It never ceases to amuse – if not infuriate – how often atheists claim as one of their own much-revered historic figures who happen to make the news for some reason or another.
So it was when Neil Armstrong went to be with the Lord this past August.
So it was when Albert Einstein’s so-called “God Letter” went on auction last month.
And so it is now with Abraham Lincoln.
The nation’s 16th president is the subject of a new motion picture, helmed by Stephen Spielberg, the Oscar-winning director, with the screenplay penned by Tony Kushner, the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner.
The Great Emancipator also is the subject of a new book, “Lincoln’s Battle with God: A President’s Struggle with Faith and What it Meant for America,” authored by Stephen Mansfield, who has previously produced several New York Times best-sellers.
If you check out some of the atheist web sites, with names like Atheist Empire and Positive Atheists, they insist that Lincoln was a non-believer, a “freethinker.” And to support their contention, they trot out second-hand quotes attributed to the rail-splitter.
“The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession,” Joseph Lewis, claims Lincoln said.
“The unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures have become clearer and stronger with advancing years, and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them,” Lincoln reputedly wrote to Judge J.S. Wakefield.
Now I do not rule out entirely that Lincoln may have spoken or written those words at some point in his life, although there is no hard evidence to that effect. Nor do I rule out the possibility that Lincoln struggled with his faith at some point in his life, as many of us have.
But I am absolutely convinced the great president, who saved the Republic following the Civil War, died a true believer.
Otherwise, he couldn’t have written the spirit-filled words he spoke in his second inaugural address, which followed Civil War, and which Lincoln delivered one month before his assassination:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Mansfield, the author, writes, “The truth is that Lincoln was, in fact, a religious pilgrim.” I take that to mean that, as a young man, the future president was a religious skeptic, but grew strong over time in his walk with God.
He may even have been like Saul of Tarsus, who actually denounced Christians before being struck blind on the road to Damascus; who was transformed into the Apostle Paul, a servant of Christ.
Interestingly, Kushner, the scriptwriter, who actually describes himself as “an agnostic,” said that working on the Lincoln movie led him to believe that a higher power must have been involved in Lincoln’s life.
“Every once in a while,” said Kushner, “in politics and history, you get this sneaky feeling that somebody shows up at a historical moment when they’re really needed…
It’s eerie that they show up out of nowhere: They seem to be the perfect person for the task, like somebody must be designing this. And there’s no example like this in American history as great as Lincoln showing up when he did.”
Kushner is right. Abraham Lincoln was the perfect person for the task set before him. And I believe the scriptwriter’s suspicions also were right. That the nation’s 16th president did not show up on the scene by accident of history.
There was, indeed, somebody designing that. And that somebody was God Almighty.