Comments on the Deification of Abraham Lincoln

Richard N. Current in his book The Lincoln Nobody Knows, touches on the deification of Abraham Lincoln in the chapter entitled The Martyr and the Myth.  He mentions, like so many have, that Lincoln was elevated to the status of sainthood, in effect, immediately after the assassination.  Interestingly enough, he also notes that it was the ministers of that time that brought about that particular change in Lincoln’s status. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“The preachers, more than the politicians, gave impetus to the idea of a kind of sainthood in Lincoln, and the preachers continued to keep the idea fresh, while taking care not to overstep the shadowy line between hero worship and blasphemy. The analogy between Lincoln and Christ was not allowed to expire with the passing of the general hysteria his death occasioned. As late as 1922, in an analysis of Lincoln’s greatness, the dean of Yale Divinity School drew a parallel, “with the utmost reverence, “ between the life of “the greatest man of the Nineteenth Century” and the life of “the Greatest of all the Centuries.”

 

Here is what the Yale Divinity School dean wrote:

“Both were humbly born, the one in a log cabin, the other in the manger of a stable. Their fathers were carpenters. Jesus, in speaking at the Nazareth synagogue, used words that would have fit well in Lincoln’s first inaugural when He said that God had sent Him “to bind up the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and to set at liberty them that are bruised.” Lincoln, like Jesus, spoke in parables and homely sayings. Each in his own fashion had to contend with the bigoted on the one hand and the morally dull and slow on the other. Of Lincoln’s looks it might have been said as it was said of the promised Messiah: “There is no form nor comeliness in him that we should desire him.” The characteristic sadness of the wartime President is a reminder of the One who was called “A Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

 

He goes on to say;

“As if these similarities were not enough, there is that final and conclusive parallel, the one so widely noted on Black Easter of 1865. Lincoln went to his fatal rendezvous on the anniversary of the day that Christ had gone to the cross.”

 

These kinds of sentiments were expressed in sermons and writings in religious communities everywhere for decades following the death of Lincoln. Of course, Lincoln would not have liked it. He once told a newly liberated slave not to kneel to him but to thank God for the new freedom to be enjoyed. Amen.

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