I was reading a blog post debunking several historical myths about Thanksgiving (original link no longer available). At one point he has this to say about George Washington:
“George Washington, as the first American president, declared November 26, 1789 as a national day of thanksgiving and prayer, and a few months after his inauguration issued his famous ‘Proclamation Number One’ stating that it was a ‘duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God.’”
But the last “myth” he identifies is Thanksgiving is a religious holiday, and he reasons this way:
“While some would like to believe that the Thanksgiving holiday is religious, and George Washington did issue a proclamation bringing God into the picture, this is not only an invented holiday, but its correlation with football and rescheduling to enable better economic performance for merchants makes it clear that Thanksgiving is a secular holiday.”
Then who are you giving thanks to?
It has become a tradition at this time of year to list things we are thankful for, but we sort of read off the list without directing our thankfulness in any particular direction. Perhaps families go around the table and each member takes a turn, which forces children to think about the things they have and teaches a lesson about being thankful. It is no doubt safer in our politically correct culture for elected officials, public school teachers and others to say “we should be thankful” than to make a religious statement. But seriously, who are we thanking when we list the things we are thankful for?
George Washington didn’t bring God into the picture. It is God’s picture, and we should be thankful he included us.
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
(Psalm 115:1 ESV)