It’s Thanksgiving time and so, inevitably, my thoughts drift to Herman Munster. Yes, that Herman Munster.
For those who may not remember, The Munsters was a classic, black-and-white TV comedy featuring Herman Munster as it’s eponymous main character. It aired for three seasons (1964-66) and ranks among my earliest childhood memories. .In one memorable Thanksgiving-themed episode, Herman, ummm, celebrates (?) Thanksgiving Day with his neighbors. He’d gone on a crash-diet shortly before the holiday and is left at home, strapped to a table in Grampa’s dungeon, while wife Lilly and the rest of his odd brood slip out to enjoy a feast somewhere else. In a fit of furious hunger, the super-strong, seven-foot tall, Frankensteinish-but-lovable lug breaks free of his restraints, staggers in a frenzy over to a nearby house and ogles the family therein as they are just about to tuck into their meal. Next thing you know, Herman has broken into their home and inserted himself into their festivities, enjoying turkey and all the fixin’s before his confused and mortified “hosts”.
The disturbingly striking thing about this otherwise uproarious segment is the “prayer”, which peeping-Tom (Turkey) Herman overhears, uttered by the father before they get busy eating. I can clearly remember his words even now, and recall the way I thought it a strange recitation on a day when, I had always presumed, folks were supposed to be offering gratitude to God for giving us all good things:
“For what we are about to receive,” he intoned blandly, “may we be truly grateful.”
That was it. No actual words lifted to the Creator, no reference in anyway to His existence, to the blessings He bestows. Just an anodyne acknowledgment of watery appreciation for the meal placed before them.
I guess, even back in the mid-1960’s some Hollywood, creative-types had already concluded any nod to “religion” in the pop-culture entertainment marketplace was out of place — even when involving Thanksgiving Day. Y’know, that particularly American holiday rooted in historic traditions of pausing to give thanks to God for His beneficence, His generosity, His mercies. And I don’t solely mean the iconic gathering of our Pilgrim forebears, but other worship assemblies previously convened on what is now American soil; a legacy of thanksgiving bequeathed to us by pioneers who went before us so many centuries ago, and nurtured repeatedly by generations ever since.
As Pierre Bynum has recently reminded us,
Thanksgiving is unique in America. And while many countries have observed harvest feasts and holidays, only a few nations, most notably Canada, celebrate Thanksgiving as a day to truly give thanks to the God of the Bible, and most of those derived their celebration from America. While four states continue to debate the rightful claim to the first American Thanksgiving Day (e.g., the Pilgrims of Massachusetts, the Anglican settlers in Virginia, the Huguenots in Florida, or the Spanish Catholic in El Paso, Texas), Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. The many hundreds of proclamations by the original 13 colonies, the Continental Congresses, Presidents and Congresses under the U.S. Constitution, and governors in all 50 states, all attest to our nation’s acknowledged dependence upon and gratitude to Almighty God.
The Continental Congress which operated during our conflict with the British, and our first president who served shortly thereafter, both formally endorsed a national day of gratitude to God — that is, the Judeo-Christian God presented in the Bible. Their language was rather startlingly, politically-incorrectly straightforward, addressing “Almighty God”, “Jesus Christ” (!) and “the Holy Ghost” (!!) (National Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, Continental Congress, November 1, 1777; Journals of Congress); and, again, “Almighty God”, “that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be”; and “the great Lord and Ruler of Nations”. (President George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation; October 3, 1789)
Many others in their U.S. government capacity, Abraham Lincoln perhaps most stunningly among them, have continued this currently scandalously reverent practice: Check out this language from our Civil War president, summoning a beleaguered nation to take a day to corporately honor the Deity: Again, there’s: “Almighty God”; then: “Most High God”; followed by: “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”. (Proclamation of Thanksgiving, October 3, 1863).
Thankfully — yes, pun intended — secularist propaganda-thugs like Mikey Weinstein and Barry Lynn were unable to get to these historic luminaries. They, thus, remained unabashed about enunciating the “G” word or any of its splendiferous permutations. Public references to the Creator — not as a swear word, but favorable ones — apparently presented no problem for these eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American giants.
No platitudinous gestures to generic “gratitude” or feel-good-but-empty, pseudo-spiritual, unfocused “thankfulness” from their lips! Nope, the primary object of the Plymouth Colonists’ tribute was not the gracious Native-Americans who’d stood by them through their grueling, early months in the forbidding land. The Pilgrim’s festive, 1621 convocation was all about acknowledging the faithful God who’d kept them and Who’d made Massasoit and Co. His instrument for assisting them.
Similarly, neither the leaders of America’s revolutionary era, nor the “Father of Our Country”, nor his successor some seventy-plus years later flinched from piously invoking the Divine name.
Even as a kid, I long thought it kinda weird the Munsters’ neighbor seemingly missed that detail in his Thanksgiving Day commemoration. Maybe while Herman was co-opting their goodies, he got in a word about the holiday’s true significance — but that would only be speculation. His focus in that episode, was plainly eating, not speaking; furthermore, it’s unclear exactly how familiar Herman Munster was with America’s godly heritage.