Sunday, October 29, 2006

Did Lincoln Hate Southern Christianity?

by Al Benson Jr. Over the years many have been "treated" to various books dealing with the stalwart Christian faith of Abraham Lincoln. We even have some preachers on television telling us what a wonderful Christian man he was. Some of these folks have done really good work in other areas, for which I applaud them, but they seem to have a real blind spot when it comes to Lincoln and his supposed Christianity. Even the home school movement has books out there parading Lincoln's supposed Christian faith for all to see. These folks should know better! In the face of all this evangelical Lincolnian hoopla we have the words of one of Mr. Lincoln's closest associates, Ward Lamon. Mr. Lamon wrote a book about the life of Lincoln back in 1872 and in that book he made a few rather blunt statements about Lincoln's supposed faith. Lamon wrote: "Mr. Lincoln was never a member of any church, nor did he believe in the divinity of Christ, or the inspiration of the Scriptures in the sense understood by evangelical Christians." This is right from the horse's mouth, as it were. Lamon continued: "When a boy he showed no sign of that piety which his biographers ascribe to his manhood. When he went to church at all, he want to mock, and came away to mimic." And one more little gem, which we can consider, with Lamon, as coming from a primary source: "When he (Lincoln) came to New Salem, he consorted with Freethinkers, joined with them in deriding the gospel story of Jesus, read Volney and Paine, and then wrote a deliberate and labored essay, wherein he reached conclusions similar to theirs. The essay was burned, but he never regretted or denied its composition." So we must conclude, from the words of one of those closest to Mr. Lincoln, that he was hardly the stalwart Christian he has been turned into via literary legerdemain. Since the South had been, to one degree or another, undergoing somewhat of a religious revival since the 1830s, one might be led to wonder if Mr. Lincoln bore some latent hatred for that part of the country based upon his own personal non-Christian convictions. Did he look at a part of the country that was in the process of undergoing Christian revival and then decide that this was anathema according to his own unbelieving world view--something he needed to help do away with? Although he never explicitly said such, you do have to wonder. His view of government was hardly in keeping with scriptural views--he was in favor of large, centralized government, as opposed to the decentralized and localized government he saw in the South with the Southern concept of the rights of the individual states. I just can't help but wonder if Lincoln's theological views contributed to his desire to get and keep the South under his thumb. Just a little food for future thought.