Thursday, May 19, 2011

Russell Kirk on the faith of Washington and Lincoln

A little bit off topic because it deals with Abraham Lincoln as well as George Washington, but I thought it was worth sharing:
Once I heard a popular speaker declare that what modern America needs is “old-fashioned religion, the sort of religion that Washington and Lincoln had.” Now that would be a most imperfect sort of religion: for Washington’s eighteenth-century conformity was scarcely more than moralism, and Lincoln was a Christian only in the vaguest of senses, if a Christian at all. Every American president employs the phrases of Christian piety; but very few presidents have been conspicuously devout. Lincoln began as a naive sceptic; he received next to no religious instruction of any description; solitary reading of the Bible gave majesty to his mind and his style, but never brought to him any faith less cloudy and austere than a solemn theism. Yet there have been few Americans more thoroughly graced with the theological virtues, charity most of all. The New Testament shines out from his acts of mercy, and the Old from his direction of the war. 
From The Measure of Abraham Lincoln by Russell Kirk, originally published in The Month, vol. 2 (April 1954), pgs. 197-206.

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