By Dr. Stan Cooke
Thanksgiving today would not be recognizable to the Mayflower Pilgrims or the Founding Fathers. Today’s Thanksgiving Holiday regales itself in football games, turkey and dressing, a paid vacation day, a missed day of school and the anticipation of the largest retail sales event in American economic history – Black Friday. “Jesus Christ” is barely referenced on Thanksgiving Day, “God” is rarely thanked for personal or national blessings, church services on this day are almost non-existent, and almost nobody considers this to be a day of humility, prayer and fasting.
To the contrary, the Pilgrims were giving thanks to God for surviving their first winter, these Puritan Christians were offering thanksgiving prayers and songs to Jesus Christ for the food that came from Squanto (a Patuxet Indian that was associated with the Wampanoag tribe) and a fast was declared by the Pilgrims to show humility to Almighty God and request guidance for the next year.
The Founding Fathers often reminded the American citizens of the Pilgrim’s brave sacrifice, their visionary determination and their Christian dedication. The Founding Fathers would use the Pilgrim experience to establish a “God and Country” model for the future of the new Nation. We can find proof of this in President George Washington’s “Thanksgiving Proclamation Address.”
Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “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 favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, 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 has been pleased to confer upon us.
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, good governments, peace, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown 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.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789. Go. Washington
In conclusion, it is my prayer and hope that the United States of America will experience a revival of the Thanksgiving spirit that was birthed by the Pilgrims and displayed by the Founding Fathers. Let us humble ourselves under the hand of Almighty God so that He will Bless us with good government, great leaders, peace, true religion, virtue and constitutional laws.