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What Past American Presidents Truly Believed About Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is around the corner. It's going to be another time for eating and drinking, and more than enough turkey to go round. But have you ever wondered what the purpose of Thanksgiving was all about? What if I told you that Thanksgiving is an essentially Christian festival? In fact, as I was doing preliminary search on Thanksgiving, I was sturned to read how reverently past American Presidents approached the issue of thanksgiving.

I have decided to reproduce for you here what two of those presidents said about this national holiday, just so you will know how much we seem to have gone away from the original intention of thanksgiving. This is going to be bit long, but it will be worth your time, every bit of it.

Let's start with George Washington. Here is his reason for signing this National Day of Thanksgiving into law:

"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 and 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 tranquillity, 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." (signed) G. Washington, The Massachusetts Sentinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789.

As I read that, I am thinking, even my local pastor couldn't possibly have preached a better sermon on thankgiving to God, the Almighty. But before you think, 'Oh, that was just one isolated instance', listen again to President Abraham Lincoln, even in the middle of the civil war:

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth."
Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, 3 October 1863.

I am telling you, as I read this exact words by past American leaders, I stand a bit shocked. Not because they openly and gratefully acknowleded God as their source and sustainer, but because the nation they fought and worked so hard to preserve is doing everything it can to disavow the "watchful providence of Almighty God" over their lives. An average American today grows up treating God as 'suspect', or outrightly hostile towards God. I am wondering, where did God go wrong with America? In blessing us so much that we have become the greatest nation in the world today? The way things are run in some quarters in America today, especially in some of our academic and news media, you will think God was the greatest enemy US ever had. But my question is, why are we so unthankful even at Thanksgiving?

Today, Thanksgiving has been secularized. To the degree that our children do not even know to Whom we are thankful. We glibly talk about the things for which we are thankful, but we omit the One to whom we are thankful. Our past Leaders didn't think that was the way to celebrate Thanksgiving, why should we? Unless, we are suggesting that our past leaders were...actually, dumb. But I know that our past leaders were not dumb at all. They were smart, intelligent, hardworking, and godly folks. They were so smart that we elected them to govern this great country. So, I am thinking, who is being dumb here - my generation of Americans who are rejecting God and refuting his loving kindnes, or our past leaders who had sense enough to acknowlege the "watchful providence of Almighty God".

Think about this the next time you are in a group that makes God the butt of their mean joke; or at a Thanksgiving dinner that makes fun of God, and celebrates its secular posture.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Just so you know, I got some of the materials I used here from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving.
You may choose to visit that site for more details on the above subject.

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