In 1778 George Washington wrote a letter to Thomas Nelson, Jr. citing God's divine intervention in the founding of our nation. "The hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this," he wrote, "that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations."
Consider God's providential hand in the arrival of the Pilgrims. The Mayflower was a wine cargo boat. Death from diseases was common on voyages to the New World, but wine had so penetrated the interior of the ship that it was relatively sanitary. Only one person died as the ship sailed, and that individual was a profane crewmember who despised the Pilgrims.
Three years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, a plague virtually wiped out the hostile natives along the east coast. The Spanish had discovered how formidable a foe these Indians could be as they sought to settle in Florida. One of the fiercest of tribes lived near Plymouth and would have most certainly destroyed the Pilgrims upon their arrival. But the pestilence had left the Indians with only about 5 percent of their population and the stockpiles of corn they had stored -- corn that ultimately saved the Pilgrims from being completely destroyed during their first winter.
One of the Indians who survived, Squanto, spoke English and helped the Pilgrims get established in the land. He was also an intermediary and interpreter who helped forge a treaty with surrounding tribes.
It is unlikely the Pilgrims could have survived anywhere else on the east coast. At one point they sought to go further south, but the invisible hand of God in the winds drove them back.
Moreover, during the bitter winter of 1620-21, in which half of their little band died, spring came as early as March 3rd. If the winter had been a long one, chances are they would have all died and America would have certainly had a different beginning.
The next autumn's harvest was a plentiful one. And so in gratitude to God, the Pilgrims held a three-day celebratory feast of thanksgiving. In 1623, Governor William Bradford set apart a day for fasting and prayer to praise God for the rain that saved the colony's crops from a menacing drought.
In all their poverty, the Pilgrims were rich because they saw God's providential hand in their ways. Their faith was in him and they looked to Him for help and sustenance, and God prospered them.
How far, in many ways, we have drifted from those first days of thanksgiving. In his new book, Persecution, David Limbaugh points out that the New Jersey Department of Education has now removed any references to the Pilgrims and the Mayflower from its history standard for school textbooks. The reason is because historic events involving Christian worship or expression are off limits.
Limbaugh also notes a study by New York University psychology professor Paul Vitz that documents the purging of the Christian religion from public school textbooks. Citing Vitz's study Limbaugh writes: "One book had thirty pages on the Pilgrims, including the first Thanksgiving. But there was not a single reference to religion, even as part of the Pilgrims' lives. Another textbook described the Pilgrims simply as 'people who make long trips.' Another said that after their first year, the Pilgrims 'wanted to give thanks for all they had,' omitting they were thankful to God. Dr. Vitz said, 'It is common in these books to treat Thanksgiving without explaining to whom the Pilgrims gave thanks ... The Pueblo [Indians] can pray to Mother Earth, but Pilgrims can't be described as praying to God -- and never are Christians described as praying to Jesus . . . .'"
Without question, public education today portrays Thanksgiving as a multicultural harvest feast in which American colonist were giving thanks to the Indians. The National Education Association has said Thanksgiving was a celebration of "diversity." How conveniently we have expunged God from the picture by rewriting our history. If Noah Webster was correct that our liberties are deeply rooted in the Christian religion, which shaped colonial America, then to deny students that perspective is not only to ill-equip them for the defense of freedom but is, according to George Washington, to raise them to be worse than infidels.
Where have we missed the way? We have become unthankful! Unlike our forefathers, the Pilgrims, we have made the fatal error of thinking that we can be wise and good without God's help -- or that we can continue to prosper and be great and still reject salvation on God's terms. We must turn back. We must once again recognize His providential hand -- lest we be worse than infidels.
There is no better place to begin than to look up in gratitude this Thanksgiving and renew our faith in Him.