Abraham Lincoln’s Religious Mind

Reviewing And There Was Light, Jon Meachem’s new biography of the sixteenth president, Andrew F. Lang examines the unique political theology that animated so much of Lincoln’s thinking. Nowhere is this theology more apparent than in Lincoln’s second inaugural address:

On that day in March 1865, Lincoln asked his fellow citizens to consider why God wrung American blood to affect His holy will in accounting for the nation’s collective sin of slavery. His query embodied a lifetime of introspection into the mysteries of providence, the consequence of time, and the enduring battle between good and evil.

As a young man, Lincoln struggled with questions of divine will. He nevertheless sensed the world gripped in a supernatural struggle between virtue and malice. To what extent did God mediate this eternal dispute? Lincoln did not know. But as he matured, particularly when he engaged in the national debates over slavery during the 1850s, Lincoln came to see history not as an arbitrary or random process. The world was rather “defined by a moral drama” in which God furnished His people with clues and a compassionate soul to discern His will. When God’s children ignored or cursed His holy designs, they confronted an inevitable punishment foretold in the Old Testament. For Lincoln, perpetuating American slavery beckoned the Lord’s wrath.

Meacham thrives in surveying Lincoln’s swift evolution into seeing the Civil War not merely as a political crisis, but as a spiritual battle that engulfed Americans and their divine Maker. How did Lincoln arrive at this mystic proposition? He committed his presidency to untangling why God acted “in a specific place and a specific time—in the United States of America in the mid-19th-century” to impart a prophetic message about the dignity of all individuals.

Read more at Law and Liberty

More about: Abraham Lincoln, American Civil War, American Religion, Religion and politics

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas