America’s Christian Heritage – Part One of Three


I thank God for my nation’s Christian origins.

Psalm 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.” This verse refers to Israel, but in my heart I apply it to the United States of America, too.


  • In 1621, our Pilgrim fathers had a thanksgiving meal to show their gratitude to God for their survival. They invited their Indian neighbors, starting a tradition of Americans being thankful to God even before we became a nation.
  • Things went so well for them that summer of 1621 that the new governor, Governor William Bradford, who replaced Governor Carver, invited Massasoit to come for a feast day of thanksgiving to God. Massasoit came and brought 90 braves with him! The Pilgrims panicked thinking they didn’t have enough food to feed so many, but soon discovered that the braves had brought with them 5 dressed deer and more than 12 fat dressed turkeys. They taught the Pilgrim women how to make pancakes out of cornmeal and maple syrup, and showed them a great Indian delicacy — popcorn.
  • William Brewster began what was to turn into a three day festival with a memorable prayer in which he thanked God for providing for all their needs even when their faith had not been up to believing that He would do so. Brewster also thanked God for the lives of those who had died, and for the Indians who had befriended them, and finally he thanked God for bringing them to that particular spot, Plymouth Rock as they called it, where there was no opposing group to fight them for ownership of the land. Then the festivities began.
  • The Pilgrims supplied from their own gardens: carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, cucumbers, radishes, beets, and cabbages. Using some of their precious flour, they baked blueberry, apple, and cherry pies, which everyone washed down with sweet wine made from wild grapes. The men, Pilgrim and Indian, held foot races and wrestling matches. Captain Standish showed the Indians how to march in rows military style. The Pilgrim women went off with the Indian women, and they smoked their pipes together and talked about their children and their men and other female subjects. A good time was had by all.
  • In 1789, George Washington issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, but a few years later Thomas Jefferson discontinued it, calling it a “kingly practice.” Only a few states remembered Thanksgiving in the early 1800’s, until a certain Mrs. Hale, editor of the first national lady’s magazine called “Godey’s Lady’s Book,” and also author of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” wrote Abraham Lincoln. Mrs. Hale started a campaign for a national day of Thanksgiving, a day to lay aside enmity and strife. About this time, a woman brought him a plate of cookies in the White House. No one in his entire presidency had ever said thank you to him. Lincoln cried.
  • In 1863, Lincoln proclaimed the 4th Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day. This is what Lincoln said in his proclamation: “It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. … It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
  • In 1941, right in the middle of World War II, the U.S. Congress ratified Lincoln’s proclamation, making it the law of the land. Every year since 1941, we have given thanks to God as a nation on the 4th Thursday of November.
  • In 1952, President Truman signed a joint resolution of Congress, creating the present national day.
  • In 1988 it became a law under the signature of President Ronald Reagan.
  • That’s how we got Thanksgiving Day. Now let’s talk about how we got America:


  • Long before the Founding Fathers signed their lives to the bold and daring declaration that created our new nation, a hardy band of immigrants pledged their lives to God and to one another even before they set foot on land. In this agreement, known as the Mayflower Compact, the Pilgrim Fathers reveal the reason they endured the perilous journey across the Atlantic in hope of founding a new colony–they believed they were on a mission for God, and they earnestly desired to “advance the Christian faith.” Their agreement, in part, reads as follows: “Having undertaken for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith, a voyage to plant a colony, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic.”  – November 11, 1620
  • During the Revolutionary War, a farmer made his way to Valley Forge with a few vegetables to help feed the starving, freezing troops. When he returned home, he told his wife, “We are going to win this war against the British. I saw George Washington kneeling beside his horse in the most fervent prayer. There is no doubt in my mind that God is going to win this war for us.” Before the battle of Yorktown, Washington invited preachers to conduct a worship service that turned into a regular revival meeting. The next day, Cornwallis surrendered his sword.
  • Patrick Henry said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”
  • Samuel Adams has been called “The Father of the American Revolution.”  His political involvement is widely acknowledged and valued.  But it was Adam’s Christian faith that guided his political views.   His essay, The Rights of the Colonists was widely circulated in 1772.  In it he wrote, “The right to freedom being the gift of the Almighty.The rights of the colonists as Christians.may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institution of The Great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.”
  • George Washington (1st Pres., 1789-1797)said, “Do not let anyone claim the tribute of American patriotism if they ever attempt to remove religion from politics.  We cannot expect national morality to prevail if we exclude religious principle.”
  • Benjamin Franklin said, “He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of the Christian faith will change the face of the world.”

      When an impasse had been reached at the Continental Congress meeting to create a constitution for the United States, Benjamin Franklincalled for prayer at the beginning of each meeting of Congress with these words:  “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?  I therefore beg leave to move–that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business.” Upon seeing a broad smile on the face of George Washington, it was unanimously approved.

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