Abraham Lincoln’s Biblical Theology of the Civil War

Responding to the public debate that flared up last month about the legacy of the civil war, Meir Soloveichik suggests paying attention to Lincoln’s second inaugural address. There the sixteenth president suggested that the suffering and bloodshed of the Civil War—on both sides—was a divine punishment for the sin of slavery:

Standing on the Capitol steps in 1865, with Union victory a certainty, one would have expected a president to celebrate the valor of his soldiers triumphantly, to rejoice in the coming end of the war and in the justice of his cause. Yet Lincoln does no such thing. Instead, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel during ancient Israel’s wars with foreign powers, he seeks to explain the designs of Providence in producing so much death and destruction. He finds the answer in what he believes is the sin of both North and South, a sin that lies in the origins of America. . . .

Lincoln’s most critical point . . . is that the compromises [that preserved both the union and southern slavery until 1861] were not to be celebrated. . . . Lincoln . . . asserts that compromise on slavery, even if it was required to create the union that he loved and fought to preserve, nevertheless implicated the country in a moral crime. America had compromised on slavery again and again; and in the wake of the war’s carnage, Lincoln came to the conclusion that in the case of slavery, America’s genius for compromise, however necessary the Founders felt it was to produce the United States, was also a source of divine wrath. And what Lincoln interprets as the resulting punishment is the tragedy at the heart of the miracle that is the American story.

But, since the war brought such an unquestionably good outcome, should it, as one liberal journalist recently contended, be seen as something other than tragic? Quite the opposite, writes Soloveichik:

We certainly should celebrate much of what the war produced: the abolition of slavery, and a renewed understanding of our identity as a nation conceived in liberty. Yet, Lincoln reminds us, the Civil War was tragic because it was a result of sin, and therefore the Union’s triumph must be marked not only with elation but also with humility.

Why have so many today forgotten Lincoln’s profound and prophetic insights? Because American society, once formed by the theological themes of the Hebrew Bible, now is in danger of losing the biblical perspective that made it unique.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Abraham Lincoln, American Civil War, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Slavery

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University