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In the dusty old pages of contemporary Christian chronicles of the Crusades there is to be found a curious and oft repeated theme. When the Crusaders stood victorious in battle the writers of the time said it was owing to God’s grace, but when they tasted defeat, it was “for our sins.”
Centuries later, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln summoned similar solemn thoughts in his proclamation announcing the holiday of Thanksgiving.
With the nation ravaged by civil war, Lincoln pointed to the great blessings of everyday life still enjoyed by the nation, saying, “No 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.”
What Lincoln and the Crusaders both understood was that gratitude is a function of fallibility. It is the living testament to forgiveness. We do not feel gratitude for that which we are owed, but rather, for that which we scarcely deserve.
As we know, not everyone has been on board with the national holiday of