Remember ever, and always, that your country was founded, not by the
“most superficial, the lightest, the most irreflective of all European
races,” but by the stern old Puritans who made the deck of the Mayflower
an altar of the living God, and whose first act on touching the soil of
the new world was to offer on bended knees thanksgiving to Almighty God.

–Henry Wilson (1812-1875), U.S. Senator and Vice President.

Retail merchants tell us that the day after Thanksgiving is their
busiest day of the year. Perhaps it’s only fitting: for we have become a
society that worships things. They bulge from our closets, overflow our
garages and grow in the demands for their care until they consume us.
The mall has become our house of worship; our monthly Visa bill the
altar upon which we sacrifice the days, weeks and years of our lives.
Everyone worships something. “Here’s your receipt, Sir.”

As the contempt of the religion of a country by ridiculing any of its
ceremonies, or affronting its minister or votaries, has ever been deeply
resented, you are to be particularly careful to restrain every officer
and soldier from such imprudence and folly, and to punish every instance
of it.
–George Washington, shortly after becoming our nation’s
first president.

Our children “hang out” at the mall. Sometimes they fall in love at
the mall. When they get married (why not at the mall?), they bring their
children and consecrate them in baby carriages around the fountain,
tossing in a few coins for good luck. Aging boomers and retired seniors
meet to exercise in gray-haired, generationally-segregated packs that
“power walk” the mall. And during this most holy of consumerism’s
holidays, Santa descends from the North Pole and becomes omnipresent at
our nation’s malls. Even the public educational system will in a few
weeks oblige, ignoring its religious queasiness and releasing students
for a conspicuous absence now known as “winter break.” Our words reveal
our hearts.

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 in
every part of the United States, and those who are sojourning in foreign
lands, 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 … (it is) announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by
all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord. …
It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly,
reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice,
by the whole American people.
–President Abraham Lincoln, Oct. 3,

Perhaps God, like Santa, is drawn to the malls at this time of year,
too? After all, that’s where the people are. Perhaps He becomes curious
about the attraction of the myriad of little gods made
with Chinese hands that float across the ocean in great ships, and are
trucked across America to fill the commercial temples where we
congregate to give thanks for our salvation from God? Do you
suppose He is saddened, or angered, or amused — watching us bow down
before so many things that sap our life-energy and leave us dead to one
another, the world He created and the life He had
planned for us?

It therefore becomes our indispensable Duty, not only to acknowledge, in
general with the rest of Mankind, our dependence on the Supreme Ruler of
the Universe, but as a People peculiarly favoured, to testify our
Gratitude to the Author of all our Mercies, in the most solemn and
public manner … to acknowledge our own Unworthiness, confess our manifold
Transgressions, implore his Forgiveness, and intreat the continuance of
those favours which he had been graciously pleaded to bestow upon us;
that he would inspire our Rulers with Wisdom, prosper our Trade and
Commerce, smile upon our Husbandry, bless our Seminaries of Learning,
and spread the Gospel of his Grace over all the Earth.
Hampshire Governor John Langdon, Oct. 21, 1785.

We are indeed a nation and people with much to be grateful for — not
the least of which is that God’s patience with us has not yet expired.
The Old Testament history of Israel tells us that someday it will. The
Jews learned the hard way that they weren’t any better than those
surrounding them. Their armies, their gold and their government couldn’t
keep them a free people. As a nation they had merely been the recipients
of God’s favor in the hope that word of His blessings in a committed
relationship would spread around the world. Instead, the Jewish elite
became preoccupied with their own self-righteousness. In the end, they
demanded that He conform to their rules. When He didn’t, they nailed Him
to a cross.

About 70 A.D. they received His judgment on the matter: the remnants
of their temple and culture were pulverized and the dust scattered to
the four winds of history. It was only out of the ashes of the Second
World War that Israel again arose as a nation.

One cannot view America’s formation without seeing the hand of
Providence ever present. Our forefathers recognized it and gave thanks.
Perhaps on this Thanksgiving Day we would do well to follow in their
footsteps and ask the Lord, “Why?” But a word of caution — God has been
known to respond to those types of searching questions with a deeply
personal answer.

(Note: all quotations taken from “America’s God and Country:
Encyclopedia of Quotations” by William J. Federer.)

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