Lincoln grew into an intensely religious man, although we rarely hear him described in those terms nowadays. His religious faith became fundamental to his thinking and decision-making during the Civil War; we rarely hear that either. When he assumed the enormous burden of the presidency with war approaching, his faith grew deeper. When his beloved young son Willie died in early 1862, it deepened again—and seemed to continue growing deeper until his death. In the end Lincoln should almost certainly be remembered as the most important religious figure America has ever produced. I don’t mean he was a theologian. But Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah weren’t theologians either.
– David Gelernter, The Fourth Great Western Religion
In the beginning of his book, David Gelernter asks what it means to “believe” in America. He believes that the Puritans used their religion to plant the seeds for faith-based ideals such as liberty, equality and democratic governance.
More than ever, the performance of Abraham Lincoln has come up for criticism. In terms of actions he made that defied federal law, he believed that the times demanded these decisions. He was also a deeply religious man, enduring many losses both personal and political, and although people have questioned his Christianity (because he was not a regular church-goer), he relied on his faith and especially the Old Testament to guide him.
How well do we live our faiths, even when we embrace them? How often are we called to compromise our ideals? How well do we resist those pressures?