Arminian Today

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Brief Thoughts on the Lincoln Movie and Abortion Rights

I am a bit late comer to the movie Lincoln by Steve Spielberg.  The movie is based loosely upon the book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Goodwin.  The book highlights how Lincoln surrounded himself with men who were not like him, men who often believed differently than he did over issues.  Goodwin makes the point that President Lincoln did this to give him men who would not be “yes” men but would challenge his thinking over key issues regarding his own leadership and decisions as well as how to lead the nation once the Civil War ended.  This is clearly seen in the movie as Lincoln and his advisors wrestle with the issue regarding the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution that would abolish slavery.

Overall the movie does a great job of showing the political and moral issues facing Lincoln at this time.  At one point, Lincoln tells his advisors that while he felt he was right to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, he felt that this would not stand the test of the Supreme Court once the Southern states ended their rebellion.  He felt that the Congress needed to act while the South was in rebellion in order to pass the 13th Amendment.  Lincoln feared the Court would overturn the Emancipation and the South would vote against the 13th Amendment.  He was correct in this view.  It is an interesting dialogue.

The problems I had with the movie are: the language.  The movie used several profanities.  While it may be historically true that curse words were used around Lincoln and by him at times, nonetheless Union officers were ordered not to use profanity and were subject to court-martial for using profanity.  Why then would Lincoln approve of profane language when he himself ordered his own military men to not use profanity lest they face trial?  Hollywood tends to add or delete things that they want in a historical context and so they had to add several curse words that blasphemed God and brought shame to His name.

I did appreciate the struggle that the movie presented with Lincoln and his staff regarding the issue of abolition.  Lincoln stated that the Emancipation had released slaves only in the rebellious states (the CSA).  He knew that after the war, the Southern states would want their “property” returned to them and Lincoln had issued the Emancipation using his war powers in which he stated that slaves and all other property were now to be confiscated by the Union since the South was at war with the North.  He knew that this was in excess of his powers as President and he knew the Supreme Court would likely side with the South over the issue of their property being returned once the Civil War ended.  It was imperative then that the 13th Amendment be passed by the free States before the South came back into the Union.  This movie shows that struggle.

While I am not convinced entirely of the historical accuracy of the film, I do think that the movie captures an important moment in American history.  I am convinced the Civil War was largely an unnecessary war in the sense that slavery would have likely ended without bloodshed.  Thousands upon thousands died in the Civil War and this fact cannot be ignored.  Being a southerner, I am not convinced that the South was fighting entirely for slavery (although that was an issue).  I believe the South would have likely struggled even without the Civil War.  The United States would have grown into the West with the West going free and the South would have been forced into a small corner.  To trade with the Europeans, the South would have faced political pressure to abolish slavery.  Even the Confederate Constitution stated the following in Section 9:

The importation of negroes of the African race, from any foreign country, other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same.

While it did not abolish slavery in the South, it was making sure that it did not spread.  The next section states:

Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of, or Territory not belonging to, this Confederacy.

In other words, slavery would end.  I am not convinced a war needed that to happen.  Nonetheless, Southern views regarding Africans needed to change.  CSA President Jefferson Davis stated about the African race:

“My own convictions as to negro slavery are strong. It has its evils and abuses…We recognize the negro as God and God’s Book and God’s Laws, in nature, tell us to recognize him – our inferior, fitted expressly for servitude…You cannot transform the negro into anything one-tenth as useful or as good as what slavery enables them to be.”

Davis even quoted from the Bible to back up his views regarding the issue of slavery:

“[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.”

Such views were the failure of Bible teachers to truly proclaim the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15) and acknowledge Galatians 3:25-29.  Godly abolitionists fought to get the Church to stand up against slavery and many in the South did not.  Just as many in the modern abolition movement are calling the Church to preach the truth about the unborn humans who are being denied their right to life just as the slaves were in the 19th century in the United States.  We must remember that the Southern plantation owner said that his Africans were not humans but his property.  They had no rights.  Is this not what we hear from the modern pro-abortion folks who claim that the Government has no right to touch their bodies, the unborn have no rights and are property of that woman?  We who oppose abortion must use the same arguments against abortion that slave abolitionists used in fighting the lies of pro-slavery people.  God help us.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/05/2013 at 8:04 PM

4 Responses

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  1. Thanks for sharing this. Another issue that southern states had with the north was the oppressive tariffs that favored the north and hurt the south. John C Calhoun from South Carolina opposed them and wrote the tariff of abominations in 1828 to nullify unconstitutional laws. Lincoln did not care about the slaves but used the issue as a way to weaken the south and expand the federal government’s power. I would encourage anyone interested in history to do an independent study to learn the truth about our 16th president. I would recommend “The Real Lincoln” by Thomas Dilorenzo.

    Joshua Cook

    02/05/2013 at 10:24 PM

  2. While it is true that slavery would have eventually fizzled out without the civil war, I don’t think that reunification would have happened, and Lincoln always stated that the preservation of the union was his highest priority. Using the war to free the slaves then was both oppurtunistic and strategic

    Martin Glynn

    02/09/2013 at 7:02 AM

    • I think reunification would have happened in time. Just as East Germany and West Germany came back together, the USA and the CSA, in my estimation, would have reunited. Perhaps the World War would have forced this but economics would have as well. We can only speculate of course.


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