Did Abraham Lincoln really believe in Jesus?
Perhaps the biggest question I’ve ever had about a remarkable president, Abraham Lincoln, centers around his faith. Or lack of faith. Who really knows what America’s “Father Abraham” thought about God?
Stephen Mansfield does. The great biographer has produced a wonderful new work, “Lincoln’s Battle With God,” in which he sheds important light on what role faith played in Lincoln’s stay in the White House.
Lincoln, a figure still shrouded in some mystery – as iconic persons should be – was at times anti-religion, even anti-God. Yet a ghastly war and the deaths of two young sons forced him to consider unearthly realities.
It is against this backdrop that Mansfield opens “Lincoln’s Battle With God.” He includes a completely fascinating legend that is evidently something more than legend.
It seems that as the Lincolns were watching a play at Ford’s Theatre on Good Friday, 1865 – on the cusp of a war victory for the ages – the lanky former lawyer leaned toward his wife and expressed an interest in visiting the Holy Land, Jerusalem in particular, upon their retirement from politics.
Then John Wilkes Booth fired.
Mansfield acknowledges that the story is considered to be apocryphal by many scholars.
One who would know recounted the final conversation to a minister in 1882, and that one was Mary Todd Lincoln.
Such are the gripping stories and vignettes that make up this amazing book.
Those who knew Lincoln referred to him as a “shut-mouthed man,” meaning, he was not forthcoming about personal details. However, he once related to a friend the impact his mother’s influence had had on him. She had died when Abe was a boy, but he remembered her still. Nancy was an intellectual (though poor) and recounted Bible stories while the family worked.
As Lincoln grew up, he also recognized another trait from his mother: depression. No doubt this colored his outlook on religion, and this difficulty was to follow him all his days.
During a congressional race in 1846, Lincoln revealed some inner thought, in a letter to a friend: “At the time you refer to, I was having serious questionings about some portions of my former implicit faith in the Bible. The influences that drew me into such doubts were strong ones, men having the widest culture and strongest minds of any I had known up to that time.”
In other words, as a young man, Lincoln was afflicted with the same terrible dilemma presented to today’s generation of Millennials: skeptics of the faith gaining influence with young minds.
He went on to write in the letter…………….