As we approach Thanksgiving, it’s appropriate that we reflect on the relationship between faith, freedom, thankfulness and prosperity. Our ancestors well understood this relationship. It is the reason that Thanksgiving is as American as apple pie.
They knew that faith can survive without freedom. But, freedom cannot survive without faith.
Jefferson wrote, “The same God that gave us life, gave us liberty.” He may have had some unique ideas about religion, but he understood the critical relationship between faith and freedom. A belief in a power greater than man or any government is essential to a free people attempting to govern themselves. He enshrined the concept, writing that we are endowed by our “creator” with unalienable rights. Rights that could not be taken away by any government. It is the fulcrum around which this entire self-government experiment revolves.
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other,” wrote founder John Adams.
French noble Alexis De Tocqueville was sent to the United States to better understand how the American system really worked and why it was so successful. He traveled widely, listening and learning. He wrote of his journey in his epic Democracy in America. Tocqueville saw the impressive role that faith played. He concluded that the preservation of America’s religious fervor was one of the most important tasks for preserving our democratic republic. He said religion should be considered the “first of America’s political institutions”. He considered it an absolute necessity for Americans to maintain their faith “at all cost.”
Why is it that we want to believe we are smarter than our ancestors? Yes, we may have more access to information. We have more degrees. Perhaps this is precisely why so many are able to ignore eternal truths. Foolishly demeaning the bedrock upon which our entire system was built.
There are essentially only two world views. One believes in a God-centered universe. The other, in a man-centered universe. We each get to decide what world we want to live in. That may explain why so many otherwise educated people become self-centered and act like precious snowflakes. In a man-centered universe, everything revolves around them and their feelings.
History teaches that societies devolve quickly when the people turn their backs on their faith. Cultures rot from within. The past indeed becomes prologue. Too many believe that it can’t happen here. We are so advanced. But, the evidence is all around.
The father of our nation, George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation. Calling for “a day of public thanks-giving and prayer” to be held on Thursday the 26th of November, 1789. Washington had led a ragtag army to victory against the most powerful military in the world. He knew that liberty was secured only by the hand of Divine Providence. It was important that the citizens take time away from their daily duties to give thanks to Almighty God for their blessings.
There is an interdependent circle. It starts with faith. Faith underpins freedom. Freedom, free people interacting in free markets, leads to prosperity. Real prosperity necessitates thankfulness. Thanksgiving strengthens faith. This virtuous circle and the society at large both grow stronger. Personal happiness is closely related to being thankful. Thankful people are not only happier; they are more productive. Our founders understood this.
It wasn’t some mysterious coincidence that the United States became the wealthiest nation in the history of humanity. This place where millions yearned to come and breathe free. Ask yourself, why is there no German or Chinese Dream? The American Dream blossomed in the circle of faith, freedom, prosperity and thanksgiving.
As we gather with friends and family for a feast and football this Thursday, perhaps we can spend a little time prayerfully reflecting on the blessings we enjoy. Rather than taking the bait from your leftist nephew, winding up in a political debate over impeachment, tell him how thankful you are to enjoy the blessings of liberty. Try explaining the interdependent relationship between faith, freedom, prosperity and thankfulness.
If enough of us share the word, maybe the circle will remain unbroken.
Gil Gutknecht served six terms in the U.S. House from Minnesota.