Shall we debate the history and purpose of Thanksgiving, or humbly celebrate this national day for giving thanks?
For you debaters, Wikipedia provides the following: The Pilgrims held their first day of thanksgiving in 1621 in Massachusetts. English settlers in Berkeley Hundred, Virginia, held a required religious day of thanksgiving to Almighty God in 1619. A Puritan day of thanksgiving was held in Boston in 1631. Spanish explorers in Texas held a thanksgiving event in San Elizario in 1598. Florida Historians say the earliest thanksgiving service occurred on September 8, 1565, on a site near Saint Augustine.
On November 5, 1963, President John F. Kennedy sought to strike a compromise between the Massachusetts (secular) and Virginia (religious) proponents by issuing Proclamation 3560 and stating, “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together, and for the faith which united them with their God."
Kennedy was unable to settle the debate, but his statement of purpose for Thanksgiving sought to be inclusive enough for all.
However Thanksgiving Day came about, we have much to be thankful for, we Americans. We still live in a land of plenty with individual freedoms, the world’s best healthcare system, opportunities galore, and a beacon of hope to much of the world.
Yes, on this national holiday we should set all debates aside and give thanks for America and its bounty and for our good fortune to live here.
But, so too should we pray to remain this blessed. Nothing guarantees America a beneficial future and divine intervention might be our only hope.
Indeed, rarely have we as a nation been vulnerable on so many fronts, from deadly and disruptive foreign disease and hackers, to international supply chain disruption and rare material scarcities, to emerging foreign military technologies and weaponry, to internal civil dispute, individual intimidation, and insurrection…the last making it all the more difficult to deal with the others.
You know, the gratitude embodied in our Thanksgiving fest is a derivative of love, the love of brotherhood, that wonderful notion that was once regularly depicted for us in the song America the Beautiful.
Do any miss the days when we would stand in unison and sing those words? Perhaps this year we should quietly recite the seldom sung words in the second verse:
America! America! / God mend thine every flaw / Confirm thy soul in self-control / Thy liberty in law!
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” – Psalm 18:1.
Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.