Why I Don't Celebrate Abraham Lincoln's Birthday

Paul Dean
Paul Dean
2014 12 Feb

Let’s be clear: I hate slavery and racism because God hates slavery and racism. The bible is clear that all human beings are created in God’s image and have essential dignity. That’s why any Christian who is pro-life must also be anti-racism. Just as murder is an attack on God Himself so too is racism (Gen. 9:6).

So why do I not celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday? It’s because he was neither pro-life nor anti-racism.

The fact that Lincoln was a racist and a champion of slavery and the rights of slave owners is well documented in numerous sources. Walter Williams writes:

In an 1858 letter, Lincoln said, "I have declared a thousand times, and now repeat that, in my opinion neither the General Government, nor any other power outside of the slave states, can constitutionally or rightfully interfere with slaves or slavery where it already exists." In a Springfield, Ill., speech, he explained, "My declarations upon this subject of negro slavery may be misrepresented, but cannot be misunderstood. I have said that I do not understand the Declaration (of Independence) to mean that all men were created equal in all respects."

Further, Lincoln himself acknowledged that the Emancipation Proclamation was nothing more than a political gimmick he used as a wartime maneuver. He had no real care for slaves or their rights as human beings. For example, in his fourth debate with Stephen Douglas in 1858 Lincoln said,

I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people. And I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. … And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.  

If I were African-American I would certainly celebrate the end of chattel slavery but I wouldn’t celebrate or honor such a hypocrite as Lincoln and perpetuate the lie that he was a real friend to African-Americans; he wasn’t – and some don’t.

Lincoln was no lover of liberty – or life. In a recent post Thomas DiLorenzo, author of The Real Lincoln, reminds us of some halting facts that point to that reality:

Lincoln mythology is the ideological cornerstone of American statism. He was in reality the most hated of all American presidents during his lifetime according to an excellent book by historian Larry Tagg entitled The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: America’s Most Reviled President. He was so hated in the North that the New York Times editorialized a wish that he would be assassinated. This is perfectly understandable: He illegally suspended Habeas Corpus and imprisoned tens of thousands of Northern political critics without due process; shut down over 300 opposition newspapers; committed treason by invading the Southern states (Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution defines treason as “only levying war upon the states” or “giving aid and comfort to their enemies,” which of course is exactly what Lincoln did). He enforced military conscription with the murder of hundreds of New York City draft protesters in 1863 and with the mass execution of deserters from his army. He deported a congressional critic (Democratic Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Ohio); confiscated firearms; and issued an arrest warrant for the Chief Justice when the jurist issued an opinion that only Congress could legally suspend Habeas Corpus. He waged an unnecessary war (all other countries ended slavery peacefully in that century) that resulted in the death of as many as 850,000 Americans according to new research published in the last two years. Standardizing for today’s population, that would be similar to 8.5 million American deaths in a four-year war.

God hates the idol of statism as much as He hates any other idol.

The issue here is not the South nor are we re-fighting the civil war. The issues for the Christian are the same as always: the truth; the good of others; and the glory of God. When we are ignorant of history and the ideas that shape it we can only suffer. Liberty and justice for all is rooted in and can only be sustained long-term on a biblical worldview. All other worldviews ultimately lead to oppression. Lincoln had no concept of liberty and justice for all despite his hollow rhetoric to the contrary. He was the consummate statist and fought a war for the centralization of state power. 850,000 lives weren’t lost because Lincoln wanted to free those he believed to be inferior to whites and therefore didn’t deserve equality. No, he was fighting a war that had raged since our nation’s founding: the war between those who favored state power and those who favored limited government in order to preserve liberty. The difference is that he fought it with real guns and 850,000 “fellow Americans” paid the price.

Yes, slavery should have ended and we celebrate the fact that it did. But we can’t celebrate the inexorably increasing loss of liberty Lincoln’s ideas and actions have brought about. We can’t celebrate the victory of statism and one of its champions. It’s not only a rival to liberty and justice for all but a rival to God Himself and indeed His kingdom (Dan. 2:44).

So no, I won’t be celebrating Lincoln’s birthday.

Check out Dr. Dean’s new e-book “Naked and Unashamed: Liberating Sex from Cultural Captivity” at True Worldview. You’ll find other helpful resources there as well. Follow him on Twitter: @pauldeanjr.