Lincoln's Providential Role?
I thought that I was done with Lincoln until such time as I've seen the new film by Spielberg, but I read a review by Christopher Sullivan, "Abraham Lincoln's Faith, 'Battle With God,' Explored In New Book" (Huffington Post, December 12, 2012), which has some interesting details about a new book by Stephen Mansfield, the one depicted above:
Textbooks often freeze and simplify Lincoln's religion, making him merely a "skeptic, ever religiously uncertain," Mansfield writes in "Lincoln's Battle with God." "The truth is that Lincoln was, in fact, a religious pilgrim" . . . . As we follow Lincoln's journey through life, it's a revelation to read how candid and forthcoming he could be about his state of mind and soul . . . . In his 20s, freed from the strict Calvinistic beliefs of his father and other youthful religious influences -- including the wild enthusiasms of revival meetings -- Lincoln for a time vehemently and publicly rejected the religious givens of contemporary America . . . . Lincoln became known for his hard line. But when he went so far as to write a "little book on Infidelity," attacking the divinity of Christ and the inspiration of the Bible, and then announced that he hoped to publish it, . . . . [a friend] "snatched it from Lincoln's hand" and burned the manuscript.Reportedly, the friend didn't want to see Lincoln ruin a promising career, and perhaps he was right to react so, for Lincoln surely could not have become president with such a book to his name, and his views changed, anyway, as he grew older:
Two ministers whose writing he admired and whom he sought out personally shaped his thinking, and he continued to read and study the Bible, a habit learned from his mother. Though he never joined any church, he attended Sunday services of his wife's Presbyterian congregation in Washington -- and even a Tuesday evening prayer meeting, listening from the pastor's office so as not to be distracted . . . . He came to see the unrelenting carnage of the Civil War as God's judgment and punishment for slavery, as he says in his second inaugural shortly before his assassination.My guess -- though I have little reason to imagine that I'm right -- is that Lincoln could not bear the moral weight of the Civil War upon his shoulders alone and thus returned, in part, to the Calvinist faith of his father, seeking meaning for his role in one of history's great tragic episodes of flawed justice by attributing its dire purposes to Providence, and he himself merely participating in a role for which he'd been born and shaped but had not chosen.
I wonder if I'm right . . .