Some might be completely surprised to discover that just two days after Jefferson wrote his famous letter citing the "wall of separation between Church & State," he attended church in the place where he always had as president: the U.S. Capitol. The very seat of our nation's government was used for sacred purposes. As the Library of Congress' Web site notes, "It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church." Does that sound like someone who was trying to create an impenetrable wall of separation between church and state?
Let's face the present Thanksgiving facts. President Bush likely will give the last explicit Judeo-Christian Thanksgiving proclamation that Americans will hear for the next four to eight years, as President-elect Obama likely will coddle a form of godliness in his Thanksgiving addresses (if he indeed gives them) that appeases the masses with a deity that fits every politically correct dress.
But I'm an optimist. And because so much attention is being given right now by the media and the president-elect himself regarding his parallels to and lessons learned from President Abraham Lincoln, I recommend Obama heed Lincoln's Thanksgiving wisdom. Don't mince or water down the God of the Pilgrims, as is being done in public schools across this land through the retelling of the first Thanksgiving.
Obama doesn't even need a speechwriter for Thanksgiving 2009. He simply can recite Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, in which Lincoln thanked the Almighty for America's bountiful blessings and providential care despite enduring a war and grave economic hardships. The content seems divinely timed for even such a wintry season as our own:
"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. … I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father, who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union."
Whatever your religious persuasion, don't hesitate this Thanksgiving to bow your head, give thanks to God, and follow Lincoln's advice. And when you do, don't forget to say a prayer for our troops and their families. While they serve us so we can serve our Thanksgiving feasts safely, the least we can do is serve them a little honor and remembrance.