February 13, 2009
No church for Lincoln
Yesterday was Abraham Lincoln's 200the birthday, which got some press here in Illinois—mainly in the newspaper book section, as several historians makred the occasion with new tomes.
I read one of these Sunday, a review of Adam Gopnik's Angels and Ages, tracing the parallel lives of Lincoln and Charles Darwin who both were born Feb. 12, 1809. I was stopped in my perusal by this paragraph, a quote from Lincoln when he was attacked—in 1846 while running for Congress—for being a heathen:
"That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures: and I have never spoke with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular."
That was it. End of public discussion. Now compare this with the seemingly endless inquiries into the faith life and congregational affiliations of candidates for public office in the 2008 election. Makes me ask, Could Lincoln have been elected President in 2008?
It's all just a bit ironic to me, remembering my public grade-school days here in Illinois in the 1950s. We gave a nod to George Washington as "Father of Our Country," but it was Lincoln we loved. We carefully cut his craggy silhouette out of black construction paper and memorized the Gettysburg Address. We lived in the "Land of Lincoln" and were proud of it. He was our patriot. Our saint. But we never questioned his faith.