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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Whatever Happened to Thanksgiving?

I've come to grips with the reality that there are some aspects of my childhood that will simply not be repeated for future generations. Things like: watching a black-and-white TV with a set of rabbit-ears and having the incredible choice of three channels, watching the McDonald's being built and counting the days until Ronald McDonald would whip out his huge scissors and the first Big Mac in town would be sold, and hearing from the pulpit that our faith should be shown, not shouted.

And I'm wondering how long it will be until Thanksgiving disappears. Christmas, despite right wing attempts to portray it as "under attack", will never disappear. The twin American Gods of Football and Shopping (both of which bow down before Gluttony) are simply too powerful. Quite simply, there is too much cultural significance to Christmas for it to be endangered.


Thanksgiving, however, gets a parade, two NFL football games (Dallas and Detroit), and - oh yeah, let's not forget a four day weekend. That four days is about the only thing that keeps Thanksgiving going.

It is odd that a holiday specifically designed to give thanks to God is completely overlooked by both sides in our religiously-based culture wars, yet one that is steeped in the heritage of pagan rituals is staunchly attacked.

Everyone, of course, knows the story of the first Thanksgiving - at least I think they do. It was certainly drilled into our little heads when I was a lad. Of course, the link provides historical details that Charlie Brown and Linus never contemplated as they leaned on their favorite brick wall. At least, I don't think they were running a slave market at the ballpark nor kicking a human head down the streets. Who knows? Maybe that's why they are only on TBS now.

Yet Thanksgiving was quickly observed as a national event. But it was not a holiday. It was simply a day of observation - kind of like Veteran's Day has become. You stop and say, "Oh, yeah. That's nice." Then you hurry on your way.


But here's a snip from the proclamation that I believe really shows why it isn't part and parcel of the culture wars:

they[Congress] do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to GOD for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience of his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.


Um, Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time when we show our gratitude to God by being obedient, and the greatest way to show that is to observer YOUR OWN RELIGIOUS BELIEFS! No chanting and protest is allowed. No marches on Washington to bend the evil opposition to your will. Nope. Simply the pursuit in the quiet corners of your heart and soul of that spark of deity that inhabits us all.

Here are the words of George Washington's Thanksgiving proclaimation:

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 show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase 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.


Yikes! We should pray to pay our taxes on time? And do it cheerfully? What kind of a Marxist was Washington? To increase science and promote knowledge of religion? Holy crappers, Batman! Washington may not have been a flaming liberal (or maybe he was), but he damn sure wasn't from Kansas!

It wasn't until our country was torn by the Civil War that Abraham Lincoln took steps to make Thanksgiving a national and permanent holiday. Lincoln, as well, had specific reasons for Thanksgiving:

And I recommend to [Americans] 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, tranquillity and Union.


Penitence for our perverseness and disobedience, care for the widows and orphans, comfort for the afflicted, and to bind our wounds so that our country might still truly be, in peace, harmony, and tranquility, the UNITED states of america.

That will be my prayer this year at Thanksgiving. If it was needed in Lincoln's time, then it is no less needed today. As it was, so let it be again.


Oh Lord! Let me be an instrument of They peace!

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