The annual national ritual just passed is an important indicator yielding clues about our future. I am not talking about Black Friday and the economy, but rather the day before. There is an often-overlooked connection between Thanksgiving and the state of popular culture.
In the final analysis, Thanksgiving may be the most important holiday on the American calendar because of a direct relationship between gratitude and numerous individual and collective benefits.
As with its spiritual cousin forgiveness, there are self-evident therapeutic plusses when we learn to think, feel, and express thankfulness. When we regularly remind our children and grandchildren – “what do you say?” – as we present them with some sweet morsel, we are doing much more than trying to teach politeness. We are highlighting a skill that can, in fact, make the world a better place.
The Apostle Paul wrote a famous letter to a fledgling group of first-century Christians trying to live their faith against the backdrop of the world’s then most powerful city – Rome. In the epistle, he itemized the ills of society. His purpose was to prove and promote the gospel of Christ as the only real cure.
Paul described a culture sick with rampant immorality and superstitious idolatry. There are clear parallels to our present day. And reading Romans chapter one backwards – from worst case to root cause – we find a key plot-point about what greases mankind’s perpetual and predictable experience with the proverbial slippery slope.
“Neither were they thankful,” says the Apostle, highlighting the sin of ingratitude. In other words, a seemingly small discretion – maybe more of an oversight than anything else – leads to chaos and catastrophe. And history tends to repeat itself.
Therefore, Thanksgiving could very well be our most vital national observance. In the early days of our history people understood this. Leaders too. In fact, our heritage is rich with reminders about the importance of gratitude to our country’s life and health.
America’s narrative is rife with stories about Thanksgiving proclamations, gatherings, meals, traditions, football, and of course, the obligatory pardoning of a turkey by the president of these United States. School children rehearse that day long ago when the Plymouth pilgrims broke bread. We note things Lincoln said (he’s all the rage these days). And doubtless you have heard about what our first president, George Washington, declared while proclaiming the first “official” national day of Thanksgiving in 1789: