Monday, December 10, 2012

Paul Harvey on "Lincoln," Race, and Civil Religion

Paul Harvey, historian of race and religion at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and blogmaster at Religion in American History, shares his thoughts on Spielberg's Lincoln at Religious Dispatches.  Here is a taste:

But there is another level to consider here, as well—the civil religious myths that the film invokes, and the very limited growth in public understanding of those myths that the film ultimately suggests.

After the emotion evoked by the film subsides,  sober consideration begins here: why, in the supposedly “post-racial” age of Obama, is there no space in movies to imagine the historical story of African Americans creating the conditions of their own emancipation?

Is it because in the context of our civil religion of "great white men who end up doing the right thing," we as a culture cannot yet imagine such a thing?

Historian Kate Masur, among others, has pointed out that the story historians have dug out of the archives—the story of African American actions which virtually forced enlistment in the army, emancipation, and reconstructing the Union with blacks in the polity—finds almost no place in the film.