Thursday, November 26, 2015

Lincoln's Thanksgiving and Ours | The Power of Advocacy

Abraham Lincoln was one of our greatest presidents because he was also one of our greatest theologians. He so often hits the right note, observing the propriety of giving thanks while also issuing a call for continuing repentance. In his national Thanksgiving proclamation, he gives thanks for the many blessings of life in the nation he led, while also remembering and lifting up those most adversely affected by the nation's "lamentable civil strife." One could wish that more of our national leaders on a day like thanksgiving would also, in this humble way, recognize our complicity not just in the effects of various civil struggles, but also the global implications of our national defense strategy, which are horrific.

I am also inspired today by Sarah Josepha Hale, whose persistence and advocacy efforts led to thirty states establishing days of Thanksgiving, and finally in the result of a powerful letter to the president, a national proclamation of the Day of Thanksgiving.

So today, as #blacklivesmatter and refugee advocates campaign and write letters and publish and march and speak, we remember that the persistence even of a single citizen towards a good cause can have incredible impact (Luke 11:9). 

Let's give thanks for leaders like Lincoln. May their kind increase. Let's give thanks for tireless campaigners like Sarah Josepha Hale (who also, incidentally, wrote "Mary Had a Little Lamb"). Let's pray it takes far less than thirty years (the amount of time Hale campaigned for a national day of Thanksgiving) for our leaders to listen to the real needs of those affected by our national perverseness and disobedience. Lord come quickly, and give us the spirit to give thanks in all circumstances.

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation. 
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.  
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.  
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union. 
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed. 
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth. 
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

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