During the holiday season, I feel some sympathy for those who try to write religious faith out of our nation’s history.
Suddenly everyone is talking about giving thanks to God, and even public institutions have to acknowledge the obvious. As a legendary liberal Supreme Court Justice, William O. Douglas, put it: “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being…”
This season makes our heritage difficult to ignore.
A few years back in Arizona, we had a liberal Governor who struggled with requests that she issue a “National Day of Prayer” Proclamation. Not wanting to offend her friends at the ACLU, she settled on a Proclamation for a “National Day of Prayer or Reflection.”
Reflection – looking at ourselves in the mirror – is a useful exercise. But it’s not what a Day of Prayer is about. Prayer is about looking to God and connecting with God.
In the same way, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks to God. It is about WHO we are thankful to even more than what we are thankful for.
The preamble to Arizona’s Constitution – like the constitutions of most states – has a thanksgiving provision – “We, the people of the State of Arizona, grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution.”
U.S. Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama – in times of peace and prosperity, and in times of economic challenges and war — have understood this and declared our thanks to God on behalf of a grateful nation.
President Lincoln was particularly eloquent. After listing the many blessings of God on our nation, even in the midst of the tragedy of the Civil War, he wrote: “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.”
We are certainly grateful during this season for family, friends, and for those in uniform who help preserve peace and freedom. But let’s also take this opportunity to remind each other, and the nation, of the true meaning of Thanksgiving — our utter dependence on Almighty God. From Pilgrims to Presidents, through hard times and good times, let us remember to “give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
Len Munsil is president of Arizona Christian University.
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