While no one expects the eloquence of Abraham Lincoln to issue from Barack Obama’s lips, the President’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving 2014 lacks not only Lincoln’s style, but unfortunately even a basic understanding of what America’s greatest feast is all about.
When Abraham Lincoln solemnly proclaimed the Thanksgiving holiday in 1863, during the bitter heat of the American Civil War, he consciously instituted a God-centered feast. He invited a divided America in the midst of acute hardship to count its blessings and to acknowledge the goodness of Almighty God, rendering Him the gratitude that was due.
Lincoln saw that “we are prone to forget the source” from which our blessings flow, and to remedy that, he enumerates the bounty that has been poured out over America by our Maker. These gifts of God are so great, Lincoln reasons, that they “cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”
And his conclusion is that “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.”
And so President Lincoln invited all Americans, even those at sea or 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.”
The humility and sincere religious faith of the 16th president is nowhere in evidence in this year’s Thanksgiving proclamation. It isn’t irreverent, or course, or lacking in niceties about blessings and community and shelters and soup kitchens. It is, however, lacking in any mention of God’s providence and gifts, except a single nod to us carrying forward the legacy of our forebears “with God’s grace.” Yes, if you blinked you will have missed the sole reference to God in the proclamation of a feast supposedly instituted to give Him thanks.
This is not a momentary lapse, but a constant in the President’s Thanksgiving proclamations, as Breitbart has noted in other years. Obama’s 2009 statement made history by being the first Thanksgiving proclamation ever to omit any reference to God whatsoever. Reading back over Obama’s Thanksgiving proclamations, Chuck Norris felt obliged to admit that “for five years, the president has flunked Thanksgiving Day remembrance and proclamation.
And so we are invited to reflect on our blessings and gather with family and friends in a spirit of gratitude, and yet as we do so we realize, as Abraham Lincoln so wisely noted, that “we are prone to forget the source” from which our blessings flow.
Thomas D. Williams can be followed on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome