Where and when
Lincoln’s Sacred Effort examines Lincoln’s speeches and writings to determine the role religion should play in a republic.
Professor Lucas Morel shows that Lincoln understood the virtue and vice religion lends to American self-government.
Lincoln appealed to religion as a support for civil government, but he also moderated its influence to prevent a political fanaticism that could undermine public deliberation.
In addition, he recognized that just as religion could pose a problem for government, government could pose a problem for religion. By accommodating the religious expression of the American people, including rebellious Southerners, Lincoln demonstrated that government exists for the sake of the people, and not the people—and hence their religion—for the sake of the government.
Professor Morel concludes by interpreting Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address as both a rational and religious attempt to unite a nation divided in its rational religious approach to the problem of slavery and the meaning of human equality.
Lucas E. Morel is assistant professor of politics at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He previously taught at John Brown University, the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville), and Azusa Pacific University. Dr. Morel holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Claremont Graduate School and is the author of Lincoln’s Sacred Effort: Defining Religion’s Role in American Self-Government. As an adjunct fellow of the Ashbrook Center, he writes a monthly op-ed on American current affairs. He is also a contributing editor to Books and Culture: A Christian Review and Religion & Liberty magazine. His articles have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, First Things, and the Columbus Dispatch, and he has been a guest commentator for New Hampshire Public Radio and CNN’s TalkBack Live.