the holiday with power to promote the common good.

Perhaps without knowing it, Nashville fosters gratitude and demonstrates generosity with physical exertion. The city does it with the Boulevard Bolt.

If you don’t agree that Thanksgiving is a superior holiday to Christmas, then you’ve never participated in Nashville’s best party based on the simple moral imperative of love for neighbor.

The Bolt is a five-mile race down Belle Meade Boulevard, the main avenue of one of America’s wealthiest conclaves, an incorporated city inside Music City.

Immanuel Baptist Church, St. George’s Episcopal Church and The Temple sponsor the event that this year may draw some 8,000 runners, joggers and walkers, raising funds mostly for the homeless ministries.

Over a 13-year period, the Bolt has raised a remarkable $895,000. Organizers expect to go over the $1 million this year.

The race “is a great way to start Thanksgiving Day since Thanksgiving is for giving thanks for the blessings in your life,” Debbie Maxwell, a founder and one of the organizational linchpins, told the Tennessean. “Before you sit down with friends and family, it’s a nice way to give something back.”

What if every community organized special events on Thanksgiving morning to give something back with grateful hearts?

Perhaps it’s time for people of faith and no faith to make orange, the primary Thanksgiving color, the color for the common good.

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics and executive editor of This column is adapted from an earlier form that appeared in last Thanksgiving week to include updated information about the Boulevard Bolt.

Share This