Janet M. LaRue

Psychiatrist Karl Menninger, founder of the Menninger Clinic, raised the question, “Whatever became of sin?” in his 1973 book title. There was a time when U.S. presidents made certain that our sin didn’t fade from our national conscience. Not this year.

The Huffington Post reviewed the Thanksgiving Proclamations of 26 U.S. Presidents from Washington to Barack Obama, and concluded that they’re “strikingly the same”:

"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..."

With these words, written by George Washington in 1789, an American holiday tradition was born. Ever since, in times of peace and prosperity, war and want, American Presidents have offered gratitude to God while calling on all Americans to gather in humble praise. Though the language of thanks has changed in the past 222 years, the content of these presidential prayers remains strikingly the same.

Many presidential proclamations are strikingly similar in their expressions of humility, thanksgiving, dependence, confession, repentance, supplication and praise to “Almighty God, “the Sovereign of the Universe,” “great and glorious Being,” “great Lord and Ruler of Nations,” “Father of Mercies,” “Redeemer of the World,” “Supreme Being,” “Most High God,” “Great Mediator and Redeemer,” “Author of All Good,” “Great Sovereign of the Universe,” “Almighty Father,” “Divine Majesty, “Holy Spirit,” “Most High God,” “Beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe,” “Giver of Good.” Every proclamation concludes with the same phrase used in the U.S. Constitution: “In the year of our Lord.”

But something is missing from this year’s message out of the Obama White House. It’s the mention of sin and the need for repentance.

Thanksgiving proclamations from Washington to Barack Obama are available at: http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc.htm. Following are highlighted excerpts from Presidents who called on Americans to seek forgiveness for our personal and national sins in order to secure God’s continued blessing on our nation:

George Washington, 1789:

“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 transgressions…”

John Adams, 1798:


Janet M. LaRue

Jan LaRue is Senior Legal Analyst with the American Civil Rights Union; former Chief Counsel at Concerned for Women; Legal Studies Director at Family Research Council; and Senior Counsel for the National Law Center for Children and Families. Be the first to read Janet LaRue's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.