THE BETTER ANGELS

3 Stars – Thought Provoking

Abraham Lincoln is an American icon and one of the most beloved persons in American history.  His oversized presence in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC is a tribute to the immense impact he had on saving the United States as we know it today.  But what gave him the courage and presence of mind to be the right person at the right time in our nation’s history?

The Better Angels in young Lincoln’s life were his mother and stepmother, both of whom instilled in him a remarkable sense of confidence and a deep and abiding faith in God.  This story focuses on his life as a young boy about to become a man in 1817, living in a log cabin in the Indiana wilderness. 

To say that life for young Abe was void of intellectual stimulation would be an understatement.  Few people even lived near where his family survived on a subsistence farm.  His parents were uneducated and unable to read.  Outside of working the fields from sun up to sun down, there was little to talk about.  Mealtimes were not filled with conversations about how your day went.  Abe was among the first in his family to go to school and the only book available to people in rural Indiana was the Bible.  But within its pages was magnificent prose and a wealth of moral and ethical teaching that shaped how Lincoln saw the world, how he reacted to it, and the source of inner strength to whom he turned when adversity arose.

Watching The Better Angels can be tedious as the film gives you a sense of the tedium of everyday life in 1817 rural America.  But with much of the same experiences that you would find in a monastery, daily silence gave birth to great insight and a depth of understanding.  Through it all, his stepmother, and his mother before her death, gave him love and support in a way that invaded his soul.

The story is told from the perspective of Lincoln’s cousin who lived with Abe’s family.  Although this story takes place almost entirely in 1817, the end of the story flashes forward to April, 1865 when President Lincoln was assassinated.  It fell to Lincoln’s cousin to travel back to the log cabin that was still in the rural woods of Indiana to tell his stepmother that Abe was no longer with us.  We don’t know how she reacted to the tragic news, but we do know that the saving of this nation was due in no small part to the whispered words of love and compassion that came from these better angels whose faith and Godly nature was made manifest in the life of one of our most treasured and inspiring Presidents.

Discussion for those who have seen the film:

  1. As you look back at your own childhood, who provided you with a supportive foundation that made you who you are today?  How are you providing the same to others?
  2. Immersed in the Bible’s teachings, President Lincoln approached life with a Biblical worldview.  How different do you think our nation would be if he had not had that biblical foundation?
  3. It is difficult to know all that goes into the making of a mature person.  It is not only the advantages but often the disadvantages that have far more impact.  How do you think the rural subsistence life was an advantage to President Lincoln?
  4. In modern life we often do not “have the time to think.”  What do you expect will be the type of person who doesn’t have time to think through the great questions of life?

 

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Posted on November 17, 2014 and filed under 3 STARS, THOUGHT-PROVOKING.