Saturday, November 28, 2009

Obama's godless Thanksgiving proclamation

Every year once the President is done with the serious duty of pardoning a turkey, he addresses the country with a Thanksgiving proclamation. However, Obama's speech was a tad bit different than those in the past - he left out references to God. Well, not completely. His single reference to God was tucked inside of a George Washington quote:
Today, we recall President George Washington, who proclaimed our first national day of public thanksgiving to be observed "by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God," and President Abraham Lincoln, who established our annual Thanksgiving Day to help mend a fractured Nation in the midst of civil war.
But those were George Washington's words, which were balanced with the practicality of Lincoln's quote. Obama himself didn't invoke a deity. When you compare this to some of the things Bush said during his last Thanksgiving proclamation, you can see the difference:
On this day, let us all give thanks to God who blessed our Nation's first days and who blesses us today. May He continue to guide and watch over our families and our country always.

We recognize that all of these blessings, and life itself, come not from the hand of man but from Almighty God....

Having arrived in the New World, these early settlers gave thanks to the Author of Life....
And as noted by Jill Stanek, "President Bush called the 1st celebrants "Pilgrims," Obama said they were "European settlers."" A subtle but significant difference.

Some nonbelievers don't care when Obama gives a shout to non-believers or simply leaves God out of his secular speeches, but I think it's important. If our President invokes God like belief is normal, required, and patriotic, it alienates the "Nones" of America. By simply keeping his Thanksgiving proclamation secular, Obama is making baby steps toward a more inclusive environment. Yes, there is certainly more I think he could be doing, but I'll take what I can get for now.


  1. Probably also remembering that earlier thanksgiving/harvest feasts happened in Virginia and probably in St. Augustine, Florida. Puerto Rico may have had even earlier ones. For that matter Native Americans possibly had harvest festivals.

  2. Given Obama's academic past, I'm also inclined to believe that he understands Washington's references to God to refer to one deity that all religions worship equally. I like it.

  3. Not being USAnian, I think I'd rather he mentioned God, and ate the turkey. Seems less hypocritical.

    For better or worse, he does believe. And he went on to have a turkey dinner afterwards, I'm sure.

    This whole pardoning business makes absolutely no sense.


  4. Before his death and after he doesn't need people's votes, he is going to acknowledge his atheism, mark my words.

  5. James,

    I'll give you odds 5:1 that Obama is indeed completely honest in his faith. Noöne as devout as the newly converted and all that.

    I cannot rule out that he'll find atheism at a later date - I'd hope he did - but as of now, he is exactly what he claims to be: a Christian.

  6. @Erp: I think all agricultural societies had harvest festivals. I can't conceive of a community whose survival is endangered by a failed harvest NOT doing something or other to say "Ooof! We made it. Way to go." I recommend the S.M. Sterling "Dies the Fire" series to remind us of what appalling hard work it all was.

    Regarding Virginia, yes indeed. I shake my head over the apparent belief of many Americans that the Pilgrim Fathers were the first European colonists, or even the first English colonists. That visually gorgeous Terence Malik film showed us Jamestown, but know what? At least in my jurisdiction, the DVD sleeve wittered about "the first Europeans to set foot on the North American continent". So what was Cortés, chopped liver? Or if they think North America starts at the Rio Grande, which some people seem to, what was Coronado?