Have a mindful Thanksgiving

(Denver Post, Nov. 22) Were you as shocked as I was to read in the paper last Sunday that Frontier Airlines’ new boss prays for his employees and sees them as made in the image of God? The very idea. Who would want to work for a man like that? It certainly cast a pall over my Thanksgiving season.

One of those offended by Bryan Bedford’s faith-based capitalism was Buie Seawell, a DU ethics professor and Presbyterian minister. Since principles such as respecting co-workers are “universal values,” scolded Seawell, “God would be pleased if we did that without doing it in his name.”

But the right reverend is wrong. The equal dignity of every individual is NOT a universal value. Ask the billions who live under Islamic, Hindu, or Marxist oppression. It matters whether we’re regarded as endowed by the Creator or evolved from slime. So acknowledgment of the Author of our liberties has been understood by great men from Washington and Lincoln to FDR and Reagan as being essential to the preservation of those liberties.

America’s tradition of Thanksgiving, first proclaimed by President Washington, is integral to this. When leaders in business and media, education and science, the military and the arts, as well as political leaders, reverence higher authority at this or any time of year, they ennoble themselves and all of us. Of clergy who rebuke them for it, the less said the better.

On this day in 1963, Nov. 22, two of the most influential men of the century died. One, of course, was John F. Kennedy, slain in Dallas. Remember his pledge that the United States would “pay any price, bear any burden, to ensure the survival and the success of liberty”? If our sense of purpose is less certain now, perhaps it’s from forgetting a truth asserted by another voice that was silenced the same day, C. S. Lewis.

“I was not born free,” insisted Lewis, the Oxford don and Christian apologist. “I was born to obey and adore.” Much as Washington, Wall Street, Hollywood, and Rev. Seawell might bridle at this idea, countless God-fearing Americans including Frontier’s Bedford would cheerfully assent. None of us is self-made or self-sufficient. Yet many of us forget it’s so. Only those who remember are fit for freedom. Thanksgiving Day is about the remembering.

Indeed at our house, as mentioned earlier, we try to make this a gratitude season, Thanksgiving month. Some of the markers are communal, others are personal. Some are celebratory and others somber. Day by day, regardless, it’s possible to say with Lincoln’s Second Inaugural – quoting the Psalms, after four years of war and only days before his own death – “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

During this present November, for example, only the ingrate could fail to lift up thanks on the 3rd for our voting rights, on the 9th for our Berlin Wall victory, and on the 11th for our brave veterans. Even in mourning the jihadist massacre at Fort Hood on the 5th, we had occasion to be thankful for our country’s compassion to victims, its justice to evildoers, its resilience in adversity. My family rejoiced in birthdays for a grandson on the 13th and a daughter on the 18th. What have been your family’s gratitude moments this month?

It was also on Nov. 22 back in 1858, notes historian Tom Noel, that our pioneer forebears organized Denver as a city. Achieving statehood 18 years later, they took the motto Nil Sine Numine, “Nothing without the Spirit.” It’s inscribed on the chairs, the stairs, and even the doorknobs in our State Capitol, reminding all who enter there to reverence higher authority. May we as Coloradans be not forgetful but mindful on Thanksgiving Day 2009.

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