Christian Nationalism and Thanksgiving

Washington in prayer

In October 1789, President George Washington issued a thanksgiving proclamation “to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor….”  This proclamation was thus not merely a self-congratulation whereby the President and others applauded themselves for creating a new government provided by our Constitution. At that point we were transitioning from the Articles of Confederation which had neither three distinct branches of government nor the idea of federalism embodied in its organization.  Would the new Constitution work?  Would the misgivings of some leaders prove to be legitimate?  In answer to these questions the proclamation expressed its reliance on the providence of Almighty God, not on a self-conscious and presumptuous self-confidence of those who created the Constitution.  Despite the learning and brilliance of many of the Constitution’s promoters (think particularly of the vision and skills of James Madison, the key figure in its writing), Washington determined to put the success of the venture in the hands of Almighty God.  He understood that true thankfulness and radical humility go hand in hand.

But Washington did not stop there.  In an almost ecstatic frame of mind, he goes on to speak of God as a “great and glorious Being” and “Author of all that is good.”  Are these really phrases to induce a type of radical self-hypnosis?  Are these words, as the Marxists might claim, simply manipulative phrases to hypnotize the people into accepting exploitation by a powerful class?  Were these phrases stunning verbal drugs that were and are “the opiate of the people”?

He then goes on not to congratulate those who created or promoted this Constitution, but to admit the sinfulness of the men who have presented it and voted it into existence.  He inserts a plea that our transgressions (sins) be pardoned, acknowledging thereby that there must be errors in the document which come from the limitations and biases of those involved with creating it and offering it to the several states.

Lastly, he emphasizes the four-fold goal of our Constitution.  It will (1) promote knowledge, (2) promote “true religion and virtue,” (3) increase science, and (4) “enhance…temporal prosperity.” Thus, the goal was not to promote Christianity per se, but that virtue under a Christian umbrella of beliefs of a variety of sects and denominations would promote the progress in science and prosperity that the Constitutional Convention wanted to expand under the new rules of governance.

Ministries such as D. James Kennedy Ministries and other groups have been advancing documents like Washington’s proclamation of thanksgiving for years to reveal to the American public that the founders of our country never intended that Almighty God as understood by Christian religion was to be excluded from the public governance and education of our republic.  Washington’s statement alone proves the farce of thinking that a hard line between separation of church and state was envisioned by our founders, even those with a disdain for miracles related in the Bible and other theological doctrines like heaven and hell, the Trinity, or the necessity of baptism.

“Separation” as in “separation of church and state” merely means that no specific Christian religion will be established and deemed as official, and thus will not be supported by taxation.  It does not mean that there is a hard and fast line between progress in science or prosperity and belief in holy living before a holy God, biblical moral uprightness, or the divinity of Christ.  There would be a variety of approaches to the various doctrinal issues in Christianity, but all of them together represented a legitimate commitment to godliness that was compatible with and essential for the entire enterprise of governance.

In this sense, individual conscience was to be recognized. One’s belonging to this or that Christian denomination was and is a matter of personal choice based on one’s conscience. It was never the belief of the founders that individual “conscience” could or would try to legitimate atheism or Buddhism or Islam as being just as valid for the USA as Christianity simply because we believed in “freedom of religion.” This liberty of conscience was to be Christian, and despite that overall identity would not lead to a partisan nation despising of other belief systems.  People with other, non-spiritual commitments would be welcome, but their presence would not deny the upholding of Christian theology as the best as indicated by Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Is India hateful because it is predominantly Hindu, and understands itself that way? Are Buddhists automatically bigots because they live in countries that are predominantly Buddhists?  Of course not.   The idea of Washington and others of the founding era is that we are to be a Christian nation, and that notion in no way implied then, nor implies now, contempt for other countries that do not so identify. Christianity as understood was tolerant of non-Christian views, but non-Christian views could not be the basis for our laws — because natural law was the basis of morality, and the laws of nature and man were established by Almighty God. This was part of William Blackstone’s foundational theory in establishing modern English law, and it carried over through enlightenment theories of knowledge advanced by John Locke, and it might surprise some readers, even by Thomas Hobbes.

Please throw out the non-thinking of Hegelian and/or Marxist dialectic where the views of the founders of our country had their day, but by dialectical processes, the monarchical systems of Christianity which were overthrown by the bourgeois Christianity of the founders are now being overturned by Rousseau’s General Will with all of its cultural Marxist and woke tweaks. The foul smell of collectivism and a grossly materialistic conception of the world order is everywhere.  Perverse rejection of the moral law is not only widespread, but in many centers of education and power is considered more moral than Judeo-Christian, i.e., Biblical, morality.

There is no such thing as dialectical materialism governing the evolution of countries!  The reality is that God’s providence is in control of the so-called progress of history as we move prophetically towards judgment and the rule of Christ.  May all readers take this statement by Washington to heart this Thanksgiving. May we give thanks that a man of this caliber and righteousness was our first President who led us against overwhelming odds to grasp the originating intentions of our “great experiment.” May we bow down in thanksgiving to a holy God who calls us to exquisite and profitable worship of His Holy Name. And may each one of us increasingly realize how much we have to be thankful for.

Jeffrey Ludwig

Photo: Historic Valley Forge

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About the Author

Jeffrey Ludwig
Jeffrey Ludwig is a semi-retired Pastor of Bible Christian Church who serves as a guest preacher in local churches and teaches philosophy part-time at a university. He is the author of four  books available on amazon.com and has published over 275 articles online. He has been married for 28 years and he and his wife are proud parents of a grown daughter. Email: philprof2@gmail.com