It is amazing to me in the “politically correct” society in which we live that a 150-year-old tradition rooted and grounded in religion has slipped by without much notice or debate in this secular age and culture. Perhaps it is because we were never properly educated about the God behind Thanksgiving.
Most of us know a bit about the first Thanksgiving held in the winter of 1621 when the Plymouth colonists shared an autumn harvest feast with the Wampanoag Indians. For the next two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states but it did not become an official holiday until the days of the Civil War when our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, proclaimed a national day of “thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” True to the references to “praise” and “father” in the original proclamation, the holiday was intended to be in honor and gratitude to God for what he provided.
Thanksgiving Day came about in 1863 because of President Lincoln’s conviction that the United States should express a debt of gratitude and recognition for blessings that were perceived to be from the hand of the Almighty. The diety Lincoln referenced was none other than the Christian God he worshipped at the Protestant church he attended with his wife and children.
With all of the talk about pilgrims and turkey, I imagine few today realize the founding principles behind this national holiday were based in religion. No doubt, declaring a faith-based national holiday would never be so well received in this day and age of recognizing either all religions or none – because it would surely offend someone.
While we robotically recite the brainwashed mandate of today’s culture to “accommodate everyone,” we are actually losing our own identity in order to make sure everyone swallows the same plain vanilla. It’s plausible that we are getting closer every day to surrendering the keys of our heritage to those who neither respect nor tolerate them.
Maybe Lincoln and those supporting his Thanksgiving declaration should have possessed more vision to realize that America would eventually become a diverse gumbo comprised of various cultures and ethnicities that would not have the same God, political viewpoint or the desire to give credit for their prosperity to anyone other than themselves.
Thanksgiving, like most holidays, has been watered down and relegated to over-indulgent feasts of turkey, cranberries and pumpkin pie amid a backdrop of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and football games. As a result, we have become more focused on living out cultural norms than remembering historical truths.
But at the end of the day, Thanksgiving’s origins still remain. And I believe it is time to remind Americans of it, because we all could use a break from the sad, painful and dark circumstances that are often in the news, and look to something – or someone – higher to save us from the darkness in which we live.
This year, I’m thankful for Thanksgiving. I’m thankful to President Lincoln for reminding us to take a special day out of every year to quit looking across political lines or sideways at our nation’s numerous challenges. We would do well to remember Lincoln’s original call, a call to look up and offer Thanksgiving to the one who has the power to bless us.
Jay Lowder is the founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries and author of “Midnight in Aisle 7.”