Fear of Judging


As we look forward to Charles Irons’s spectacular new work on the origins of proslavery ideology, The Origins of Proslavery Christianity, I wanted to mention that one of my San Diego religious history colleagues published a book on religion and antislavery last year. Ryan Jordan, who holds a PhD from Princeton, published Slavery and the Meeting House: The Quakers and the Abolitionist Dilemma, 1820-1865. Taken together, the works of Irons and Jordan remind me of Abraham Lincoln’s insightful remark during his Second Inaugural Address in March, 1865: “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged.”

Revisiting these words by Lincoln, particularly the ones about not judging, reminded me of the recent death of President Gerald Ford, how he was lauded for pardoning Nixon. Did Lincoln add to the penchant in American politics to avoid judgment and justice when it comes to wrongdoing rather than confronting it? Is this why we had to wait until 2006 for a “moral history” of the Civil War by Harry S. Stout? And now, back to my own fear of judging -- grading papers!


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