. . . you can believe almost anything.
Struck down on Good Friday, Lincoln, like Jesus, was viewed as a martyr who shed his blood and offered a redeeming sacrifice. Orators, editors, ministers, and statesmen across the North exalted Lincoln as the “savior of his country,” and sermons two days later on “Black Easter” and subsequent Sundays frequently compared Lincoln with Washington and Jesus. While Washington was the nation’s founder and father, ministers averred, Lincoln was its restorer and redeemer. While Christ died so that people could enjoy heaven, Lincoln died so they could have a better life on earth.
In making Lincoln the nation’s redeemer, ministers had to surmount two major difficulties: first, that he was fatally shot in a theater, an embarrassingly unsanctified place for a savior during the Victorian era. The clergy rationalized his attendance at Ford Theater, arguing that he had gone reluctantly to please his wife and gratify others.
The second, larger difficulty these pastors encountered was that Lincoln had never explicitly testified to his faith in Christ. While some pastors bitterly regretted that he did not publicly profess faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord, others countered that his actions demonstrated his faith or that he had accepted Christ as his savior in response to his son Willie’s death in 1862, or at Gettysburg in 1863, or at some other unknown time.
In their funeral sermons at Washington and Springfield respectively, the two ministers who knew Lincoln best—Phineas Gurley, the pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, which Lincoln regularly attended, and Methodist Bishop Matthew Simpson—said little about his personal faith. Gurley stressed that he had an “abiding confidence in the overruling providence of God.” Simpson emphasized that the president had “read the Bible frequently, loved . . . its profound teachings,” and sought to follow its precepts. He also claimed that Lincoln had sincerely striven to live by “the principles of revealed religion” and that no other ruler had shown as much “trust in God.”
To repeat, if Lincoln why not Obama?