I grew up in the Land of Lincoln, which is Illinois for those who graduated from Mequon. No, I am not being offensive. They think Wisconsin is the only state in the Union, the only seminary, the place to go for choice calls that will tolerate all kinds of malfeasance, laziness, and incompetence. No education? Become a seminary professor. But I digress.
As a natural-born Illinois child, I grew up with stories about Lincoln in school and at home. My mother was natural-born Illinois and my father from Iowa, which almost counts. One grade school in Moline was Lincoln. We had a required semester of Illinois history in junior high. Augustana College had a library collection of Lincolniana, anything owned or touched or referencing our Sixteenth President.
We took a trip to Springfield, Illinois in school, visited the Lincoln Memorial in DC. I honeymooned with Mrs. Ichabod in Springfield, and we visited all the Lincoln sites there.
Lincoln-JFK parallels were noted in many conversations. Lincoln had a Vice President named Johnson. JFK also had a VP named Johnson. Lincoln grew up in a log cabin. JFK spilled Log Cabin syrup in his father's Lincoln.
When I began reading more books about Lincoln, I noticed how much conservatives blamed Lincoln for everything wrong in America. Besides that, he was not perfect man portrayed in the stories I heard all my life. He had many strange characteristics, and yet he had many life-long friends who admired him.
|Nobody, but nobody reads this commentary anymore.|
OK, I do, but no one else.
The Lincoln Effect
I often think of the Lincoln Effect (knowing only the glowing stories) when I see people react against the truth about their denomination. They have only heard saint-stories of their founders, although some characters of the past are necessarily evil (Loehe, for some reason, in the Walther fan club).
They are so shocked by the truth that their brains seem to be tasered. "Why, if that is true. then all the lore I have learned is wrong. Then my denomination is wrong. And my professors were wrong. You are the spawn of the devil. Begone." I was cursed by one Ft. Wayne seminary graduate for quoting Romans 4:24. He only knew the official LCMS mantra of Romans 4:25 (see the Brief Statement, 1932).
As one pastor wrote me, paraphrased, "Everything at Ft. Wayne was filtered through Pieper."
In effect, the students of that era were taught by Pieper, who was hand-picked by Walther, a BA Pietist, who learned his UOJ from Stephan, a Pietist who could not bother himself to finish college.
Thus Paul McCain, Jay Webber, and many others.
No one will ever write a critical biography of Walther, because the LCMS cadre will tear apart anyone who disturbs the myth of Walther. They will not print a critical biography of Walther, and no one else thinks the Lutheran world revolves about the old Pietist.
So - yes, I understand the Lincoln Effect when people have had a similar exposure to Waltheriana. The difference is this - Lincoln is not the axis of all Lutheran doctrine. In WELS-ELS-LCMS, Walther is.