Monday, December 10, 2012


I feel that I should issue a "gush alert" because I'm about to wax rhapsodic about the film Lincoln. We never know whether Steven Spielberg will use his considerable talents to create something mawkish or a masterpiece -- he has done both. Lincoln is an epic Hollywood story, even though it offers an intimate portrait of the Civil War president and his family.

Daniel Day Lewis is remarkable as Lincoln, and there is a formidable cast of seasoned actors around him. Sally Field begged Spielberg to let her screen-test for the part of Lincoln's wife Mary, even though she is twenty years older than her character was at the time the story is told.

The opening scene in Lincoln is riveting as several young soldiers, two of them men of colour, speak with the president in the military field, under the cover of night. Even though they are not of any signiificant rank or station they have Lincoln's ear and recite portions of the Gettysburg address "by heart."

The story explores the weight of the mantle of leadership, including the compromises made to achieve goals. In another scene Lincoln comments that in his younger days as a surveyor is wasn't enough to look to the compass and establish true north. One also has to take into account the swamps and thickets which might  impede progress.It b ecomes apparent that the moniker of Honest Abe earned in his youth was compromised in the crucible of a war that killed three quarters of a million people. We are given a portrait of Lincoln the flawed man with a calling, not just the Mount Rushmore icon.

Lincoln is timely given the ridiculous deadlock in the current American political arena. But is also speaks to what we expect in the way of leadership in turbulent times within virtually every established institution, including the church. Do noble and worthwhile ends justify the means? How do we establish our true north, and how do we get there?  Are any and all methods, ncluding cultural kitsch in worship and promises of wealth and glory permissible to aid in sharing the Gospel?

Have you seen Lincoln? Can films point us greater truths? Do we need modern-day parables to help us examine what we value?


IanD said...

I honestly believe Lincoln to be the greatest of American presidents.

The humble nature of his youth, the desperation and ludricrous amount of personal failure he encountered leading up to his presidency, and the nature of his enlightened stance on slavery during its heyday are nothing short of miraculous. Let's not forget, too, that he was also a Republican!

He guided the United States through its darkest time and planted the seeds of the civil rights movement and accompanying legislation over 100 years later. Most historians hank Lincoln with FDR and Washington as "the big three."

All others really do pale in comparison.

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