Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Proclaim Thanksgiving (2)

After a long lapse, Abraham Lincoln famously - and, as it turned out, permanently - revived the practice of proclaiming a national day of Thanksgiving. Lincoln did so in the middle of our mid-19th-century Civil War. Eighty years later, it fell to another great wartime president - Franklin D. Roosevelt - to proclaim Thanksgiving (three of them, in fact) during the 20th-century's greatest and most decisive war, World War II. 

Charles Peters once referred to Roosevelt as "spiritual leader of his country, or at least as the most notable exponent of its dominant religious beliefs," who "saw the New Deal as applied Christianity." 

As he did with Winston Churchill at Placentia Bay and later with the whole nation on D-Day, Franklin Roosevelt, acting as America's "Preacher in Chief," naturally and comfortably drew upon the familiar treasures of the King James Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Hymnal to tap the religious roots of American society (roots which were then still real enough and familiar enough to be able to be recognized, understood, and appreciated by his audience). Thus, in his 1942 Thanksgiving Proclamation, Roosevelt  reflected upon Psalm 23. And, in his 1944 Thanksgiving Proclamation, he suggested a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures during the period from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas. Let every man of every creed go to his own version of the Scriptures for a renewed and strengthening contact with those eternal truths and majestic principles which have inspired such measure of true greatness as this nation has achieved.

What wonderful advice for everyone to follow this Advent season! But it is advice rooted in the fundamental conviction that there are such things as "truths" and that that it is such "truths" - not being "on the right side of history" - that can inspire a country to achieve a common purpose! 

Imagine President Obama - or President Trump - starting to talk like that! 

(Photo: The so-called "Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving," which was his portrayal of "Freedom from Want," one of his famous 1943 images of FDR's "Four Freedoms.)

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