Happy Thanksgiving from President Obama


 

Weekly Address: Wishing the American People a Happy Thanksgiving 

Remarks of President Barack Obama

Weekly Address — Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hi, everybody.  On behalf of all the Obamas – Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo, and the newest member of our family, Sunny – I want to wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

We’ll be spending today just like many of you – sitting down with family and friends to eat some good food, tell stories, watch a little football, and most importantly, count our blessings.

And as Americans, we have so much to be thankful for.

We give thanks for the men and women who set sail for this land nearly four centuries ago, risking everything for the chance at a better life – and the people who were already here, our Native American brothers and sisters, for their generosity during that first Thanksgiving.

We give thanks for the generations who followed – people of all races and religions, who arrived here from every country on Earth and worked to build something better for themselves and for us.

We give thanks for all our men and women in uniform – and for their families, who are surely missing them very much today.  We’re grateful for their sacrifice too.

We give thanks for the freedoms they defend – the freedom to think what we want and say what we think, to worship according to our own beliefs, to choose our leaders and, yes, criticize them without punishment.  People around the world are fighting and even dying for their chance at these freedoms.  We stand with them in that struggle, and we give thanks for being free.

And we give thanks to everyone who’s doing their part to make the United States a better, more compassionate nation – who spend their Thanksgiving volunteering at a soup kitchen, or joining a service project, or bringing food and cheer to a lonely neighbor.  That big-hearted generosity is a central part of our American character.  We believe in lending a hand to folks who need it.  We believe in pitching in to solve problems even if they aren’t our problems.  And that’s not a one-day-a-year belief.  It’s part of the fabric of our nation.

And we remember that many Americans need that helping hand right now.  Americans who’ve lost their jobs and can’t get a new one through no fault of their own.  Americans who’ve been trapped in poverty and just need that helping hand to climb out.  Citizens whose prayers and hopes move us to act.

We are a people who are greater together than we are on our own.  That’s what today is about.  That’s what every day should be about.  No matter our differences, we’re all part of one American family.  We are each other’s keeper.  We are one nation, under God.  That core tenet of our American experience has guided us from the earliest days of our founding – and it will guide us to a future that’s even brighter than today.

Thank you, God bless you, and from my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Advertisements

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation


20131128-082951.jpg

[New York, 3 October 1789]

By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations 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–and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be–That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in thecourse and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions–to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving 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 unequalled 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 had 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 consciousness 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 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 United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

Review of ‘The First Thanksgiving’ by Robert Tracy McKenzie


images Robert Tracy McKenzie, The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving and God and Learning from History (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013). Paperback / Kindle

This Thanksgiving, like millions of other Americans, I will sit down with family around a beautifully decorated table to eat a sumptuous feast of turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. We will share stories of gratitude for God’s blessings throughout the year drawing to a close. And then we will watch football or—in my case, since I’m not a sports fan—take a long, postprandial nap.

What I will not do is think that our Thanksgiving celebration has anything to do with the Pilgrim’s “first Thanksgiving” in 1621. Not after reading Robert Tracy McKenzie’s new book, The First Thanksgiving, which is equal parts a historical account of that feast and a theologically informed reflection on how Christians should (and should not) use the past. As he tells it, we don’t know much about the “first Thanksgiving” except that it probably didn’t occur in November, wasn’t eaten indoors, didn’t include turkey (but might’ve included turnip and eel), wasn’t a multicultural love fest (evidently, the Wampanoags just showed up, uninvited), and wouldn’t have been considered a day of thanksgiving by the Pilgrims in the first place. Moreover, the celebration of thanksgiving days was, for the first 220 years of American history, a New England phenomenon that wasn’t explicitly linked to the Pilgrim feast of 1621.

In short, most of what you think you know about the “first Thanksgiving” is bunk. But over the years, that bunk has been found to serve a variety of useful ends, underwriting Northern abolitionism, American individualism and religious freedom, and a providential reading of America’s Christian history, among other things. And that’s why the fiction continues to be promoted instead of the facts.

To think Christianly about the Pilgrims and their 1621 feast, we need to put these fictions aside and recognize the weakness of the historical accounts that promote them. And then we need to reflect on why we study this history anyway. “The past is a foreign country,” L. P. Hartley once wrote; “they do things differently there.” That’s certainly the case with the Puritans and their Separatist brand of Protestant Christianity. Present-day Christians share the same faith, but they do not practice it in the same way. Both the similarities and the differences play a role in how we interpret and practice our religion.

For McKenzie, one of the key things that contemporary American Christians can learn from the Pilgrims is that “we are pilgrims too.” He writes: “to know we are pilgrims is to understand our identity and, by extension, where our ultimate hope lies…American Christians over the years have been tempted to confuse patriotism and piety, confounding our national identity as citizens of the United States with our spiritual identity in Christ…We should thank God daily for the blessings he has showered on our country, but to know we are pilgrims is to understand that our hope of ‘survival, success, and salvation’ rests solely on our belong to Christ, not on our identity as Americans.”

Amen, and thank God!

Now, would someone please pass me another helping of mashed potatoes?

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. InterVarsity Press posted this funny little video about the “first Thanksgiving,” based on McKenzie’s reconstruction of it.

Why Did President Obama Omit ‘Under God’ from the Gettysburg Address When 63 Other Prominent Americans Included It?


For the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, Ken Burns asked a number of prominent Americans to recite the Gettysburg Address on camera.

You may or may not know that there are five extant copies of the address in Lincoln’s hand—the so-called Nicolay, Hay, Everett, Bancroft, and Bliss copies (listed in chronological order of production). The Nicolay copy was the first draft of the speech, prepared before Lincoln delivered it. The Hay, Everett, Bancroft, and Bliss copies were prepared after he delivered it.

There are a variety of differences between these copies. For our purposes, the most important difference is that the first two copies omit the phrase, “under God”—as in, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—while the last three copies include it. Contemporaneous press reports of Lincoln’s speech include the phrase, “under God,” so it is almost certain that Lincoln included those words in his oral delivery, probably adding them extemporaneously. Moreover, the Bliss copy—the best known of the five and the one that hangs in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House—is the only one that Lincoln signed.

In his video, President Barack Obama recited the Nicolay copy, omitting the phrase, “under God.”

Predictably, this has raised hackles on the Right. Equally predictably, this has raised counter-hackles on the Left, who view the entire controversy as phony.

The White House has explained that President Obama recited the Nicolay copy because Ken Burns asked him to do so. Strangely, President Obama seems to be the only person Ken Burns asked to recite the Nicolay copy.

Here’s a list of prominent Americans reciting the Gettysburg Address with the words under God in their recitation (the number in the brackets represents the approximate time code where the phrase appears):

Ken Burns himself (1:34), Matthew Barzun (1:25), Mike Beebe (1:31), James Billington (1:39), Wolf Blitzer (1:27), George W. Bush (1:35), Louis C. K. (1:45), Tom Carper (1:26), Jimmy Carter (1:35), Bob Casey (1:45), Bill Clinton (1:45), Stephen Colbert (2:12), Charlie Crist (1:34), Mario Cuomo (2:10), David Dinkins (1:41), Timothy Cardinal Dolan (1:33), Arne Duncan (1:27), Donna F. Edwards (1:29), Eric Foner (1:25), Eric Garcetti (1:43), Bill Gates (1:38), Gabby Giffords and Friends (1:43), Jim Gilmore (1:30), Whoopi Goldberg (1:48), David Gregory (1:35), Harold Holzer (1:32), Arianna Huffington (1:33), Gwen Ifill (1:36), Jon Jarvis (1:41), Sally Jewell (1:30), Heidi Heitcamp and John Hoeven (1:33), Tim Kaine (1:25), Jimmy Kimmel (1:15), Angus King (1:57), Vicki Lawrence (1:30), Ray Mabus (1:49), Rachel Maddow (1:25), Gregory Meeks (1:25), Alyssa Milano (2:13), Rita Moreno (2:04), Richard E. Neal (1:43), Bill Nelson (2:09), Conan O’Brien (1:33), Bill O’Reilly (1:29), Annise D. Parker (1:44), Nancy Pelosi (1:37), Mike Rawlings (1:52), Robin Roberts (1:44), Jay Rockefeller (1:41), Peter Rubinstein (1:49), Marco Rubio (1:28), David Saperstein (1:26), Bob Schieffer (1:34), Chuck Schumer (1:28), Jerry Steinfeld and Louis C. K. (3:50), Martha Stewart (1:30), Tom Steyer (1:34), U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (1:22), Uma Thurman (1:39), Nina Totenberg (1:34), Richard Trumka (1:38), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (1:28), and Randi Weingarten (2:13).

By my count, the ratio of “under God” to no “under God” in these speeches is 63:1.

So, why would Ken Burns ask President Obama—and evidently him alone—to recite the first draft of the Gettysburg Address, omitting the famous phrase, “under God”? More importantly, why would President Obama agree to do so?

Because I don’t have a conspiratorial mindset, I’m not inclined to give credence to conspiracy theories, e.g., Obama is a crypto-atheist who’s out to destroy the religious foundations of the American republic. But that leaves me with only two options: (1) Ken Burns has a dilettantish predilection for textual criticism, which he somehow foisted on the president of the United States. (2) President Obama is politically tone deaf to the implications of using an obscure version of a famous speech that omits the words under God.

As scandals go, Under-God-gate is small potatoes. Still, it’s reflective of the president’s (or his staff’s) political tone deafness and poor judgment.

Obama Leaves Out ‘Under God’ in His Recitation of the Gettysburg Address [UPDATED]


Ken Burns has posted a video of President Barack Obama reciting the Gettysburg Address.

Amazingly, the president fails to recite the words under God in the phrase, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”

I’m not sure why President Obama deleted this phrase. (I’ll leave that to conspiracy mongers.) There are five copies of the Gettysburg Address from Lincoln’s lifetime, known as the Bliss, Nicolay, Hay, Everett, and Bancroft copies. The Bliss copy–the only one with Lincoln’s signature on it–is generally considered authoritative. It and the Everett and Bancroft copies contain the words under God, while the Nicolay and Hay copies don’t.

Regardless of what was written, however, it is certain that when Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, he uttered the phrase, “under God.” I’ll let Robert P. George explain:

Of course, none of these copies is actually the Gettysburg Address. The Gettysburg Address is the set of words actually spoken by Lincoln at Gettysburg. And, as it happens, we know what those words are. (The Bliss copy nearly perfectly reproduces them.) Three entirely independent reporters, including a reporter for the Associated Press, telegraphed their transcriptions of Lincoln’s remarks to their editors immediately after the president spoke. All three transcriptions include the words “under God,” and no contemporaneous report omits them. There isn’t really room for equivocation or evasion: Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address—one of the founding texts of the American republic—expressly characterizes the United States as a nation under God.

President Obama has been the subject of too many conspiracy theories, and I’m sure the omission of the words under God will generate an entirely new round of them. At best, the omission of the words was unintentional, perhaps the result of a faulty text provided to the president by Ken Burns. At worst, it was intentional, either the reflection of an academically persnickety textual criticism–nonetheless false–or the grinding of an ideological axe. Either way, the president should be embarrassed that he got roped into misquoting one of America’s most famous speeches.

UPDATE: Larry O’Connor notes:

A text box now appears on the Ken Burns website http://www.learntheaddress.org which states: “Did you know there are five versions of the Gettysburg Address? We asked President Obama to read the first, the Nicolay Version.”  A cached version of the same webpage from several days ago shows no such reference.

Curiouser and curiouser.

UPDATE 2: Over at The Wire, Abby Ohlheiser defends the president by noting that he is reading the Nicolay copy of the Gettysburg address. “Far from an issue of omission, the fake controversy now dominating the anniversary of the important speech is more or less about conservative perceptions of the president’s arrogance. Even though comparing oneself to Lincoln, paraphrasing his words, imbuing new meaning to the Gettysburg Address itself is a routine practice for politicians from every party, there’s a certain special fury summoned when Obama does it. If anything, Ken Burns’s project demonstrates that no matter what critics might feel, everyone deserves to access, personify and celebrate the meaning of the speech. No matter which version it may be.” How she can describe as a “fake controversy” the omission of words from the Gettysburg Address that she herself concedes Abraham Lincoln actually spoke is beyond me.

UPDATE 3: The White House has released a handwritten, one-page essay by Pres. Obama that explains what the Gettysburg Address means to him. It is unclear to me which of the five copies of the Gettysburg address hangs in the side office Pres. Obama refers to. According to this source, cited by Ken Burns’ website, it is the Bliss copy which hangs in the Lincoln bedroom.

Review of ‘Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace’ by Stanglin and McCall


JacobArminiusTheologianofGrace Keith D. Stanglin and Thomas H. McCall, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). Paperback

The greatest trick Calvinists ever pulled was convincing the world that Jacob Arminius was Pelagius redivivus. The charge—whether in a strong (Pelagian) or weak (semi-Pelagian) form—was false in Arminius’s day and has not become true since then, Calvinist polemics to the contrary notwithstanding. Unfortunately, it has largely succeeded in both tainting Arminius’s good name and obscuring his theological contributions.

In Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace, Keith D. Stanglin and Thomas H. McCall render a valuable service to readers by outlining the main points of Arminius’s theology under three headings: “God and Creation,” “Providence and Predestination,” and “Sin and Salvation.” Their discussion of each of these topics include valuable insights into the late-16th– and early 17th-century Dutch milieu in which Arminius lived, served as a minister of the gospel, and taught sacred theology.

Readers accustomed to Calvinist polemics against Arminius’s “synergism” and “anthropocentrism” will find themselves surprised by the depth and breadth of his agreement with numerous points of the Reformed tradition. This shouldn’t be surprising however. As a minister in good standing (during his lifetime) of the Dutch Reformed church, Arminius both subscribed to and taught the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism. Only after his death, a decade later, did the Synod of Dordt formally denounce the theology of his Remonstrant followers, effectively foreclosing the range of Reformed theological options that Arminius himself worked to keep open.

Moreover, Arminius was conscious of being the inheritor of a Christian tradition larger than its Reformed component. His deepest desire was fidelity to the teaching of Scripture. However, he was also attentive to the Great Tradition of Christian theology, especially and effectively using it at points to show the novelty (and danger) of the supralapsarianism of his professorial colleague and theological rival, Franciscus Gomarus. Whereas Gomarus turned to Augustine, Calvin, and Beza for inspiration, Arminius appropriated the insights of Irenaeus, Origen, Thomas, and Molina.

Drawing on Scripture, the Great Tradition, and even Reformed resources, Arminius articulated a theology at odds with Calvinism on three crucial points, as Stanglin and McCall note.

First, “Arminius stresses that God’s act of creation is the communication of good only, intended for the creature’s good.” Consequently, “God, as holy love, created humanity for the purpose of eternal communication with him.” Given the doctrine of unconditional election—especially the supralapsarian doctrine of unconditional reprobation, which Gomarus taught—Calvinist theologians could not state things so simply. In Reformed theology, “God does not love all people for the purpose of salvation.”

Second, according to Arminius, “election to salvation and reprobation to condemnation are conditional. God chooses those who are foreknown to be penitent believers, and he condemns those he knows to be impenitent unbelievers.” What distinguishes Arminius and Calvinism, in other words, is not that the latter has a doctrine of election or predestination while the latter does not. Rather, what distinguishes them is the ground of election of predestination. For Calvinists, election is unconditional. For Arminius, it is conditional, based on God’s foreknowledge—middle knowledge, to be precise—of a person’s faith.

Third, “the grace that is necessary for salvation can be refused.” Stanglin and McCall explain: “God’s love is communicated not as an irresistible coercion, but as a tender persuasion that will not finally override the human will.” Faith, the assent of the human will to God’s grace, is not self-willed or meritorious, however. Instead, “grace must still precede the human will to enable any turn toward God,” which is why Arminius cannot fairly be labeled as either Pelagian or semi-Pelagian. “But salvation is received by those who refuse to resist God’s grace. It is offered, even if counterfactually, to all, but is resisted by some.”

The upshot of these theological emphases is a robust defense of God’s goodness that places the blame for sin and damnation squarely on the shoulders of sinners. By contrast, Calvinism—especially supralapsarian Calvinism—grounds both election and reprobation in the unconditioned will of God, effectively making God the author of human sin, which he willed, and therefore the unjust punisher of his own handiwork.

The past two decades have witnessed a renaissance of Calvinism among North American evangelicals. Some results of that renaissance have been salutary, since most of Calvinism—like most of Arminianism—is “mere Christianity.” Other results—especially the recrudescence of supralapsarianism—have not been salutary and need a response. Whether they claim his name or not, the theological heirs of Jacob Arminius would benefit from a fresh engagement with this evangelical theologian. Toward that end, Stanglin and McCall’s book serves as an excellent introduction to and explication of the grace-filled theology of Jacob Arminius.

I highly recommend this book, along with Carl Bangs’s biography, Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation, and Roger Olson’s study, Arminian Theology: Myths and Reality. Together, they provide an excellent introduction to the man, his ideas, and the movement that followed him.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

The Gettysburg Address at 150 [UPDATED]


The only known photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg
The only known photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg

Today–November 19, 2013–is the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. In that speech, President Abraham Lincoln said, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” In fact, his words are precisely what we remember about that momentous battle, which was fought on July 1-3, 1863.

Here is the text of Lincoln’s landmark speech.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

This afternoon, at 4:30 p.m. (Eastern), Allen C. Guelzo will deliver the Witherspoon Institute’s first annual William E. and Carol G. Simon Lecture on Religion in American Public Life. The title of his lecture is “Under God at Gettysburg? Lincoln’s Moral Constitution.” At the moment, I am unsure whether the speech will be live cast or even recorded. If video of the speech does surface, however, I will make sure to post it here.

And finally, here for your reading pleasure is some commentary on the speech:

[UPDATES: I keep adding to this list of articles as I come across interesting ones.]

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: