When President Abraham Lincoln issued his now-famous 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation, a dark chapter of the American Story was being written. For more than two years the nation had been embroiled in the nightmarishly bloody Civil War, which, by its end in 1865, had killed more Americans than all other American wars from the American Revolution through the Korean War combined

The sixteenth President of the United States was well aware of the conflict’s truly “unequaled magnitude and severity,” and he acknowledged it in his proclamation. But he also felt it was important for the aching nation to remember God and confess its thankfulness to Him for “the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.”

“To these bounties,” Lincoln said, “which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and even soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”

He argued that, “[n]o human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

That the president would urge the country to be openly thankful, even in the midst of the deadliest war in its history, may seem ludicrous to some. But to Lincoln, it was evident that the nation desperately needed to recognize God and the importance of faith in Him.

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America was, after all, sculpted from the truth that rights came from the Creator and the expectation that Americans would be predominantly “moral and religious” citizens. Lincoln knew what the Founders had known; the American Experiment could only succeed for as long as the American people exhibited the kind of self-governance that was best derived from a Judeo-Christian faith in God.

It is for this reason that the Founders, like Lincoln, regularly pointed the nation’s attention back to God, frequently acknowledging the necessity of relying on Divine Providence to lead the country through existential crises. Throughout the history of the Republic, Americans have often found themselves in seemingly impossible circumstances, but these tribulations never diminished their faith in the Almighty.

Or, at least that once was true. Today, Americans again find their country in a dark place. This time, however, many have put their faith in a far less reliable “god.”

While the Founders and many subsequent generations of patriots generally believed that natural rights came from God, not from government, and, as a result, ought to be protected – but never taken – by government, modern Americans, influenced especially by the progressivism of the 20th century, often assume that government protects and gives them their rights. This colossal shift in governmental philosophy, coupled with the rise of secularism, has resulted in the subconscious substitution of faith in God with faith in government.

For far too many Americans, government has indeed taken the place of God and politics now fills the role that was once reserved for religion. Rejecting the orthodox faith of yesteryear, these secularists have put their faith in politicians, depending on their flawed systems and government programs to guide, save and preserve this nation.

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But if these human solutions are all that we are trusting in, the history of the United States seems unpromising, at best. Our government can’t save us from the crisis we presently find ourselves in. Neither can our politicians. Our Founders certainly would have rebuked us for ascribing to such an illusory fantasy.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,” we’re told in Psalms 33:12, “and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” The first centuries of the American Republic confirm these ancient words to be true; our success as a nation never has – and never will – come from the god of government or the religion of politics, but from the God of the Bible and our faith in Him.

This holiday season, as we reflect on the rich blessings we have been afforded in America, let us remember and return to the eternal source of those blessings. From the birth of this nation and through many tribulations, God has faithfully preserved us.

And unlike our government and politicians, He will not let us down.

Jakob Fay is a former intern and current SIA Coordinator for the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Governance.