Torn, Troubled, and Tortured, a movie review by Barbara Castle
Lincoln, the Film
Words. If you are looking for a lot of action – this is not the film for you. However, if you are looking for an understanding of arguably one of the most complicated leaders in history – you will find hints of it from Spielberg and Goodwin. But you have to listen closely, for it is found foremost in “words.” Words that at times are not easily discernible due to cadence and dialect of the period.
Oh, there are truths to be known in deeds – for instance the lobbying tactics of the Republicans (which were nowhere near the “white as driven snow,” variety). Or, the truth that can be seen on a face or in the body language of a torn, troubled, and tortured Lincoln. Torn over his role as leader of the Union, troubled by the lawless nature of his own disregard for the Constitution, and tortured over the souls that paid the price for both the rightness and wrongness of the former.
The “tellers” of this narrative deserve the highest congratulations for sticking with the painful and God awful decisions Lincoln faced once he went down the road of perdition. Obfuscating and purposely abandoning the authority of the Constitutionbrought him the title of Benevolent Dictator. And of such abandonment he was fully aware and to the films credit, described in detail to his cabinet. Who, apparently did not have the concern for such matters of law as did Lincoln. After all, this was about political and economic power for them. For the first time in the history of the Republic, they were poised to wrest away the authority of the Southern states both in Washington and in the marketplace. They didn’t give a care about law or the Constitution. But Lincoln did – still he chose the bitter road – believing that “moral” rightness, trumps law. He wanted his cabinet to know that he was fully aware of what he was doing and the hazards associated. He opened the door for other Presidents to follow – one in which “their” morality could be justified to go around the Constitution.
America would arguably never be the same because of degradation of the Constitution. From then on, centralized government would be the lot for all political parties. States rights were trampled under foot and would not see the light of day until the 1980’s. Washington D.C. took the mantle from Lincoln and in big and small ways began the work of making disciples of the nation. And for that, I fault Lincoln.
Many of his political notions sprang from an unregenerate heart. It was well known by his closest friends that he was no friend of Christ. He refuted the deity of Jesus in legal terms in a book, which his comrades had him to burn (or he would never be elected to anything – he almost wasn’t). Unitarianism had taken hold and was dominating the Northern churches. Politics travels down stream from religion. Thus denial of the Trinity (which is truth), will always cause false notions about things such as government.
Still, because Lincoln, I believe, was God’s elect….God persevered, using him to bring judgment upon a nation as the Southerners would say, “for her great and many sins.” Not the least of which was using men as property to further economic ends. Europe’s Wilberforce had already abolished slavery through political means, even though it took 40 years. God knows that John Quincy Adams tried this route by bringing a petition to the floor every year. Yet Washington D.C. refused the mandate to make all men equal.
The torture that came to Lincoln’s heart over the war, the loss of lives, and his own losses….brought him to the only Savior that could ameliorate the depth of pain that no mere human can shoulder. The Gettysburg address was a turning point. The ground was hallowed. The writing was on the wall. The blood was on Lincoln. At last, Lincoln found Christ to be indeed the Deity – the only sufficient God to carry his load and to cleanse him of all unrighteousness.
And again, I thank Spielberg, for adding the beautiful desire of Lincoln on Good Friday, before he died, in which he expressed to Mary his hopes to go to Jerusalem to walk where his Savior walked. Those lines were good history – true history. Though Lincoln came to Christ late in his life – he planned to be baptized Easter Sunday…yet how fitting that he was offered up on Friday as a sacrifice for his country. G.K. Chesterton stated that there is only one angle at which a hero stands – and that is the angle of the cross. Lincoln was a hero – he was hero to Booker T. Washington’s mother who prayed each night that God would help Mr. Lincoln. He did.
In the end, Lincoln was the best of us and the worst of us. This film doesn’t candy coat his ability to be a politician and to let others do his dirty work. Yet, Lincoln is still not fully explainable – to me, anyway. I have his portrait in my office. I don’t like the men he surrounded himself with and at times I didn’t like him – but at the end of the film I wept and constrained myself from bellowing out in a loud cry of anguish. I loved him and I can’t always tell you why.