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  • Morning Bell: A Day of 'Public Thanksgiving and Prayer'

    Most of us have heard or read at least part of Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation at some point. But even those who have heard it many times can overlook two important aspects of this important document.

    The first is its timing: October 3, 1863. The nation had already endured two years of appalling carnage on the battlefields of the Civil War. And although Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg seemed to mark a turning point in favor of the Union, there was no clear light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, much more blood would be shed in the months ahead.

    And yet President Lincoln paused at this time of unimaginable crisis not only to urge Americans to give thanks, but to note how blessed our nation is. “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies,” the first sentence reads. He lists those blessings in terms so strong and soaring one could almost forget this was one of our nation’s darkest hours.

    Nearly 150 years later, this is a perspective check. If Lincoln could encourage his fellow Americans to give thanks at such a bleak time, how can any of us complain about our lot? How can we read about polls that suggest our best days are behind us, that all we can do is manage our “inevitable” decline? What nonsense.

    That’s not to say we don’t have difficulties. We do — serious ones. And no, the answer isn’t to crack a phony smile and pretend everything’s great. We need to do what past generations have done: look our problems squarely in the eye, roll up our sleeves and get the job done. We make mistakes, but we learn from them. But to give up? No. Such a defeatist attitude is unworthy of a free people.

    The second aspect of Lincoln’s proclamation that’s sometimes forgotten is the reason given for the holiday. To give thanks, yes, but not just in general — to give thanks to God. “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things,” he writes. “They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

    Whoa — hold on there. Somebody get the ACLU. How un-PC can a president get? Wasn’t Lincoln worried that he might offend some of his listeners?

    Hardly. He was following in the hallowed footsteps of George Washington. Notice the date of Lincoln’s proclamation: October 3. On that same day in 1789, the nation’s first president gave his Thanksgiving proclamation. And like Lincoln, he was clear about who deserved our gratitude.

    Washington called that day on all Americans to observe a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” devoted 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.”

    This shouldn’t surprise anyone. “Of the many influences that shaped the American concept of liberty, the first and most formative was faith,” writes author and Washington scholar Matthew Spalding. The Founding Fathers knew the First Amendment didn’t forbid public mention of God. It simply meant there could be no official state church.

    They also knew that, whatever church an American belonged to, he ought to give thanks to Almighty God. Not because we’re living in some heaven on earth — that’s impossible. But because despite our problems, we’re incredibly blessed. We live in a land that recognizes our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In a world beset with death, tyranny, disease and famine, that’s nothing short of a miracle.

    We need to act like we believe that. And the best way to start is to say thanks.

    Edwin J. Feulner
    President, The Heritage Foundation

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    29 Responses to Morning Bell: A Day of 'Public Thanksgiving and Prayer'

    1. @inspireYES says:

      Dear Ed, thank you for your heartfelt and inspirational message as we give thanks to our almighty God and Father. You and our forefather presidents are so correct in acknowledging God as the source for our bountiful blessings in this land of opportunity. We can pray the leaders of this country are mindful of the same thing. May you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

      best regards,
      Scott Warner

    2. TD - USAG Bamberg DE says:

      Thank you for an uplifting article. Here is a truly thanksgiving prayer for our Nation, the last verse of the Star Spangled Banner. We need all the prayers we can get, and this verse is certainly a thanksgiving prayer to God, not the imperative demand that God bless America:
      "O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
      Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
      Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
      Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
      Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
      And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
      And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
      O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."

    3. Jim Baxter says:

      Q: "What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You
      visit him?" Psalm 8:4
      A: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set
      before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that
      both you and your descendants may live." Deuteronomy 30:19

    4. MN J says:

      Thank you! Very appropriate at this time.

      We truly are blessed as a nation.

    5. Robert A Hirschmann says:

      You're very right!! Without Gods' help there would be no America. If we turn our back on Him we are dooming this great nation. We now have a Godless president and congress and are heading for the abyss. This country was founded on Christianity and a belief in God and Jesus Christ. Let's not forget that America. All I can say is pray that this nation still stands after the elections and we return to our faith. Be thankful for what you've got.

    6. Dr. Henry Sinopoli says:

      While I vehemently disagree with everything Obama represents, I thank God for a country that allows all perspectives, even if it permits the election of someone who does not support my views.

      God Bless America…

    7. Paul G. Littlefield says:

      Thank you Dr. Feulner for your words of thanksgiving to God, "the giver of every good and perfect gift. including the gift of life." Our nation was founded in faith and it is by faith it will continue to do well. Those who are in opposition to our freedoms under God's beneficence have God to answer to.

    8. Wayne Peterkin says:

      Thank you, Mr. Feulner. Very well said.

    9. The USA is indeed blessed and we all much to be thankful.It is now up to our present business and political leaders to chart the course for America's future. Our hopes and prayers are for those who influence the future agenda that we may all benefit from a renewed prosperity for all Americans.

    10. Amen and amen sir. Our creator obviously does not need to hear the many scattered expressions of thanks today. Yet, nevertheless, He enjoys them. Giving sincere, heartfelt thanks is one of those few things in life that enrich the giver and receiver at the same time. Thank you for your reminders.

    11. Paul Lapp says:

      God Bless America…….pretty ……..PLEASE

    12. Lon Hale says:

      Thank you Edwin. It was a good and encouraging reminder. Have a blessed holiday.

    13. Wayne Grievo says:

      God bless all who have put our country first. GOD BLESS AMERICA!

    14. Frank says:

      The Old Testament prophets warned Israel about coming Judgments if they failed to listen to Him & failed to turn from their wicked ways. America is not Israel, but we would be wise to listen to God's Word & His warnings. We can be thankful for His past blessing. But we we should also stop turning our back on Him & listen to His warnings. Sadly, I don't think we will & I don't think we have much time left before we suffer severe consequences. Thank you Heritage for your efforts in trying to wake up the American people & let us still thank God for how He has blessed us in the past.

    15. Tom Shafer says:

      Amen, Ed. Well said.

    16. George Snider says:

      Words, words, words!!! I am so sick of words. What we need is ACTION. As we said in WWII, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition." As John Kennedy said, "God's work must truly be our own." This nation is bound for the scrap heap of history if we don't stop borrowing our money, at interest, from the Federal Reserve!!!

    17. Jack Lloyd says:

      I want to simply add my heartfelt AMEN to what you have written

    18. paul says:

      Dr. Edwin is right. we should all give thanks-regardless of our political beliefs or convictions.
      It is a positive thing because we can express our opinions under our constitutional rights.
      America may not be the perfect country. However, it is better than most other countries on
      earth. In China, you could be a wealthy person but without much political freedom. The american
      system allows people to take risk as well as to benefit others. However, to an extend, extreme
      freedom and risk taking may have long-term consequences. The saving and loan crisis in
      the early 1980's and the recent worldwide financial crisis were created due to lax overview
      and personal greed. Another good example was the Enron case ten years ago.

    19. Russell Buckley says:

      What a nice and appropriate thought on this Thanksgiving day! Thanks.

    20. Kenneth Carey says:

      Dear Edwin,

      Thank-you for your comments…but why have you not cited George Washington's 1789 proclamation which was the FIRST Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation? I have been amazed at how many people are unaware of this invaluable document that is housed in the National Archives in WDC.

    21. D.T. Radmilovich says:

      I join the above commentators as well as millions of our fellow Americans who still believe that it is God's will that directs America, not the pretend-leader in the White House today. Once again He has shown us the error of our ways, but in a merciful way where we can be forgiven – November 2012.

      And to paraphrase Lincoln……., he was once asked if he was glad he was on God's side. He replied that rather it was his hope that God was on his side. Let us all keep things in the proper perspective too.

      D.T. Radmilovich
      San Diego

    22. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Thank you. The problem is that Thanksgiving isn't a politically correct holiday. The ACLU, and the American Atheists, want to get rid of it.

    23. Ron Buice says:

      Pass it on.
      We are remind others to keep Christ in Christmas, the real meaning of Easter, and now, the real reason for Thanksgiving. Not just a general thank you but thank you God.

    24. Jeanne Stotler says:

      I am a direct desendent of Richard Warren of the Mayflower and his grandson Benjamin Church, who put down "King Phillip's War" and of Nathan Bennett who served with John Paul Jones, I've been wondering how these and all those who came here and all those who fought for our freedom would feel today looking at this present administration with all it's corruption, cronyism? I've spent the last ten years researching my family tree and that of my husband and came across names I only heard in history books before, it's humbling to know that you come from people who secured our nation and it makes me more determined to see it returned to what they all fought and some died for. Vote Nov/ 2012 and make Obama a 1 term President

    25. Micki says:

      What an outstanding piece, and so encouraging also. Thank you for reminding us again that we ARE a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles. We need to remember to stand on that foundation—not just of the Founders, but of Almighty God who guided our Founders in building our country.
      Thank you once again.

    26. It's good to thank God for the many ways we live–often without seeing–in His blessings. Thank you. http://bit.ly/sNCGra

    27. And it is for this reason that I have the utmost respect and admiration for Herman Cainm becayse hs love for God and the nation are in every speech he gives. We need a President who recognizes the higher power as his guide to governing.

    28. Doug Nicholson says:

      On the day after Thanksgiving, I asked each of my co-workers, "Who were the Pilgrims thanking on the first Thanksgiving?" Their answers were unanimous; the Indians, for helping them survive, teaching them to grow corn, etc. When I informed them of the correct answer, God Almighty, they all looked somewhat ashamed, as if they should have known, but I told them to blame those in charge of the government run schools for lying to them all these years.

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