The following is a piece by my father-in-law, Dennis Patrick. Dennis writes a weekly column called “The Passing Scene,” which appears in the Mountrail County Promoter. “Keeping Thanksgiving” appeared in the November 23 edition of The Promoter.
Halloween 2015 is history and it’s time again when kids dress up like Pilgrims, adults over indulge and everyone is urged to show gratitude for what we have and how we got it.
Under pressure from liberal naysayers and fringe groups, the notion of giving thanks has slowly morphed into a puddle of muddled feelings. Thanksgiving has digressed into a one-size-fits-all four-day weekend.
Despite attempts in recent years to debunk the Thanksgiving story, a certain historical truth offers evidence of a bed rock foundation for the Thanksgiving Spirit. Unfortunately, this evidence cannot be transmitted through the classroom.
On September 25, 1789, Elias Boudinot of New Jersey introduced into the US House of Representatives a resolution that requested President George Washington …recommend to the people of the United states a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.
George Washington accepted the congressional request as a cultural consensus regarding the prevailing Christian precepts. On October 3, 1789, President Washington issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation.
Washington’s proclamation contains an unmistakably religious focus. Giving thanks, of course, presumes there is Someone to whom thanks is due. Intellectual honesty demands we acknowledge Washington’s use of capitalized pronouns such as He and Him and Providence in the context of Biblical Christianity derived from Reformation Europe.
At this time of year it is appropriate to again read George Washington’s Thanksgiving proclamation. He declared “…a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
For what should Americans give thanks?
…for His kind care and protection of the people of this country…;
…for the…manifold mercies…of His providence…;
…for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have…;
…for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have…established constitutions of government,…particularly the national one now lately instituted…;
…for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed…;
…and, in general, for all the great and various favors, which He has been pleased to confer upon us….
President Washington continued his proclamation by suggesting six petitions to place in prayer before the Great Lord and Ruler of Nations. These petitions are as appropriate today as they were in 1789.
…and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgression…;
…to enable us all…to perform our several…duties properly and punctually…;
…to render our national government a blessing…by…being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws…faithfully obeyed…;
…to…guide all…nations…and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord…;
…to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue…;
…to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Today, George Washington would be spurned as a bigot, extremist, racist and partisan for issuing such a Eurocentric proclamation loaded with religious freight.
In the recesses of many hearts a sense of waning Christian heritage seeps slowly into our culture like fog in the night. Nevertheless, a remnant will carry on the Spirit of Thanksgivings past.
We can all exhibit grateful hearts. Without an attitude of gratitude, Thanksgiving is just another day of indulgence.
Enjoy the Thanksgiving feast and football. Most of all, give time to reflect on George Washingtons God-inspired words and the Person who made our lives and prosperity possible.
Dennis M. Patrick can be contacted at P. O. Box 337, Stanley, ND 58784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.