Whether you know it or not, if you’re a conservative you are a conservationist. Why? Because you believe in conserving things.
Along with liberals, conservatives likely think it is a good idea to conserve clean water and clean air. We might even argue that it’s wise to conserve an owl, a tree and a whale once in a while. But what often distinguishes conservatives from our progressive brothers and sisters is that we believe in conserving not just the material but also the moral and the intellectual. We believe in conserving ideas.
Conservatives hold there are certain ideas that are true and, as such, should be left untouched, unmanipulated, unchanged and conserved. Like a good wine, some ideas simply get better with age. They have stood the test of time and have been defended by the measure of reason. They have been confirmed by revelation and validated by experience. Some ideas have been so rigorously vetted and are so well stated that they should simply be honored, unedited and left alone. To do otherwise would be to pollute them and diminish their value.
Once again, we have one of those ideas before us this holiday season. As we celebrated with family and friends this past week, all of us who still have any sense of gratitude for the blessings we enjoy as a free people and free nation, might do well to consider, i.e. “conserve,” the original words that led to the fourth Thursday in November being recognized as a national holiday — a day officially set aside for “Thanksgiving and Praise.”
Here are those words:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, 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 soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
“In the midst of a civil war which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict
“Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defenses, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.
“Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.
“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.
“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.” — Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863
Yes — some ideas simply stand alone; strong, secure and enduring. They are ideological Gibraltars that should not and cannot ever be moved: “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father for the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings in humble penitence for our disobedience, and fervently imploring the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation.”
These ideas need no rebuttal. No debate is appropriate and no response seems right other than one coming from a humble and contrite heart full of “Thanksgiving and Praise.”
• Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is the author of “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery 2017).