The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History  -     By: Robert Tracy McKenzie
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The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History

IVP Academic / 2013 / Paperback

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Product Description

The events behind America's most iconic holiday in a single accessible volume.

The Pilgrims' celebration of the first Thanksgiving is a keystone of America's national and spiritual identity. But is what we've been taught about them or their harvest feast what actually happened? And if not, what difference does it make?

In The First Thanksgiving Robert McKenzie tells the captivating story of the birth of this quintessentially American holiday, and helps us to better understand the tale of America's origins--and for Christians, to grasp the significance of this story and those like it. McKenzie avoids both idolizing and demonizing the Pilgrims, and calls us to love and learn from our flawed yet fascinating forebears.

The First Thanksgiving is narrative history at its best, and promises to be an indispensable guide to the interplay of historical thinking and Christian reflection on the meaning of the past for the present.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 208
Vendor: IVP Academic
Publication Date: 2013
Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0830825746
ISBN-13: 9780830825745
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

ForeWord 2013 Book of the Year Award Finalist (Adult Nonfiction, History) The Pilgrims' celebration of the first Thanksgiving is a keystone of America's national and spiritual identity. But is what we've been taught about them or their harvest feast what actually happened? And if not, what difference does it make? Through the captivating story of the birth of this quintessentially American holiday, veteran historian Tracy McKenzie helps us to better understand the tale of America's origins—and for Christians, to grasp the significance of this story and those like it. McKenzie avoids both idolizing and demonizing the Pilgrims, and calls us to love and learn from our flawed yet fascinating forebears. The First Thanksgiving is narrative history at its best, and promises to be an indispensable guide to the interplay of historical thinking and Christian reflection on the meaning of the past for the present.

Author Bio

Robert Tracy McKenzie (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) is professor and chair of the department of history at Wheaton College, where he teaches courses in U.S. history, the Civil War and historiography. McKenzie is the author of two award-winning monographs: (Cambridge, 1994) and (Oxford, 2009). He has also written numerous scholarly reviews and articles including "Don't Forget the Church: Reflections on the Forgotten Dimension of Our Dual Calling" in the book (Notre Dame, 2010).

Endorsements

Revisionist histories were once the rage, as academics sought recognition by shaking us from deeply and dearly held perceptions of the past with revelations of novel and counter 'facts.' McKenzie works the opposite direction, resurfacing the history we have forgotten regarding one of our most treasured holidays--Thanksgiving--to help reexamine and reinforce our most important convictions regarding faith and culture.
-Bryan Chapell,
president emeritus, Covenant Seminary

As a teacher, I am always on the lookout for brief, well-written models of historical thinking that I can immediately thrust into the hands of undergraduates. I absolutely loved the chapter on why it took Thanksgiving so long to take root. This work models historical thinking with incandescent lucidity.
-Sam Wineburg,
Stanford University

Tracy McKenzie's clearly written and thoughtfully accessible book should be read with appreciation by a wide audience. It combines solid historical treatment of early American Thanksgivings with a perceptive understanding of historical method in general, and it does so by underscoring the profound Christian stake in history. It is one of those rare books that is perfectly suited for young readers but also of real value to those of us who have been around for a long time.
-Mark A. Noll,
University of Notre Dame

What makes The First Thanksgiving such a refreshing read is that McKenzie gives fewer pages to debunking folk tales about the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving than he does to inspiring desire for a kind of historical inquiry that enriches human wisdom through moral and spiritual reflection. Warm-hearted, intelligent and wonderfully surprising, this book will be read and appreciated by students and scholars alike, and especially by history lovers interested in what history is and what it is good for.
-Lendol Calder,
Augustana College

McKenzie's book is both an engaging account of New England's first Thanksgiving and an excellent introduction to how to think both critically and constructively about history.
-George Marsden,
author of A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards

If you want to rediscover the 'first Thanksgiving' and learn what difference studying history makes--well, you couldn't do better than reading this one volume. By looking at the Pilgrims afresh, they come alive to remind us 'how we mean to live and do not yet live.'
-Mark Galli,
Christianity Today

Editorial Reviews

"If you want to rediscover the 'first Thanksgiving' and learn what difference studying history makes--well, you couldn't do better than reading this one volume. By looking at the Pilgrims afresh, they come alive to remind us 'how we mean to live and do not yet live.'"
"McKenzie helpfully calls us away from the use of 'revisionist' as a pejorative for history we do not like. History is not received like Scripture. And the history of Thanksgiving was subject to lots of revision over the years, especially in the middle of the 19th century. The Pilgrim story, McKenzie points out, was not culturally convenient prior to and immediately after the Civil war, with the New England connection to the tradition quite strong, abolitionist governors using their Thanksgiving proclamations to decry slavery, and Native Americans not especially respected. . . . McKenzie argues for an alternative, for the practice of history done Christianly. . . . Combining knowledge with humility should be our goal in the study of the past. Refraining from self-flattering moral judgment, we should pursue history as an opportunity for moral reflection, looking to what figures in the past say about their own time, and for all time."
"It is no doubt too hopeful to imagine that The First Thanksgiving will change how large numbers of Americans understand the Pilgrims or look upon Thanksgiving. But one can hope that the book makes its way into the hands of a wide range of audiences including Christian college students and faculty, elementary and secondary education teachers, adult Christian education classes, general Christian readers, and even secular university classes interested in an excellent primer on thinking historically. If it does, there is some chance by the time Americans sit down to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving in 2021, more of us will be better equipped to receive well the gifts that historical study can provide, including the feast that our Pilgrim forefathers and mothers offer."
"Tracy McKenzie has written two books in one. The first may be read for fun and profit by anyone interested in the 'real story' of Thanksgiving. The second is primarily intended to help American Christians think in a Christian manner about our nation's history. There are a host of books that smugly dissect popular 'myths' or 'lies' about American history. Fortunately, this is not one of them. It is true that McKenzie dispels a number of common beliefs about Thanksgiving, but he does so in a winsome, engaging manner."
" The First Thanksgiving emphasizes the Pilgrims' firm commitment to God and highlights beliefs today's Christians might disagree with, such as refusing religious tolerance. Throughout the book, McKenzie uses carefully selected biblical scriptures to assure readers that history has a place in Christianity, but Christians must be careful not to place faith in historical figures or America. Instead, they should follow the Pilgrims' lead and strive to make heaven their home. . . . Christians who embrace the strategies used by historians that McKenzie skillfully teaches, may never view the past the same again."
"McKenzie's book is both an engaging account of New England's first Thanksgiving and an excellent introduction to how to think both critically and constructively about history."
"What makes The First Thanksgiving such a refreshing read is that McKenzie gives fewer pages to debunking folk tales about the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving than he does to inspiring desire for a kind of historical inquiry that enriches human wisdom through moral and spiritual reflection. Warm-hearted, intelligent and wonderfully surprising, this book will be read and appreciated by students and scholars alike, and especially by history lovers interested in what history is and what it is good for."
"Tracy McKenzie's clearly written and thoughtfully accessible book should be read with appreciation by a wide audience. It combines solid historical treatment of early American Thanksgivings with a perceptive understanding of historical method in general, and it does so by underscoring the profound Christian stake in history. It is one of those rare books that is perfectly suited for young readers but also of real value to those of us who have been around for a long time."
"As a teacher, I am always on the lookout for brief, well-written models of historical thinking that I can immediately thrust into the hands of undergraduates. I absolutely loved the chapter on why it took Thanksgiving so long to take root. This work models historical thinking with incandescent lucidity."
"Revisionist histories were once the rage, as academics sought recognition by shaking us from deeply and dearly held perceptions of the past with revelations of novel and counter 'facts.' McKenzie works the opposite direction, resurfacing the history we have forgotten regarding one of our most treasured holidays--Thanksgiving--to help reexamine and reinforce our most important convictions regarding faith and culture."

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  1. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    great read
    October 23, 2014
    mhend54
    Quality: 5
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 5
    READING THIS FOR MY BOOK CLUB AND IT'S FANTASTIC. SUPERANTISPYWARE INFORMATIVE BUT ALSO EASY TO UNDERSTAND.
  2. St. Paul, MN
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Dispels some myths but lauds the Pilgrims' faith
    December 8, 2013
    Bob Hayton
    St. Paul, MN
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Every year around Thanksgiving, I enjoy reflecting on the Pilgrims, their Mayflower voyage and that first Thanksgiving back in 1621. Being a descendant of no less a figure than John Alden (the one who stole Miles Standish's girl, Priscilla Mullins) only encourages my Thanksgiving reverie. This year, I enjoyed finishing a first-rate historical survey of that special Pilgrim holiday. "The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History" by Robert Tracy McKenzie (IVP, 2013), is a book I thoroughly enjoyed but one that challenged me to reexamine the historical record and the reasons why I love to reflect on my Puritanical roots.

    McKenzie takes the occasion of writing a book on the first thanksgiving, to remind his Christian audience about the role history should play in our faith. He covers the nuts and bolts of historical research while he's at it. Now, he does tip some sacred cows. He points out how we have scant records of the actual first thanksgiving, and demurs that it wasn't the first thanksgiving in any true sense — at least four other public occasions of thanksgiving in America (the French Huguenots on Florida's shores in 1565 being the earliest) have greater claim to that honor. Intriguingly "Plymouth Rock" was born from second-hand recollections of an original Pilgrim some 100 years or more after their landing. And more importantly, American history didn't instill the Pilgrims' autumnal feast with national importance for several hundred years. It was left for Franklin D. Roosevelt to be the first American President to directly connect the national observance of Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims of Plymouth and their historic feast.

    The book is not a direct assault on Christian values, by any stretch, however. McKenzie, a head of the history department at Wheaton College, wants us to remember the real first thanksgiving and do the hard work of looking at the actual past and judging what we can learn from our experience of it. He cautions us against twisting the Pilgrim's "buckle shoes" any which way — supporting our every opinion. Their story should not be a touchstone that we use to win battles of public opinion. Rather, we should learn from their example of heart-felt faith, fierce courage, and providential blessing as we continue to live out our faith in the public sphere.

    This book will dispel some myths: the first thanksgiving was likely not thought of as a "day of Thanksgiving" by the Pilgrims themselves. Their first official day for Thanksgiving came two years later after an incredible answer to prayer where God brought colony-saving rain on the exact day set aside as a "day of fasting." But McKenzie doesn't set the record straight just to be a good historian. His book aims to inculcate a fuller appreciation for the real Pilgrims. We will not agree with all of the Pilgrim's idiosyncrasies (most of us enjoy celebrating Christmas, for instance). And some of what the Pilgrims have come to stand for has less to do with their real beliefs than it does those of their heirs. Still, there is much to learn and appreciate in the real Pilgrims. Listening to their true story will challenge our affirmation of a consumerism-driven society and call us to live godly lives in this present world.

    I know that Thanksgiving has passed already this year. But if you find some extra time in and around Christmas, perhaps you should pick up this title and reacquaint yourself with the story of those brave Pilgrims who followed God's call and found themselves on the other side of the world. You will enjoy the book and profit from it, I'm sure.

    Disclaimer: This book was provided by InterVarsity Press. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review.
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