GARLINGTON: Pondering over “A Thanksgiving Reflection”

It is very fitting to slow down and express our gratitude to God for the blessings He has poured out upon us, so we are glad to see essays like Mr. Royal Alexander’s on this subject.

We second his sentiment, and would like to add a little to it from a lengthy hymn, titled ‘Glory to God for All Things.’  It has an interesting origin:

Glory to God for All Things: An Akathist of Thanksgiving was written in Russia during the height of the Communistic persecution by Metropolitan Tryphon of Turkestan (Prince Boris Petrovich Turkestanov) not long before his death in 1934. The title comes from the last words of Saint John Chrysostom as he died in exile in 407. The akathist was found among the belongings of Archpriest Gregory Petroff, who died in a Soviet prison camp in 1940.

We will quote just a small sample from the hymn, but the whole work is of the same spirit:

+    Glory to Thee for calling me into being; glory to Thee, showing me the beauty of the universe.

+    Glory to Thee, spreading out before me heaven and earth, like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom.

+    Glory to Thee for Thine eternity in this fleeting world; glory to Thee for Thy mercies, seen and unseen.

+    Glory to Thee through every sigh of my sorrow; glory to Thee for every step of my life’s journey, for every moment of glory.

+    Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age!

If a man living under the grinding persecution of the Soviets can find a way to write such a beautiful expression of thanksgiving to God, surely we can find a few moments to express our own, we who live a much more pampered existence in the U. S.

Now then, some less pleasant business.  There are some tares among the wheat in Mr. Alexander’s essay, and we would not be fulfilling the office of a friend if we didn’t say something about them.

Part of this line we found disconcerting:

Our recently passed Veterans Day makes me grateful not only for our current military heroes but also for those who were grievously wounded and those 1.1 million American service men and women since the Revolutionary War to the present day who died defending America, placing on the altar of freedom that “last full measure of devotion.”

Brave military men are indeed a great gift, but this inclusion of an ‘altar of freedom’ needs to be rethought.  Altars are used in the worship of deities.  Sacrifices upon those altars are offered to those deities.  Christians, too, have an altar, upon which they offer the Bloodless Sacrifice of Christ (called appropriately enough ‘Eucharist,’ Greek for ‘thanksgiving’).  Do we really want to proclaim that our veterans’ lives were sacrificed to a god or goddess named Freedom?  This may sound like nit-picking, but worship of God is a deadly serious business.  The Holy Trinity gave us a rather clear command in this regard:  ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3).

We shouldn’t be speaking casually about God, religion, etc., but, rather, with as much carefulness as possible.  Demons are real, and they will use anything and everything to separate us from God and bring us to destruction, spiritual and physical, including what seem like harmless little phrases and ideas like an ‘altar of freedom.’

Then we come to this point in the essay:

In his second Thanksgiving Day message in 1982, President Reagan said that “I have always believed that this anointed land was set apart in an uncommon way, that a divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of the Earth who had a special love of faith and freedom.”

Here we must also be extraordinarily careful.  The United States are not a universal body that can accept anyone from any country with any faith and turn them into some new man.  That is the description, more or less, of Christ’s Church.  The several cultural regions making up the U.S., and the subcultures within them, are unique, have a definite history and ethnic makeup, and will not survive an influx of peoples and religions substantially different from them.  Does anyone believe that Acadiana or the delta lands of the Mississippi would be the same places if thousands of Indian Hindus, Saudi Arabian Muslims, and Alaskan Eskimos resettled there, to enjoy, in Pres. Reagan’s words, his own ‘faith and freedom’?  Our roots in the South and round about the rest of the U. S. are mainly in Northern and Western Europe and Africa; if those demographics change substantially, we will no longer have the same cultures that we inherited from our forefathers.


A lot of the Founding generation (and their later admirers like Reagan) were good men, but they were heavily influenced by agnostic/atheistic Enlightenment philosophy.  It is reflected in much of their reasonings.  We cannot take everything they said and wrote as being unquestionably good.  St. John the Apostle and Theologian gave us the duty to ‘test the spirits’:

‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (I John 4:1).

That is what we must do with American political thought.  Accept the good, that which is in accordance with Christianity and other healthy traditions, while rejecting the bad.  And, undoubtedly, presenting the United States as some kind of substitute church is an idea we ought to reject out of hand.

Mr. Alexander has shown us kindness in the past, so we hope he will accept these remarks in the spirit of constructive criticism in which they are offered, especially as we approach the Birth of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, Who reconciled us to God and to one another.

For that act of deep condescension by God Himself, let us all be supremely thankful.



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