Giving Thanks When the World’s a Mess

November 18, 2021

Thanksgiving is next week. This historic American celebration feels very different than it did 18 months ago.  From riots to political hate, and of course our ever-present COVID virus, we’ve seen our world unravel. Last year, we even heard health experts suggesting that we have family members use something like Zoom to be part of our Thanksgiving celebration, instead of coming over in person. Are you kidding me? And they’re not talking just about high-risk persons, which I could understand. They were talking about any relative or friend.

This year, the attacks on personal liberty have grown to the point where some are calling for the end of freedom and personal liberty. Because of unprecedented spending from Washington, inflation has grown to its highest level in 31 years.

Still, we are called to be a people of thanksgiving.

George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789, just a few years after the Revolutionary War and two years after our Constitution was enacted. The fact that it was proclaimed almost contemporaneously with the founding of our country tells you something of its importance to our founding fathers. In case you’ve never read the Proclamation, I’ve included it below. It is fascinating, particularly given our current circumstances [bold text and brackets are mine].

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to 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 form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the [i]ncrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

: Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789

What a statement about what our country should be thankful for! Does that sound like us right now? I’m afraid it doesn’t in many respects. But before we start pointing fingers and complaining, keep in mind that Washington had just been through a war, seen many of his men killed for these beliefs, and spawned a fledgling nation that was essentially a big experiment. He knew what mattered: that God was the source of his nation’s thanksgiving.

When I compare my situation to that of Washington’s, I have much to be thankful for, including being able to live in this nation birthed over 200 years ago. Our duty is to make sure we preserve that nation and what it stood for. To protect our ability to gather with our families and celebrate holidays. To worship and conduct business according to our religious beliefs. To protect all life, given that it’s a gift from God.

Preserving this nation gives rise to the thankfulness Washington expressed. It is both a strong foundation and a delicate thing that can be lost. Let’s make sure that never happens.

With Thanksgiving for all of you,

Nathan Winters
Executive Director


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