Abraham Lincoln: A Trailer, A Speech, and “Divine Providence”

Yes, the trailer is here. And it looks… well… huh. To me, this preview makes it look like a big sappy Spielberg movie that is reverent to a fault. It looks like it takes place in the same world as Amistad, where the themes are louder than the details, and everything is filmed so that characters look more like noble wax museum representations than living, breathing human beings.

Of course, this is just a trailer. Perhaps the film will be better than this trailer makes it look.

Since America will have Lincoln on the mind in the coming weeks, I encourage everyone to read the text of Abraham Lincoln’s amazing Second Inaugural Address. Read it out loud.

Then… and this is something you don’t want to miss…

…read “Lincoln and Divine Providence,” an essay by Ronald C. White Jr., author of The Eloquent President, which was published in Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine.

Here’s an excerpt:

The lack of attention to Lincoln’s faith has led most biographers to believe that there is not much to his religious beliefs. After all, is not Lincoln the president who never joined a church? Nearly all of his modern biographers have called him a “fatalist.” Abraham Lincoln is continually esteemed by ordinary Americans as our greatest president, but that regard does not usually extend to an appreciation of Lincoln’s engagement with a “Living God” who acts in history. Some have suggested that Lincoln’s religious language in the Second Inaugural was merely the shrewd effort of a master orator who understood well the religious sensibilities of his audience.

I call the Second Inaugural Address Lincoln’s “Sermon on the Mount.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered a new ethic rooted in humility and compassion: “blessed are those” who do not follow the way of the world — judgment — but follow the new way of grace and mercy. In the Second Inaugural, Lincoln offered a surprising ethic of judgment and reconciliation.

Lincoln considered this brief address his finest speech — “better than anything I have produced” is what he told Republican leader Thurlow Weed. In 41 days, Lincoln would be dead. As people looked back to that brisk March day, Lincoln’s words were understood as his last will and testament to the American people. But it is the religious cast of the Second Inaugural that gave it a power and authority singular in American public address.

For those who wish to be Christ’s disciples in the public places of our lives, what can we learn from Abraham Lincoln? I believe that Lincoln can become a guide, not in offering specific answers to 21st-century conflicts, but rather in offering us a model of engagement with our culture that grows from his own deep biblical and theological thinking.

First, Lincoln consistently employed inclusive language and ideas. He used the word “all” to be inclusive about the North’s and South’s responsibility for the war: “All dreaded it — all sought to avert it.” He used the inclusive word “both” to affirm the religious sensibilities of Union and Confederate soldiers: “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God.”

Eager for more? Read this review of Ronald C. White Jr.’s biography A. Lincoln.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • http://SisterRoseHomepage.com sisterrose

    I’m reading the book on which the film is based: Team of Rivals by Doris K. Goodwin. The books shows there is much to learn from this era, politics, political ambition for self and the country, rhetoric. So much is changed but so much remains the same.


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