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November 24, 2022

American Thanksgiving

It is Thanksgiving week 2022, and we have much for which to be thankful. But to whom are we thankful? Who is the source of our blessings? In our increasingly secular age, many Americans can't answer that fundamental question.

At the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute (JDFI), we trust that you understand the purpose of Thanksgiving in the United States has been from the very beginning to express our gratitude to God. This expression is specific to the God of the Bible - the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

On November 1, 1777, the Continental Congress issued a proclamation setting aside December 18th to thank "Almighty God" for "His abundant mercy" and to express our obligation to Him. The founders referred to God as our "Divine Benefactor," and prayed He would "secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE." These earliest Americans believed with all their hearts that God's hand was in the founding and that He was the author of our liberty.

On October 20, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln, who led the nation during a brutal Civil War in which 600,000 of us perished, was still able, with a thankful heart, to begin his Thanksgiving proclamation by writing, "It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with His guardian care . . ."

Lincoln urged that Thanksgiving "be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe."

Then Lincoln said something almost impossible to imagine a president saying today in an era of big egos, chest thumping, and growing corruption. He recommended "to my fellow-citizens" that they "reverently humble themselves in the dust and … offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications" to God.

Just a few months later, Lincoln would deliver his second Inaugural address that was only one page long. In that single page, he refers to God and uses biblical references a dozen times. He expresses his concern that a just God may exact a terrible price for our national sin of slavery.

Fast forward to 1982 when another great president, Ronald Reagan, who I was blessed to work with for eight years, said this in his Thanksgiving proclamation: "I have always believed that this anointed Land was set apart in an uncommon way, that a divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of the Earth who had a special love of faith and freedom." He added, "Let us reaffirm through prayers and actions our thankfulness for America's bounty and heritage."

From 1777 to 1864 to 1982 there is a common unifying thread. Our blessings come from God, not from the government, and we should humbly give thanks to Him.

All of us at JDFI want to wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving. We hope your family will join our family in fervently and humbly thanking God for His many blessings. We urge you this Thanksgiving to use this special day as a teaching moment for your children and grandchildren, to remind them and each other that America's only hope is to be again "one nation under God." If we cannot re-embrace that idea, we will be just one more nation that has gone under.

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