For anyone born in the last 50 years, “separation of church and state” is inculcated secular orthodoxy. I well remember the family discussion during which my dad informed me that the phrase appears nowhere in the Constitution, and I recall spending the next two hours searching my history books in futility to prove him wrong.
That government is insulated from faith is a notion that survives only in historical ignorance. Perhaps nothing disproves this fallacy more effectively than Thanksgiving Day, an official government holiday established for the purpose of acknowledging God’s blessing of America.
Abraham Lincoln instituted a national day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November, proclaiming:
“But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”
Lincoln deemed it “fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and once voice, by the whole American people.”
Secularists, atheists and revisionists try to obscure these declarations of national faith, but Lincoln’s sentiments echo those of our Founding Fathers.
The Continental Congress declared the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation on Nov. 1, 1777, so Americans could “express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor; and that together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join (in) the penitent confession of their manifold sins … that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance.”
When the “father of our country,” George Washington, issued a similar decree in 1795, he declared it “our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we (have) experienced.”
Despite our collective and individual shortcomings, Americans have prospered like no other people, but we are foolishly misguided if we believe that our freedom and longevity is the result of mere chance or that it can persevere without demanding sacrifice, humility and resolve from each of us.
Liberty, equality and freedom have certain biblical roots, and although our forefathers practiced divergent faiths and a few exhibited little faith at all, they were unified by an acknowledgement that only a faithful people is capable of self-governance.
In the 21st century, Americans continue to demonstrate a pervasive belief in God — a faith that comforts and unifies us when tragedy and adversity remind us of our vulnerability.
Patrick Henry testified to Christianity’s role in the birth of this nation and its capacity to co-exist with other faiths: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity and free worship here.”
Our ongoing struggles, though sometimes painful and heartbreaking, are not exceptional when compared to the suffering endured by those early colonists who dared to oppose the global superpower of that day.
On this Thanksgiving Day, we must remember the source of those patriots’ strength and cultivate it for future generations.