(image source: http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/LIVING/11/23/rs.thanksgiving.prayers/t1larg.thanksgiving.family.prayer.jpg)
In 2014 I came across several blatant mockeries of God at, of all places, the Pet Supplies Plus stores. First I saw a banner saying “in pets we trust” (a perverted take-off of “in God we trust”). Then closer to Thanksgiving I saw a Pet Supplies Plus banner stating “let’s thank our pets”. (What about thanking God?)
It is obvious our secular society has no reverence for God. But I wonder even how many professing Christians are still devoutly thanking God our Father – and our Lord Jesus Christ – on Thankgiving/Turkey Day/Football Day/Gray Thursday.
I originally entitled this blog “When did Americans start thanking people – instead of God – on Thanksgiving?” But as I researched the origins of Thanksgiving, this blog expanded to include a second abomination. Specifically, most American Presidents have made references to God in their Thanksgiving proclamations. But if Thanksgiving is indeed a Christian holiday as many Christians assume, why have American Presidents rarely mentioned Jesus Christ in their Thanksgiving proclamations?
Following are Wikipedia excerpts (as of 11/22/12) on the traditionally religious aspects of Thanksgiving:
“It has officially been an annual tradition since 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26.
“The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought, though the 1621 events were likely not a religious observation. “
“On December 4, 1619, 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred… The group’s charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a “day of thanksgiving” to God. On that first day, Captain John Woodlief held the service of thanksgiving. As quoted from the section of the Charter of Berkeley Hundred specifying the thanksgiving service: “We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”“
“Edward Winslow, in Mourt’s Relation: “And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you [the Indians] partakers of our plenty.”
Wikipedia goes on to give many more quotes regarding the religious emphasis of Thanksgiving, then provides this section:
Thanksgiving was founded as a religious observance for all the members of the community to give thanks to God for a common purpose. Historic reasons for community thanksgivings are: the 1541 thanksgiving mass after the expedition of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado safely crossing the high plains of Texas and finding game, and the 1777 thanksgiving after the victory in the Revolutionary War Battle of Saratoga. In his 1789 Proclamation, President Washington gave many noble reasons for a national Thanksgiving, including “for the civil and religious liberty”, for “useful knowledge”, and for God’s “kind care” and “His Providence”. The only presidents to express a specifically Christian perspective in their proclamation have been Grover Cleveland in 1896, and William McKinley in 1900. Several other presidents have cited the Judeo-Christian tradition. Gerald Ford‘s 1975 declaration made no clear reference to any divinity.
The tradition of giving thanks to God is continued today in various forms. Various religious and spiritual organizations offer worship services and events on Thanksgiving themes the weekend before, the day of, or the weekend after Thanksgiving.
At home, it is a holiday tradition in many families to begin the Thanksgiving dinner by saying grace (a prayer before or after a meal). The custom is portrayed in the photograph “Family Holding Hands and Praying Before a Thanksgiving Meal”. Traditionally, grace was led by the hostess or host, though in later times it is usual for others to contribute.
Hesham A. Hassaballa, an American Muslim scholar and physician, has written that Thanksgiving “is wholly consistent with Islamic principles” and that “few things are more Islamic than thanking God for His blessings”. Similarly many Sikh Americans also celebrate the holiday by “giving thanks to Almighty”.
Interesting – even other religions are thanking their “god” on Thanksgiving. Yet, in recent years we have recently heard Americans thanking their parents, friends, siblings, etc. on Thanksgiving, not God. Why? And when did this omission of God – and Jesus Christ – begin? I will repeat a portion of the Wikipedia excerpt above, which gives us some clues:
The only presidents to express a specifically Christian perspective in their proclamation have been Grover Cleveland in 1896, and William McKinley in 1900. Several other presidents have cited the Judeo-Christian tradition. Gerald Ford‘s 1975 declaration made no clear reference to any divinity. [emphasis mine]
From the founding of our nation, Jesus Christ was not acknowledged. Many of the Founding Fathers (signers of the Declaration of Independence) were Deists who did not mention our Saviour. Not to mention that the Constitution itself includes language regarding separation of church and state, yet does not mention Christ’s name.
Our society’s slide away from Christianity and towards secularization/ humanism/atheism has continued from our nation’s founding through today, having increased exponentially in recent years. So we should not be surprised that today God and/or Jesus Christ is not mentioned at all on Thanksgiving and other holidays.
I could say so much more, but you get the idea. Many believe America has always been a godly nation. But it has never been a born again Christian nation – at least not in its government, the institution that declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in the first place. (This article puts forth the case that Abraham Lincoln, who declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, was a Deist.)
Again I would ask, how can Thanksgiving be considered a Christian holiday, when presidential Thanksgiving proclamations don’t mention Christ?
In closing, I am reposting an article written by a Deist, that explains the Deist view of Thanksgiving. Click here for the original source. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].
Deism and Thanksgiving
November 26, 2009, by: Bob Johnson
Thanksgiving is a holiday that truly transcends everything that divides us. Unlike Christmas, Passover or any other religious holiday that has meaning only for the members of that particular religion, Thanksgiving has meaning for everyone on the planet.
Thanksgiving has meaning for Atheists, Agnostics, Wiccans, Deists and everyone who has something to be thankful for which is virtually everyone who has life. [Interesting – this Deist seems to be grouping himself with various ungodly and occult groups.] There is no group monopoly on Thanksgiving as there is on the other holidays. It would be great to have an annual international Thanksgiving day.
Deists and other people who believe in God give thanks to God on Thanksgiving and on all the days of the year. [I’m not sure how Deists can say they believe in God, since they don’t believe what the Bible says about God.] Atheists and Agnostics are thankful for what they have and have a feeling of gratitude and happiness, though they don’t direct it toward God. [This is becoming very common in recent yeqrs – thanking parents, siblings, friends etc., but not mentioning God.] But that thankful feeling is still there.
As a Deist myself, I am deeply thankful to God for the designs in Nature which account for our brains and intelligence through the design of evolution [this is an oxymoron – evolution does not happen by design, only Creation happened by design] and which enable us to study those designs (science) and come up with cures for many illnesses, for technology which allows us to further heal people and animals while also providing us with such things as computers, the Internet, space flight, etc. Simply being a real and active part of the magnificent Universe is truly something to be very thankful for.
Deism has a strong similarity to Thanksgiving in that as Thanksgiving transcends the differences in people, Deism transcends the differences in religion in that it begins and ends with belief in God, the cornerstone of all religions. This gives Deism the real potential to end all the violence, unreasonable hatred and fear of the “revealed” religions. Deism is something else we can add to our list of things to be thankful for!
FOR FURTHER READING
(note: some of these articles are Christian, some are not – consider the source)
Godless Thanksgiving: Do Atheists Have Anyone to Thank?
Thanksgiving is Not a Christian or a Religious Holiday,
by Austin Cline, Agnosticism/Atheism Expert
Obama’s Thanksgiving Proclamation Strikingly Different From Predecessors’, Janet M. LaRue, Nov 23, 2011 – This article concedes that Obama mentions God. But unlike most other Presidential Thanksgiving proclamations, the 2011 proclamation makes no mention of sin or the need for repentance.
Don’t Make This A Godless Thanksgiving!, by Chip Vickio
Is Thanksgiving A Christian Holiday?, by Duke Taber – Taber believes Thanksgiving is a Christian holiday because George Washington’s declaration used biblical language (yet I would point out that Washington’s statements did not mention Christ).
Why I Am Not a Deist (No Offense to Deists), by Roger E. Olson (an evangelical Arminian)
Deism: Alive and Well in America, by Steven Waldman
George Washington Defines Deism: George Washington’s Principles of Deism in Thanksgiving Proclamation (some claim George Washington was not Masonic – but it seems he was a Deist)
National Thanksgiving Proclamations and Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations – Here you can read the Presidents’ Thanksgiving proclamations in their own words – documentation that most of them did not mention Christ.
Twenty Reasons You Must Give Thanks to God, by Pastor T.O. Banso
Wikipedia article about Deism
World Union of Deists – many disturbing articles strongly opposing Christianity