As the leaves start to turn I always get a little bit more lighthearted with the holidays in view. This is my favorite season. By that I mean my favorite season is looking forward to the holiday season. At this point it is all anticipation and I find that the looking forward is both filled with the great memories of the past and devoid of the fatigue that so often comes in the package of a busy holiday schedule.
On the horizon just now is Thanksgiving with its promise of family, good food, a relaxing couple of days, and some good football. And of course, we will pause to reflect back on the events of the year through which we have seen the hand of God in His providence ruling over the events of history so as to display His glory. After all, that was the basis of the very first Thanksgiving even if today’s culture wants to say otherwise.
I find it very interesting that the very first celebration of Thanksgiving was focused on God Himself. He was the object of their praise and their giving of thanks. They had come searching for a new land where freedom could be established for all. And they found it in the New World. They came intending to forge a new kind of society.
Today we live in that society even though the whole idea of religious freedom is becoming frayed around the edges. When Muslim students can threaten legal action against the Roman Catholic private school they attend for displaying a crucifix in class it is apparent that something is amiss. When valedictorians in public high schools are suspended for daring to finish a prayer in Jesus’ name it shocks our sensibilities. And when, as a clergyman, I am asked to open a government meeting in prayer but asked not to invoke the name of a deity, things have just gone too far. What we are seeing in America now is not freedom of religion, but a perverted, prejudicial and harmful determination that the public realm must enjoy freedom from religion.
Anyone with an open mind must admit that the founders of our republic did not hold to the idea that religious influence in the public square should be outlawed. Read their papers, their letters, their speeches. While I do not believe that they all held to the same set of beliefs, it is apparent that they believed religious insight had some place in the public discourse. And doesn’t it make sense that a group of intelligent men who studied and labored long to thread religious freedom through the fabric of America would as well consider that the influence of religion was beneficial to the nation’s public conversation? Why fight for it only to isolate it away from that part of our nation’s life that affects us all?
In essence, when religious thought and perspective are drained away from our public discourse, what we are left with is another calculated belief system that now gets to dominate. Make no mistake, a non-religious humanism is every bit as much of a worldview as any of the world’s religions. It has been a very clever ploy on the humanists’ part. By declaring all religious conversation to have no part in our public dialogue they have quickly taken and held the field. Now the only worldview that is tolerated is one that has no god, no absolute moral standard, and sadly, no hope for the future other than personal peace and affluence. One wonders, as they slice the turkey, if it even occurs to them that someone outside of themselves deserves some thanks for all that they enjoy.
And so I look forward to Thanksgiving, and not only because of the joys of seeing my children and grandchildren. I look forward to the day because it offers a bit of normalcy as we sit around the table and remember that, no matter how hard some may try to push God out of the circle, He is actually controlling the circle, and everything else. Soli Deo Gloria.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.