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Lord, during this Thanksgiving season we ask that You help us to be thankful for the many blessing You have given us. Let our hearts be stirred closer to You in this season.

afaJournal: What is the greatest threat today to the truth about the Pilgrims and their history?

Stephen: While some books and educators directly lie about the Pilgrims and their primary Christian motive for their starting a new colony in America, the greatest threat to people knowing their true story is what is left out when their story is told. Revisionist history gives a false picture of these devoted Christians. For example, one elementary public school textbook gives 30 pages to present the story of the Pilgrims without once mentioning any reference to religion; thus at the end of their first year they “wanted to give thanks for all they had.” But there is no mention it was God they were thanking.1 Teaching the Pilgrims without referencing God causes people to think that Christianity was not important to
them. Revisionist history is a primary reason for the secularization of America. People are taught our history without mentioning Christianity, or if it is, it is often presented in a negative light, when in reality it is the most important influence in the birth, growth, and development of the nation.

afaJournal: Why do you think some modern educators wish to revise the history of our nation, particularly the story of Thanksgiving?
Stephen: Most teachers in our schools today are ignorant of the true story of Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims. They never learned it in school and few search out primary source documents so as to get to know the Pilgrims via their own writings. William Bradford, the governor of the Pilgrims for 33 years, wrote their history – Of Plimoth Plantation – which is one of the great historical and literary works of all American history, but few teachers have even heard of it, much less read it. You only need to read a few pages to see the sincere and deep faith of these men and women who served as “stepping stones” for those who would follow. Some educators who know the history yet ignore it, either evaluate the Pilgrims through their own secular bias – that is, the Pilgrims may have had a deep faith, but God is a construction of the human mind and consequently is not relevant, so they don’t need to mention God when recounting their story – or they have such a dislike for God that they don’t want to give Him any publicity in history.

afaJournal: Why is it important that we remember and pass on the truth about the Pilgrims?
Stephen: The Pilgrims’ story teaches us many lessons. One, we learn of the great sacrifice they paid to exercise their freedom of religion and to plant the early seeds of our nation. Half of them died the first winter after arriving at Plymouth, and most of the others suffered from sickness and hunger. All were so sick only 6 or 7 could get out of bed, but these toiled night and day to assist
their brethren. In the words of Bradford they “fetched them wood, made them fires, dressed them meat, made their beds, washed their loathsome clothes, clothed and unclothed them; in a word, did all the homely and necessary offices for them which queasy stomachs cannot endure to hear named; and this willingly and cheerfully, without any grudging in the least.” Their care for one another reveals their Christian character and practical love, “a rare example and worthy to be remembered.”2 Their motive to spread the Gospel is evident from Bradford’s words (which are inscribed on his monument in Plymouth): “A great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagating and advancing of the Gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world.”3 The Mayflower Compact, a document they drafted and signed before going ashore, shows their ability to reason biblically to civil affairs: “Having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith, … 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.”4
Learning the unique covenant nature of our founding political documents is an important lesson in understanding why America was founded as the most free nation in history.

afaJournal: What is the most important aspect of the Thanksgiving story that parents can teach their children?
Stephen: The most important thing parents can teach their children about the Thanksgiving story is the most obvious. We call it Thanksgiving for a reason. Our Pilgrim forefathers, who are
reflective of most of the founders of America, were firmly devoted to Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ. In recognition of His gracious hand upon them, they set aside regular public days to give thanks and glorify Him. This was not done merely once or twice but regularly throughout their entire lifetime. They set an example that was followed by those who came after them, even up until today. Throughout most of our history, Americans understood thanksgiving days were to thank God. The Pilgrims’ love and devotion to God, and their reliance upon Him in abundance and
lack, are evidenced not only by their private lives but also by their public days of thanksgiving.

afaJournal: What are some helpful tools and resources parents can use to teach their children about the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving?
Stephen: The most important resource to teach about the Pilgrims is Bradford’s History “Of Plimoth Plantation.” There is no better way to get to know someone than to hear from them directly. You meet the Pilgrims as you read Bradford’s history. Various printings have been made of his work. To get a taste of his history in modern spelling, you can read about ten excerpted pages in my book, Monumental: Restoring America as the Land of Liberty. If you prefer to read excerpts with Bradford’s original spelling, see my book America’s Providential History. Both are available on our website. Kirk Cameron’s film, Monumental, has a great overview of their story and sacrifice. It is contained in the study package with my book mentioned above. And you can read an article on “Why We Celebrate Thanksgiving” on our website. This would be a great starting place.

Stephen McDowell, author and President of the Providence Foundation, was recently interviewed by American Family Association for the afaJournal regarding the importanceof parents passing along the true story of Thanksgiving to their children (as opposed to the skewed narrative we encounter in popular media).

(Used with permission from Providence Foundation. Article by Stephen McDowell. Photo Credit: Unsplash.)

How did this article encourage you? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. This article was very interesting. In all the hustle of Turkey, stuffing, etc. a person forgets the true meaning of THANKSGIVING which is giving thanks to GOD for what we have. It just takes a small amount of time to remind everyone what it is all about. GIVING THANKS FOR WHAT WE HAVE – THANK YOU GOD FOR LIFE AND LIBERTY AND THE PERSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

    Amen! 1
  2. Like most things in America today, this and other important and truthful content is not stated, articulated, praised or published to inform and bring forward thoughtfulness and debate or reverence. Rather it is thrown in at the last minute, perhaps glossed over due to hurried lifestyles and never seen. Perhaps preparation and execution of important topics should be published in a more provocative manor ahead of an event in order to elicit a more thoughtful appreciation and reverence for these important subjects.

    Amen! 4
  3. I found Bradford’s recounting of Thanksgiving histoy very informative and enlightening. Sadly I have no recollection of that teaching in my own Public Schools growing up in the 60s and 70s. Thank you got sharing and reminding us that the holiday goes beyond feeding our faces with loved ones.

    Amen! 1
  4. One must teach the whole truth about “first thanksgiving”. Yes, the Calvinists (Puritans/Protestants) arrived as you describe and should be honored for their desire for religious freedom and their willingness to fight/suffer for it and then thank God for the opportunity to serve Him in this new land. It was 1621 that this “first” thanksgiving took place in Plymouth Rock. However, in 1565 Spanish Catholic explorers landed in what is now called St. Augustine, Florida. They gave the actual “first thanksgiving” to God with the celebration of Mass. April 30, 1598, is also significant: Catholic Spanish settlers from Mexico set up camp in the American Southwest, held a Mass of thanksgiving, and named the land New Mexico in honor of God and their Catholic king, Philip II. The Calvinist ‘thanksgiving’ is the one we still celebrate while the others are ignored. Could it be because the Calvinists greatly disliked Catholics and persecuted them? Truth is truth and we should know both sides of the story, don’t you think?

    Amen! 2
  5. It is sad that the truth is not taught to our generation. My husband & I will do what ever we can to share this truth & information to our 9 grandchildren. & if they each share with 9 people & they in turn do the same, well let God be the glory & His truth be spread & revealed Marianne Berlinger

    Amen! 3
  6. Great article. My husband is researching his family history, all the way back to the first man who came over about 1649. These books sound very helpful to help us understand more of how they lived. Thank you.

    Amen! 3
  7. I’m old enough that I learned most of this in school. Sadly many don’t know any of this. We need President Trump to stay so that he can change education back to include true history back to our schools.

    Amen! 6
  8. Thank you for this info. It is NOT taught in schools. The educators have no fear of God! It was touched on 60 yrs ago when I was in elementary school.Thankfully, I had a few Christian teachers who truth. We have gotten so far away from godliness in education. Has anyone noticed? Pray for our kids&God’s mercy on the education system.

    Amen! 8
  9. Father God I pray that the eyes and hearts of the people of our nation will be open to the truth about Thanksgiving Day as to the reason and purpose we celebrate. May we give thanks today to You for all that You have done for each of us and our families and for the blessings that You have bestowed upon us. Open the hearts of those who refuse to acknowledge the impact that You have had on the USA. Cause our School Districts to teach the truth about this event ignoring the efforts of those who attempt to snuff out this most important Christian event in our history. Today this Nation is on cusp of making a path correction that has the potential to erase the most important influence upon us, Your existence. May God have mercy upon us in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

    Amen! 19
  10. I pray that God will give wisdom and strength to us parents to search out truth in all things and teach the truth to our children. That we take the mantle of responsibility in raising our children in the knowledge and fear of the Lord. Let us not leave this important responsibility to teachers or the world. Father forgive us our failures and help us. We can’t do this without you. Again, we pray for wisdom for parenting in Jesus name, Amen.

    Amen! 21

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