Thanksgiving for a Christian Nation

Mayflower Compact

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Thanksgiving for a Christian Nation

Copyright © November 23, 2014 Douglas W Jerving.
All Rights Reserved.

God is interested in history (after all, He is the Creator of it).

For instance, see my commentary on Jeremiah and the Babylonian Captivity in the Biblical Commentary section. Jeremiah makes clear that God was actively engaged in the events of ancient Israel, Judah, and all the nations with whom they had to do.

But that was ancient Israel. What about today? Strangely, many Christians nowadays believe that the New Testament has individualized God’s relationship to mankind so much that He no longer is interested in nations, states, tribes or groups, except as far as they are associated with the “Church”. God is no longer interested in anything other than the individual, or at most, the believing community of which he is a part. To say the least, such a doctrine is highly narcissistic. Apparently they have never read Revelation 5:9.

Many voices in our times tell us that this is not, and never really was, a Christian “nation”.

That is hogwash.

First it is not true simply because the dominant cultural ethic in the New World is still, and has been for half a millennium structured on Christianity. In the same way we can say that most of the Asian continent is culturally based on Hinduism and Buddhism, or the African continent and most of the island cultures worldwide are based on animism.

The way we, as Americans, act and think and respond, good or bad, has always been informed by the cultural heritage (the critics call it baggage) we brought with us from European nations, all which were flagrant “Christianists”. The debate between Baptist and Reformed theologians, (or even the later Catholic and Protestant struggles) regarding ethical eschatology and its relationship to a philosophy of history is valuable to understanding our American psyche. How we view life and death and the afterlife is reflected in our social interactions; i.e., to our ethics as a community. Christianity has been the dominant cultural ethos in the American continents since at least the sixteenth century.

Second, the post-modern concept of a “Christian nation” is an attempt to force the last 200 years of American history into the shoebox of American “exceptionalism”, a term that didn’t exist before the progressive Bull Moose politics of Theodore Roosevelt. That is a paper tiger. The Christian nation concept is not equivalent to the “Americans are better than everyone else” concept, but post-modernists still equate them. The critics of our dominant Christian culture correctly challenge American exceptionalist attitudes when they remind us that some of our founding documents are based on Enlightenment humanism, not Christianity. That is true only so far as we can throw the stone of modern humanism back to its foundations in the Christian world-view from which that humanism arose. Again, that would be the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when Popes and Reformers alike were tripping over each other to see who could be first to unite the European continent against the triple threats of Islam, Anabaptism and the practical atheism of the new philosophers.

Those who deny our inherently Christian culture first deny the concept of a Christian nation, which idea extends at least as far back as the disintegration of the Roman Empire. In fact, that concept was central to Augustine’s City of God long before Rome’s demise. It became the basic economic concept of the Middle Ages. To say the least, the concept has history, if not modern philosophy, on its’ side. Humanism was a much later development in Western thought, and a return to pagan concepts that dissolved with the advent of Christianity.

The modern humanist implies that the founding of our nation is based on the Constitution alone, which, while giving lip service to Christianity, was really based on Enlightenment humanism and atheist skepticism. However true that may be (and in many respects it is), it is just as evident that the vast majority of the signers of the Constitution were committed Christians coming from various theological backgrounds, whether Catholic, Protestant, Reformed, Anabaptist, or Free-thinkers. Our present Document is not the product of one or two men (Jefferson, or Adams), but of many men, all of whom saw fit to engrave their names for all time on a piece of paper for which they would gladly give their lives, both temporal and eternal. They were no less willing to be labeled traitors to the throne of England, than traitors to Christ Himself, and knew that if they were wrong, they had an eternity in hell to pay for their error. They were the greatest proof that eschatology is in fact the basis of ethics because they were willing to die for what they lived.

Post-modern humanists ignore all previous documents, and even controvert the Declaration of Independence into an Enlightenment piece of propaganda against the English as supporting the rights of man against the State, similar to the paganism of the French Revolution (which occurred later). But the Declaration invoked God as the author of human rights as opposed to the divine right of kings, or oppositely the rights of the people. The former concept was most forcefully inaugurated under the rule of the totalitarian Henry VIII, and remained in force largely until the American Puritans rejected it. The latter ended in the bloody French Revolution, one of the greatest horrors of modern times.

There are nearly 200 years of history in the American colonies prior to the signing of the Constitution. Those 200 years are the real foundation of America as a Christian nation. They are the structure upon which most of the Founding Fathers of our nation staked their lives when they signed the Declaration, despite the political compromises admitted in authorizing the Constitution.

For approximately 185 years prior to the Constitutional Convention the Puritans and other English Christians developed a society in the Colonies that was founded nearly completely on Christian Biblical ethics. That was the platform that guided most of the founders. The Puritan ethic substantially influenced and corrected the enlightenment oriented thinkers like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. American deistic humanists like Jefferson may have wanted a more secular social environment that was based on enlightenment philosophy, but they knew that the best society could only be achieved by maintaining the Christian idealism of the previous 200 years.

The Mayflower Compact (the Pilgrims we remember every year at Thanksgiving signed this document into their law) and other similar documents are the real cornerstone pieces of American Christian history.

Over the 400 plus years of American history, we have managed to remember, by our celebration of Thanksgiving, that our history is still a Christian history, not a humanist history. We remember annually that our history goes back further than the signing of the Enlightenment oriented Constitution. We still are aware, dimly, that our roots, our real foundations as a nation, reside in the history prior to the signing of the Constitution. We have this vestigial organ, our celebration of Thanksgiving (officially recognized as a US holiday by Abraham Lincoln) reminding us that our roots are and should always be Christian if we will survive as a nation.

Ancient Israel forgot her founding documents. They failed to keep the commandments of God to celebrate the 50th year as a Jubilee year. The Jubilee (Leviticus 25) reminded them that God alone owned mankind, and that kings were subject to His law as much as every man. The divine right of kings was a heresy insofar as it usurped the common rights of man to live and prosper without the infringement of the overriding state. It is no wonder that the failure to keep the Jubilee years and other Sabbath years was most closely associated with the rise of the kings in ancient Israel. The kingdom period is clearly related to the tyranny of the state against the freedom of the individual. Samuel warned them about this very possibility (1 Samuel 8). Even under David, the best and most benevolent ruler, the commons often were treated unfairly. Their captivity in Babylon reflected their failure to serve God and to substitute the state in His place. Their subjugation by the nations was a direct result of their failure to walk in the covenant that God provided them, and to remember that God was the One Who had delivered them from bondage in Egypt.

Our American history is analogous to that of ancient Judah/Israel. Thankfully, we still have a dim remembrance of our Christian foundations, which precede even our own Constitution, and remind us that as a nation we are first and foremost a Christian people. Our celebration of Thanksgiving is the most prominent reminder that our history as a people extends beyond and prior to our official announcements to the world that we are a nation amongst other nations. Thanksgiving is a reminder to us as a people, like Jubilee was for the old Israelites, that we have a history going back even further than our Constitution. A history that recognizes and praises and thanks God for its' establishment; and as such, a history that recognizes its’ place within the Covenant God has established for all nations, if they will obey it.

And yes! If you want to find a point of view to criticize me, start with the above, because it makes clear that I am a theonomist, or a reconstructionist, or at least, a postmillenialist who thinks that ethics and theology should work together to serve the same goal.

If our nation will survive the next 200 years it will be because we remember that our foundation is essentially that which a motley crew of persecuted Puritans brought to our shores 200 years before we "became" a nation. We will survive and prosper only if we remember and celebrate the faith of our fathers. Not those who signed the Constitution, but those who set forth the Mayflower Compact, and similar documents. Those who realized that a nation is first founded on its' fidelity to God.

I look forward to this Thanksgiving season with lots of good food and happiness with my extended family. But as the Patriarch (I'm the old guy now) I most look forward to reminding them: my children and my grand-children. Thanksgiving is about remembering. Remember history. Remember God. We remember that we live in the freest nation on earth. We remember with gratefulness to God that our history as a nation and our liberty is utterly dependent upon our faith in God and our fidelity to God.

Our thanksgiving this day and every day is our remembrance, with praise to God, that He has brought us this far, and He will preserve us in His grace to the end, so long as we remain faithful to Him.

Even more so, our celebration of Thanksgiving is a reminder that God is still working through us to preserve our nation for the good purpose of promoting Christ Jesus our Lord if we will continue to serve Him and live in obedience to His Word. Otherwise, we shall perish as all nations before us that forgot God. America is no exception. May our hearts be turned to Him.


Doug Jerving is the publisher of the You may contact him at


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