Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

In September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln was increasingly concerned by the tremendous growth in the number of causalities in the Civil War. Following the disastrous loss at the second battle of Bull Run, he wrote a Meditation on the Divine Will in which he expressed the quandary of God’s presence.

“The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God can not be for and against the same thing at the same time.”
But to most Americans - north or south - God was on their side. Union and Confederate soldiers both prayed to the same God. Both read the same Bible. Both invoked the same God to aid him in battle against the other side.

Lincoln’s thoughts read like an ancient philosopher’s argument. “By his mere quiet power on the minds of new contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”

In a country split and ravaged by war - truth, for Lincoln, had begun to dawn. God was not at America’s beckoned call. America was at his.

By October 1863, with the Union victory in the Civil War all but assured, Lincoln was looking for a way to reunite the country. He proclaimed a national holiday to be spent in reflection – a day of thanksgiving.

The proclamation, written by his Secretary of State William Seward, called upon each citizen to regard America’s vigorous growth despite the long war.
“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. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.”
America remains at war – not a civil war - but one that divides us spiritually nonetheless.

As we pause to celebrate Thanksgiving 2010, and acknowledge our blessings, let us also remember our disobedience and “commend to His tender care those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers” in our present conflicts.

Let us become peacemakers.


Lisa Madden said...

What a wonderful post on such an overlooked holiday and during such a controversial time in history. Of course, Thanksgiving is not really overlooked. Our nation still celebrates it, and families gather to spend the day together and eat a ridiculously large meal. Many families still pray and give thanks to all of the good things in their lives, but the holiday is seen more as a segway to Christmas than a holiday of its own.
For Abraham Lincoln to create an official holiday in order to show that we are all not that different was one of the many excellent things this great president did. Even today, the holiday can bring our nation together. Although at the time, Lincoln was bringing together a "Christian" nation, there is no reason why it should be limited strictly to Christians. All religious and even nonreligious individuals in our country have similar principles. No one wants others to suffer, no matter what type of suffering others are going through, we should always pray that they get through it, because we would hope that others would do the same for us.
In a nation that is still split on political issues, it is important that we remember our similarities, and that those should be stronger than our differences, because only then will we be able to bring peace.

Chelsea Smith said...

This post was indeed beautifully written, and reminds us all that on this holiday we call Thanksgiving despite the tribulations we face as a country in todays society that we can, once again, overcome. Our God is great and oversees every action, his great power will deliver us again.