Leave it to Tim Graham of the right-wing Media Research Council to have a problem with the New York Times‘s coverage of an ecumenical Thanksgiving church service in the suburbs last weekend that ended with Jews, Christians and Muslims raising their voices in "This Land Is Your Land," along with Woody Guthrie’s daughter.
Longtime Times writer Peter Applebome had covered the service in Pleasantville, NY, the Westchester village once known as the site for Reader’s Digest but now the home of one of the great movie theater/educational operations in the region, the Jacob Burns Center, where I happened to be attending a film the same day.
What Graham seemed to find most objectionable was the reporter’s observation that a popular recent book claims that "Americans are not only deeply divided and polarized along religious lines, but also increasingly tolerant and more likely to intermarry, change religions and accept the faith of others. The message seemed obvious, that the more people of different religious backgrounds shared their experiences, the more they understood each other and transcended what Mr. Phillips [a Methodist minister and organizer] called religious exceptionalism: the belief that there’s only one path to God and that one’s own religion has it. And so evolved this year’s interfaith service, with the idea of ending with ‘This Land is Your Land.’ "
Graham: "[T]he Times writer was so delighted by this harmonic convergence that he didn’t go walking on any jagged-edged Plymouth Rocks of Protestantism for disapproval of the ‘interfaith’ ethos. There was only a refreshing lack of discord…. One always achieves liberalism by transcending and evolving."
The Times piece closed with: "Afterward, there was cider and pumpkin pie, a small moment of American grace in a world often searching for just that."
Graham: "Liberals actually get thrills up their leg when someone answers the what’s-your-faith question with ‘All or none,’ and they find ‘moments of grace’ when people insist that their own traditions of faith (or theologies of grace) are easily dismissed or supplanted by someone else’s."
What Graham is most upset with, obviously—though he mentions it only in passing—is that Thanksgiving started out "as a Christian event," and now it’s been usurped by Unitarians, Jews and even, Muslims!
Well, the only way to end this is to really bug Graham by paying tribute to another famous Thanksgiving event—Arlo Guthrie’s "massacree" at Alice’s Restaurant, 1965.