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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

The Shepherd's Heart: What's this Thanksgiving thing all about?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Forgive me while I contemplate the history of what we call Thanksgiving.

In the spring, after their survival of that first difficult winter, the Pilgrim settlers of Plymouth Colony began planting their first crops. In the fall, with help from their Native American neighbors, they gathered in their first harvest.

With a spirit of excitement, the settlers invited the locals who had helped them to join them in a three-day feast of wild turkey, venison and vegetables, to celebrate God's faithfulness. This first thanksgiving feast in the new colonies took place in 1619.

In 1623, Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Colonies made this proclamation...

"Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all you Pilgrims, with your wives and your little ones, do gather at the meeting house, on the hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since you Pilgrims landed on Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to your pastor and render thanksgiving to Almighty God for all His blessings."

On November 26, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation for a nation-wide day of thanksgiving. He made it clear that this day should be one of prayer and giving thanks to God. It was celebrated by people of all religious denominations throughout this new country.

Later, President Abraham Lincoln made a proclamation in 1863, designating the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day, a day for the nation to give thanks to Almighty God.

The date was changed once again in the last century, this time being moved to the fourth Thursday of November by President Franklin Roosevelt in order to encourage holiday shopping.

But things in the United States of America started to change even more drastically in 1962. That was the year the Supreme Court banned state-directed prayers in the public schools. Then in 1963, the Supreme Court banned Bible reading for religious purposes in the public school. Seventeen years later, in 1980, the Supreme Court said schools could no longer post the Ten Commandments. The High Court classified them as "plainly religious."

Their ruling said that the existence of the Ten Commandments in a classroom might prompt children ... "to read, ponder, revere, or obey these commandments."

God forbid!

And that's how our nation's religious heritage began to be eliminated from public life.

William Bennett -- who served as secretary of education under President Reagan -- wrote this about these anti-religious court decisions...

"In too many places in American public education, religion has been ignored, banned or shunned in ways that serve neither knowledge, nor the Constitution, nor sound public policy. There is no good curricular or constitutional reason for textbooks to ignore, as many do, the role of religion in the founding of this country or its prominent place in the lives of many of its citizens. We should acknowledge that religion -- from the Pilgrims to the civil rights struggle -- is an important part of our history, civics, literature, art, music, poetry, and politics, and we should insist that our schools tell the truth about it."

So, we've come to the point where the celebration of this Christian based holiday of Thanksgiving can be summed up for many people as a fourth-grader summed it up when he stood to give a report about the origins of this holiday.

Here's how he began ...

"The pilgrims came here seeking freedom of you know what. When they landed, they gave thanks to you know who. Because of them, we can worship each Sunday, you know where."

So, as you gather this Thanksgiving with friends, loved ones, and family members, remember to say a special thanks to you know who.

I'm sure He'll be listening.

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BOB G. STEWART, Columnist
The Shepherd's Heart