Charles Schulz was a believer and his faith seeped into his work as a cartoonist in many ways, most often subtly. His Peanuts characters and story line were interlaced with topics about a culture undergoing spiritual decline. One of his annual Thanksgiving programs touched a nerve for me. Click here to watch a typical Charlie Brown and Lucy thanksgiving clip. It's profound.
"Isn't it peculiar Charlie Brown, how some traditions just slowly fade away" may be one of Charles Schulz's most accurate observations. Not that we're in danger of removing the Thanksgiving holiday from the calendar. In fact, as observances are concerned we've actually expanded Thanksgiving from a day of celebration to a long weekend. Most work places, with the exception of the retail world, and schools are in furlough mode Thursday through Sunday. AAA estimates that 46.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more over the Thanksgiving weekend, ranking Thanksgiving Day and the day before among the top ten worst travel days of the year. So, the actual potential of Thanksgiving slowly fading into the sunset is minimal.
Again, it's Schulz's subtlety that strikes a nerve in the video clip linked in the first paragraph. The thing is that Thanksgiving today is engraved on the calendar but the essential meaning has drifted far from the original intent of designating such a day. Dating to the Continental Congress and perpetuated by every President, Thanksgiving proclamations have called the nation to prayer, thanksgiving to God for His abundant provision, and confession and repentance of sin. Over the years the language has been downgraded to lower the concepts of God and sin. Now, sin is off the table entirely. The traditions of thanking a benevolent and caring God while confessing and repenting of sin have slowly faded away.
Paul's letter to the church at Rome provides strategic placement of fading thanksgiving in the spiritual decline of sinful man. Paul wrote it like this---
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been
clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have
been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did
not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their
thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Romans 1:20-21, ESV
You can't help but be astounded by such an accurate depiction of modern society. It's just one more evidence of the path of sinful mankind and the predictable steps down the slippery slope of moral decay. Two initial steps are identified: (1) they did not honor him as God, or (2) give thanks to him. The fading tradition of thanksgiving to God is but one noticeable progression on the path to a culture that (1) became futile in their thinking, and (2) had their foolish hearts darkened. Sound familiar?
So, it's Thanksgiving week. The President has issued his annual proclamation, without the usual exalted language honoring God, and with no mention of our national sin, and many of us will attend Thanksgiving worship services or acknowledge God's majesty and gracious provision in our more intimate family setting. But, for many, the tradition has faded, superseded by shopping, football, feasting, time off the clock, travel, rest, and whatever rings our bell. But, the days of repentance, prayerful reflection, soul- searching gratitude, and personal humility before God have faded to the background, replaced by a national failure to honor Him and give Him thanks for our many blessings.
The hard part, maybe more sad than hard, is to be front row witnesses to the loss of mind and heart Paul mentioned as the result of this fading tradition. Honoring God and thanking Him slip to the sidelines of even the national holiday while the unique mind and heart of America is misplaced in the multi-cultural, politically correct no-man's land of spiritual emptiness. It's the way of sinful, God-less mankind.
It's what happens in the fade away of something as basic as Thanksgiving.