A shorter version of this went out through Indiana Policy Review this past week…
Given its place in American history, it’s embarrassing how we’ve perverted our Thanksgiving Day. Most Americans nurture a vague fiction involving buckled shoes and blunderbusses, in which Pilgrims and Native Americans joined in a sort of agricultural group-hug. Others, with just enough facts to be dangerous and a hard Democratic Party bias, claim that The Mayflower Compact created a successful government that we’d now call “communist.”
More correct, but still oversimplified into the GOP counterargument, is that this communism was so disastrous that the few survivors were forced into free market economics, which became The American Way (i.e., all that is just and wholesome).
William Bradford’s own words have been used to support this. In his first-hand account, “Of Plymouth Plantation,” Bradford detailed their commune’s declining initiative, morality and crop yield, then summed up the failure of communism as:
“…the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; and that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.” (emphasis added for reason that follows)
It’s fine to say that what we now call “communism,” or its authoritarian cousin, “socialism,” is both ancient, and proven unworkable. But Thanksgiving was never about sound economics, filled bellies or kumbaya fellowship. The Thanksgiving of 1621 was neither America’s first; nor the beginning of our national November holiday.
Our national Thanksgiving Day holiday was established in the midst of our civil war as a penitent prayer and statement of political deference…to God. Lincoln’s proclamation, written by Secretary of State William Seward, acknowledged the surprising strength of the nation in the midst of war, and the unexpected foreign neutrality at the depths of our weakness, and said, “They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
Seward wrote the proclamation because just a few days before, Lincoln himself was not a Christian. “But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ.”
Congress made the holiday permanent in the hot midst of WWII; perhaps the last US assembly with anything like, in the words of Seward, “…humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.”
Where are the politicians today who’d acknowledge their sin and turn praise away from their works and toward the Almighty? These days, even Christians erect a wall between their faith and their government; though the Bible deals very harshly with that Golden Calf we call politics.
Despite the modern, shallow interpretation of, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s,” the whole Bible says that everything belongs to God, including Caesar. That’s what made Christ’s reply to the Pharisees so piercing.
Psalm 33:12’s, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,” has an unfortunate corollary – Cursed is the nation whose god is politics.
Christians should have learned this already; if not from our Bibles, then from American history. And if not from our history, then from current events.
Have we forgotten that faith in the Republican’s “Contract with America” was followed by more unfounded faith in the Democrat’s “Hope and Change?” Now we’ve switched tribes and shamans again for the “Pledge to America;” but nothing has changed. We certainly don’t Pledge our Allegiance to God… Our national religion is still all about robbing Peter to pay Paul, where we pray to lawyers, lobbyists and politicians in a never-ending hope to be Paul, while somebody else, for at least a while, must be Peter.
This Thanksgiving why not choose a way of life that is simple, Biblical, constitutional and proven to work? Such a way exists, it’s already the law, and it could be yours for the asking…if you know Who to ask.
After all, politics is a junkyard dog, not an angel. “In God We Trust” means that In Politics We Must Never Trust. And Thanksgiving Day means, in the words of Seward, to “…fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation.”
Amen to that.