Where have all the Thankful gone?

Last week, Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue held a prayer vigil in front of the state’s capitol to ask God for rain. The media had a field day. He was the subject of much ridicule and scorn – for a day. The next day it rained.

It wasn’t what folks in the south would call a “gully washer.” However, the media coverage dried up a lot faster than the parched earth.

This rain was not enough to end the drought that has plagued the southern states but Purdue expressed optimism: “Hopefully this is the beginning of more. It’s a great affirmation of what we asked for.”

The faithful kept right on praying and rain is expected throughout the region over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Rain in the southeast will be a cause for celebration, not disappointment, this holiday; but what about giving thanks to God for this and all other blessings that have been bestowed on us as individuals and as a nation?

Prayerful thanksgiving has gone out of fashion and those who were outraged over Governor Purdue’s actions last week citing “separation of church and state” need a history lesson.

The phrase “separation of church and state” is not in our Constitution. It was taken from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists to insure them that the government’s hands were tied from interfering with, or in any way controlling, the affairs of their church or any other church in America.

The First Amendment does not limit the practice of religion but rather protects its free exercise by everyone, including those elected to public office. Sonny Purdue did not require anyone to attend his prayer vigil but simply offered Georgians of all faiths the opportunity to come together to seek Divine intervention for their plight.

If you were offended by that, too bad!

The Constitution does not protect us from being offended. That would be impossible to achieve and just plain silly.

Ninety-five percent of the people in this country believe in God. We worship Him in different ways but most believe that it is fitting and right that we come together to thank Him, praise Him and ask for His blessings. The few atheists or agnostics who make a big deal over others praying also need a lesson in tolerance.

Throughout our history, presidents, as well as governors and mayors have called people together for prayer and thanksgiving. And, yes, President Thomas Jefferson was among them. On March 4, 1805, he offered a National Prayer for Peace which began:

“Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; we humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will….”

The first official Thanksgiving Proclamation made in America was issued in 1777, by the Continental Congress. George Washington, our first president, issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation on behalf of this nation. President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November as a Federal holiday as a “prayerful day of Thanksgiving.”

In 1619, the English settlers who arrived at Berkeley Plantation near what is now Charles City, Virginia, held the first Thanksgiving. Times were hard. They knew they had survived by the grace of God. There was no food at that first Thanksgiving. They simply bowed the knee.

Today a Thanksgiving in the United States is all about feasting, and God is usually invited to come along. Is it any wonder that we’ve lost our way?

In 1960, Pete Seeger and Joe Hickerson wrote a song made famous by the Kingston Trio and Joan Baez called “Where have all the Flowers Gone.” At that time, prayer and the Bible were very much a part of American life. Today the flowers are still with us. It is prayer that has all but disappeared from the public square.

With apologies to Seeger and Hickerson:

Where have all the thankful gone?
After eating all that turkey and pie
They’re in front of televisions, with volumes turned high.
Where have all the thankful gone?
“Is there a God?” someone said with a sigh.
They filled their bellies and never ask why.
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the thankful gone?
The stadiums are full, but churches are bare.
Take time to pray, if you dare.
Where have all the thankful gone?
They’ve gone to the malls to find something to wear.
God can come along. They really don’t care.
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

11 thoughts on “Where have all the Thankful gone?

  1. I’m thankful that you wrote this article! It seems like the First Amendment is being used in a way opposite the Founders’ intentions. The phrase “separation of church and state” is used to represent the First Amendment, but it is a poor metaphor for that purpose. When the phrase was used in the Everson decision (1947) to limit religious rights, the actual text of the First Amendment wasn’t used.

    According to the “First Amendment Religion Clauses” blog (http://churchvstate.blogspot.com/2007/11/memphis-housing-authority-bans-worship.html), Jefferson demonstrated his feelings about religion:

    Even Thomas Jefferson, to whom we usually attribute the phrase “Separation of Church and State,” apparently did not have such fears. Jefferson was the founder of the University of Virginia. From its inception in 1819, the school was governed, managed, and controlled by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Consider:

    * In order to accommodate and perpetuate the religious beliefs and practices of students at the university, he recommended that students be allowed to meet on the campus to pray, worship, and receive religious instruction, or, if necessary, to meet and pray with their professors.

    * He provided in his regulations for the University of Virginia that the main rotunda be used for religious worship under the regulations allowed to be prescribed by law.

    * He proposed that all University of Virginia students be required to study as a matter of ethics “the proofs of the being of a God, the creator, preserver, and supreme ruler of the universe, the author of all relations within morality, and of the laws and obligations these infer.”

    Where in all that are we supposed to assume that the Founders or Jefferson would disapprove of a Nativity scene on public property?


  2. Jane I love reading your articles. Ann Colter move over. Jane I think you should be on Larry King. Or maybe Hanity and Colmbs. Keep up the good work you are in our prayers. Cindy


  3. Thank you, thank you and thank you!!! I have been saying this so many times about our 1st amendment and constitution my lungs hurt. You are so right, the constitution does not guarantee our right to not be offended. Amen! So have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! Keep speaking the truth!


  4. The national prayer for peace supposedly by Jefferson is a bogus quote. The supposed date of this quote is the same day as his second inauguration. Its not in it. Not only that, its not in the Compilation of Presidents speeches and papers. Its a lie of the religious fanatics in this country. Like Islamists, they just can’t stand the idea of a government that is religion-neutral and treats all religions equally under the law.

    They have no understanding of equality under the law. They cling to medieval and colonial traditions predating the Constitution (See David Barton’s writings)

    Visit me at http://www.stopthereligiousright.org


  5. Great article. It is so important to make sure our constitution is accurately represented. In the same vain, research has found no evidence that Thomas Jefferson wrote the National Prayer for Peace. If you know of the source, I, and many others, would love to know where it came from.

    God Bless.


  6. First, I loved the article and agree with the sentiment behind it. The term “separation of church and state” has been manipulated beyond belief and is being used to so exactly what the First Amendment was intended to prevent.

    If I may, I would like to respond to Mr. Veverka. James, you are correct Jefferson did not deliver a national day of prayer for peace. The prayer here is actually from “The Book of Common Prayer” published in 1928. However, the fact that this has been incorrectly atributed to Jefferson is hardly a sign of a “lie of the religious fanatics”. It’s a simple mistake, much like those who atribute the quote, “Those who surrender essential liberty for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” to Ben Franklin. In any event, it is beside the point. While Jefferson did not make any proclamations as president, he did sign one as Governor of Virginia, which today would lead groups like the ACLU to his doorstep. He knew what separation of church and state actually meant, unlike the bizarre, anti-religious factions in America today who want to twist and manipulate the Constitution to get their way.


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