The Gospel That Nobody Knows

“Out of the sacred space the sacred text would grow,” says Mr. Boritt.  He’s right; those of us who grew up as Yankees know in our bones that our country is sacred ground.  I took my wife to Gettysburg on our honeymoon.  My uncle Joe (a federal judge appointed by Eisenhower) made a pilgrimage there almost every year and took delight in correcting the guides.  I grew up in a little Finger Lakes town where, every Memorial Day, the president of our senior class recited the Gettysburg Address in the cemetery where dozens of our Civil War veterans rest in peace.

That said, I remember a graduate-school classmate telling me about his interview with a CIA psychiatrist who accused him, “You are ambivalent about the Soviet Union.”  Well, I’m ambivalent about Abraham Lincoln.  Almost nobody is ambivalent about Father Abraham.

Gabor Boritt is a good historian, which means that he tries to tell the truth from the record that presents itself in the sources we have available, adding in an informed imagination based on many years of reading and teaching and thinking about things that are, in the end, mysteries.  Mr. Boritt is also a gentleman.  He is respectful of the people he writes about, a careful guardian of their integrities, yet not afraid to reveal untruths where he finds them.  For example, he doesn’t for a minute portray Lincoln as a Christian;...

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