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On This Day In History: How Mourning Became Idolatry

Editor's Note: This column was written on April 14, 2015. Today marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theater in Washington, D. C. Since that time more than 16,000 books have been written about Lincoln—one for every three and a half days since his death—and so I’m not going to try to dash out anything new about Lincoln’s role in the pres ...

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License Plates And The Lost Cause: Concluding Thoughts

We’ll get back to the American Revolution in a few days, but before we head in that direction I’d like to share some concluding thoughts about the Texas license plate case recently argued before the Supreme Court. In a previous post I suggested that, whatever the constitutional merits of their case, the history promulgated by the Sons of Confederate Veterans is simply awful. The SVC’s position is that the C ...

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A Civil War Christmas Carol

One of my U. S. history students recently asked me what my favorite Christmas song was. There are many that I love, and I told him that I couldn’t possibly choose just one, but as a historian—and a specialist on the American Civil War, particularly—I have always been deeply moved by I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. In its original form it’s not heard too much these days, although several contemporary Chr ...

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A Real Life Forgiving Victim

We have finished our first week of filming and are actually ahead of schedule. James Alison has been on fire and the actors and crew have been tremendous. We are dramatizing some of the bible stories, and the effect is really great mostly because of two things. The actors are really quite good and deliver the emotional content beautifully. And the costumes by Raven Marketing Director and Jill-of-all-trades, ...

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I am Trayvon and I am George

Good people across our nation are trying to find answers to the following questions: Was Trayvon Martin’s death a racially motivated murder or something else, an act of self-defense or a tragic accident? Is George Zimmerman a racist or something else, a decent man or emotionally ill? Is President Obama’s response measured and appropriate or something else, too timid a challenge to racism or too dismissive o ...

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I’m God and I Approved This Message

Are you wondering what to make of all the God talk in today’s politics? It seems we can’t decide if we want God nosing around our political decisions and anointing candidates for us. Remember the dove that descended on Jesus at his baptism and the voice from heaven booming for all to hear, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well-pleased”? It’s as if some of today’s politicians think they have a do ...

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When Fear Takes Hold: What we can learn from the Southern defense of slavery

Why did Southern states secede from the union? Between Lincoln’s election on Nov. 6, 1860 and his inauguration on March 4, 1861 seven states seceded, giving support to the theory that the South objected strongly to Lincoln and his Republican party. But in the 150 years since the war, the debate about the cause has hardly been settled. Added to Lincoln’s election, prime contenders are tariffs, states’ rights ...

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The Civil War: Shaken Assurance

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the first shot fired in the American Civil War. It’s a difficult thing to try to make meaning out of an event of violence and brutality in which 620,000 Americans, more than 2% of the population, died from war wounds or disease. It’s more than difficult; when it comes to violence it’s dangerous because we tend to cling to meaningful things rather than let them fade away. ...

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