This is a thank you note to Mr. Stone of North Carolina and a few other gentlemen who took the time to write in response to yesterday’s blog post regarding the recent Glenn Beck rally in Washington. They rightly point out that Abraham Lincoln spoke of God hauntingly in his last speech shortly before he died, the incomparable Second Inaugural Address.
Indeed. Lincoln was not much of a churchgoer but he had a deep understanding of God, which he discussed more than ever before in public in the closing days of the war. He believed God's will was revealed along the way of the war, with no easy answers from earthly agents. As a great reader, Lincoln knew both the Old and New Testaments chapter and verse, which influenced his thought. But he did not speak of religion for religion's sake. Lincoln was a humanist, a secular thinker who developed his idea of God to examine heartrending and perplexing dilemmas here on earth. He wanted us to be a more perfect democracy, not a Christian theocracy, and so he ceded no authority to specific denominations in speaking of Divine Providence. Even Martin Luther King Jr. preached his dreamlike speech in a secular spirit--as a response to racial strife down below. He was not appealing to God but to our common humanity during the March for Jobs and Freedom, pressing problems here on earth. That is why King's evocative language, of social justice and harmony, hit all the right notes in the right place.