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Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
10-12-2015, 08:57 AM (This post was last modified: 10-12-2015 08:25 PM by Gene C.)
Post: #1
Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
This must be a difficult subject to write about because if you think Lincoln was a great and good person, you want him to have the same or very similar views about religion that we have. You see that approach in many of his biographies that touch on this subject. That's OK if you acknowledge it, but in my opinion Mr. Burkhimer falls into the same pattern in sections of his book.

Michael Burkmimer does a good job of showing how Lincoln's religious beliefs developed over his life
Herndon's comments about this aspect of Lincoln's life make this a challenge as many people have not, and do not want to agree with what Herndon said and wrote. Burkhimer deals with this by quoting several people who were close to Lincoln, especially during the White House years. He quotes from a letter by William Stoddard who worked in the White House as an assistant secretary. Stoddard who in a letter dated 1870 "acknowledges Lincoln may have been skeptical as a youth but insist the Lincoln Herndon knew was not the Lincoln of the White House." Stoddard is interesting because "He was also invaluable for the White House staff, not least because he was one of the few people that could get along with the President's wife"

I do feel this book has two significant short comings in two of the six chapters. The chapter on Lincoln's second inaugural speech lacked much depth and he spends almost an entire chapter on Lincoln and the "Q Theory" of the gospels. Q is a hypothetical first century text on the life of Christ that some more liberal biblical scholars believe is the basis of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Unlike the books of the New Testament, No copy of Q has ever been found. Burkhimer spends to much attention on Lincoln and the non-existing Q text, and it is doubtful Lincoln had ever heard of the "Q Theory"

For these reasons, I do not highly recommend this book.

Written in 2007, the book has about 150 pages, with lots of footnotes.
http://www.amazon.com/Lincolns-Christian...286&sr=1-1

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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10-12-2015, 12:55 PM
Post: #2
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Nice review Gene. Thanks!

Bill Nash
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10-13-2015, 07:27 PM
Post: #3
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Thanks, Gene - very helpful as usual.

I have a question on the topic and would like to ask forum members for their thoughts as well as if this book has any to offer.
In a Lincoln bio I read the statement that it's difficult to determine whether a part (not the entirety) of Abraham Lincoln's increasingly notable "religiousness" during the presidency also was to explicitly "address" certain voters (German immigrants and Protestants).
What do think???
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10-13-2015, 08:04 PM
Post: #4
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
My opinion....
I do not recall this book addressing your question.
and...
I do not believe Lincoln uses bible passages and "religiousness" to appeal to certain classes of voters. He wants to appeal to all voters, even those in the south. In what may have been his most "religious" speech, the second inaugural address, was made after he was re-elected. The use of biblical references gives a higher authority and reason/justification for change he feels need to be made, an authority higher than the president or government. It adds reason and purpose to the large loss of life as a result of the war. I think Lincoln sincerely believed he was a tool God was using to bring about the end of slavery

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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10-18-2015, 05:29 PM
Post: #5
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
(10-13-2015 08:04 PM)Gene C Wrote:  My opinion....
I do not recall this book addressing your question.
and...
I do not believe Lincoln uses bible passages and "religiousness" to appeal to certain classes of voters. He wants to appeal to all voters, even those in the south. In what may have been his most "religious" speech, the second inaugural address, was made after he was re-elected. The use of biblical references gives a higher authority and reason/justification for change he feels need to be made, an authority higher than the president or government. It adds reason and purpose to the large loss of life as a result of the war. I think Lincoln sincerely believed he was a tool God was using to bring about the end of slavery

Agree totally with your answer Gene- well said.
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10-20-2015, 01:49 AM
Post: #6
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
It sounds like an interesting book. I have come across references that Lincoln was called The Comforter or The Christian's Comforter. Or at least
he was written up in a series which became a book by that name. And I think there is a bible mention of the comforter of Christians. Undoubtedly he had read that passage, though I don't know if Lincoln mentioned it in any of his writings. I wonder if Rev Beecher or his sister may have later applied that name to Lincoln. It gives every indication to me of him being a stalwart Christian.
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10-20-2015, 05:01 AM
Post: #7
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Welcome to the forum, maharba! I do not have the book, but you are definitely correct - there is a rare book titled Lincoln the comforter: together with a story of Lincoln's first pet, and a narrative by Captain Gilbert J. Greene. I believe it was privately printed with only 200 copies. McClure's Magazine also carried the text.

The text can be read here.

From the Mr. Lincoln and Friends website:

Springfield printer Gilbert J. Greene recalled accompanying Mr. Lincoln in the late 1850s into the country to help a dying woman write her will. Greene remarked on the sympathy and compassion and religious comfort Mr. Lincoln brought the woman - including reading the 23rd Psalm and a portion of the Gospel of John to her. He concluded with a recitation of the words of "Rock of Ages." Greene said that "While Lincoln was reciting the last stanza a look of peace and resignation lit up the countenance of the dying woman. In a few minutes more she passed away." On the somber way back to Springfield, Greene said: "Mr. Lincoln, I have been thinking that is very extraordinary that you should so perfectly have acted as pastor as well as attorney." Mr. Lincoln paused and replied: "God, and Eternity, and Heaven were very near to me to-day."

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10-20-2015, 10:24 AM
Post: #8
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Thanks Roger, I have been curious about the source of the 1st pet story.
How reliable a source is Gilbert Green considered?

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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10-20-2015, 10:43 AM
Post: #9
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Gene, in their book the Fehrenbachers only carry one quote/story by Gilbert Greene, and they give it a "D."

"D" = "A quotation about whose authenticity there is more than average doubt."
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10-20-2015, 12:09 PM
Post: #10
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Roger,

Your mention of McClure's Magazine piqued my interest to see if Tarbell had any dealings with Greene or Charles T. White. Looking through her papers there was nothing from either. Then it dawned on me that the article wasn't published in McClure's until 1922. By then, Tarbell was long gone and Samuel McClure was only a name on the masthead, having sold the magazine in 1911 to help pay debts. Sadly, even if Tarbell had any association with Greene or White while she was on the magazine's staff, it could be lost to history given that when McClure's moved offices in 1917, much of their Lincoln-related correspondence was destroyed. It would be interesting to know more given that one of the essays in my book deals with how Tarbell's religious views influenced her study of Lincoln's.

Best
Rob

Abraham Lincoln in the only man, dead or alive, with whom I could have spent five years without one hour of boredom.
--Ida M. Tarbell

I want the respect of intelligent men, but I will choose for myself the intelligent.
--Carl Sandburg
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10-20-2015, 12:49 PM
Post: #11
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
That sounds interesting, Rob. Thank you for posting and letting us know.

Gene, my best guess (and it is indeed a guess) is that the story of the pet pig (with which Lincoln allegedly taught tricks and played hide and seek) is apocryphal. The story is also carried in Lincoln Talks by Emanuel Hertz; Hertz gives his source as Frederick C. Igelhart's The Speaking Oak. I do not have The Speaking Oak, so I don't know Igelhart's source.

I do know that certain Lincoln experts expressed skepticism when it comes to some of the stories Hertz used in his writings.
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10-24-2015, 07:09 PM
Post: #12
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
I clicked to try and find more on Gilbert Jay Greene. And how he knew Lincoln in Springfield, seemingly as a child or young man working as a 'printers apprentice'. I see mention of that by Gilbert or some biographer in footnoting, but can't corroborate with other records. Instead, it shows Gilbert in every census in NY state: born, married, in 1850 and 1860 census and dying 1906 in NY state. The census never shows him working as a printer, but as a railroad worker. Maybe a conductor one year, a ticket agent next census. Gilbert J. Greene apparently joined a NY regiment
1861, served 3 or 4 months as it was begun, then possibly petitioned Abraham Lincoln for an appointment. Was appointed a Collector or station manager ? during the war. The only Illinois reference I see for Gilbert is that one of his sons Gilbert F. Greene was born 1859 in far northern Illinois, Winnebago county, and not near Springfield. I'll guess that say 1854, Gilbert's father died and he 'went west with an
uncle or aunt' and in the time period 1854-1858 was working as a youth in a print
shop in or near Springfield IL. And there met Lincoln who was traveling the law circuit. Then moving to northern IL and immediately returning to NY there in the 1860 census. But this wouldn't correlate with his speeches and of 'being a lifelong friend of Abraham Lincoln'.
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10-25-2015, 06:01 AM
Post: #13
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
IMO the stories of Gilbert J. Greene are apocryphal. Among other things he maintains he walked the entire length of Illinois in the winter of 1850-1851. I really doubt his friendship with Abraham Lincoln. Offhand I cannot think of a single reliable Lincoln biography than even mentions this man.
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10-25-2015, 02:15 PM
Post: #14
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Maharba, referring to your post #6, how would you define a "stalwart Christian"?!

Mary's assessment (to Herndon in Sept.1866) was as follows:

"...he said — 'I shall rule myself — shall obey my own Conscience and follow God in it.' Mr Lincoln had no hope & no faith in the usual acceptation of those words: he never joined a Church: he was a religious man always, as I think: he first thought — to say think — about this subject was when Willie died — never before. he felt religious More than Ever about the time he went to Gettysburg: he was not a technical Christian: he read the bible a good deal about 1864."

Gene, what is Burkhimer's opinion on this?
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10-25-2015, 03:49 PM
Post: #15
RE: Lincoln's Christianity by Michael Burkhimer
Burkimer' questions Mary's statement, an opinion which I agree with. Mary was misquoted, taken out of context, or misunderstood Herndon's question. Lincoln obviously thought about God and religion before Willie's death.

Much of the difficulty in studying Lincoln's views on religion; many of the religious figures of his day that knew him and talked with him want to believe, and want others to believe, that it was their influence/instruction that was influential to his progress in his Christian beliefs.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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