This year, in our family, Thanksgiving is shaping up to be so much more than about Puritans and pumpkins. It's about the Hand that helped and led this nation from the very beginning. It's more in line with George Washington's original Thanksgiving Proclamation.
George Washington is probably in one of the best positions to stand as a witness to us of the aid and guidance felt from the Almighty during this nation's birth. He was there when we were "delivered" (referencing every meaning of that word). And as one of the many participants in the crafting of our founding principles, he presumably understood the importance behind a separation of church and state. What is also apparent from his history is that he did not understand it to mean a separation of God and state, since his 1789 Proclamation was a directive for public prayer and worship.
The First Amendment's prevention of the establishment of a religion by Congress was by no means an effort to keep God out of politics. One of the best evidences we have of how Washington interpreted the natural balance between divine Providence and earthly governance is his Thanksgiving Proclamation in the year 1789. It was a non-sectarian call to observe a day of personal and national repentance as well as public prayer and thankfulness. It makes sense for him to feel that the same Being who oversaw their fight and inspired their miraculous new creeds would always be given place in the hearts of the people both in public and private.
I feel like these words, directed at Alma the Younger, have timely application for us today. I foresee this year's Thanksgiving feast discussion being comprised of more than just a list of general things and reasons for which we are thankful. I envision there being talk of the Constitution, its origin, and the price paid for the blessings of self-government. And we will, absolutely, be reading President Washington's original Thanksgiving Proclamation.
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 tranquillity, 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 trangressions; 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 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.
What say ye?