Learning from Lincoln with Preston Manning

April 24, 2014

Using the 2012 film Lincoln as an entry point, Preston Manning explored issues of leadership, public faith, and politics in an intimate, conversational setting at Regent College on April 11th. After the presentation, Manning answered questions on political issues of all sorts from Regent College students, professors, and members of the public. 

Manning played clips which illustrated the techniques Lincoln used to unify diverse factions in order to finally bring about the abolition of slavery. These techniques included the use of story rather than focusing too heavily on divisive details of policy.

When addressed with a question intended to damage his reputation, Lincoln would often sidestep it by telling a story. “Lincoln was a master of doing that,” said Manning. “He did not address the question directly; he told a story.”

The same principle applies to Christianity, said Manning: “I frankly do not know why we do not make more use of story in our communication of the gospel.”

Another intangible, essential to politics or any form of leadership, is building a real relationship with one’s opponents as well as one’s followers. Know the “ambitions, motivations, and character,” of those you’re addressing, said Manning: “Know them as people.”

 Manning discussed Lincoln’s continual emphasis on unity, despite the deeply conflicting interests within America during his time as President. 

“Politics at the highest level is about reconciliation of conflicting interests,” said Manning. 

He pointed out that the quest for reconciliation of conflicting parties is a key point of overlap between the life of faith and working in politics.

“Reconciliation is at the heart of the Christian faith,” said Manning.

To illustrate from the film, Manning used the example of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. In the speech, “Lincoln more strongly identifies what the parties have in common—both read the same Bible and pray to the same God,” said Manning.

 As the Civil War was coming to a close, Manning pointed out that Lincoln was “[seeking] to lay a foundation, in spiritual as well as political terms, for the reconciliation of North and South.” --

There are few Canadian politicians better qualified to discuss Lincoln’s great success in bringing together diverse political factions. Manning was instrumental in rebuilding a sturdy conservative political party in Canada, founding the Reform Party in 1987, and expanding it to form the Canadian Alliance Party in 2000, in order to incorporate a broader range of voters. 

Recently, Manning has been heavily involved in political education in Canada, founding the Manning Centre For Building Democracy in 2005, and working with other initiatives for education in democratic principles.

Manning is a Senior Fellow of The Marketplace Institute at Regent College, and speaks and teaches on the integration of faith with public life.

by Derek Witten, current student at Regent College 

About the Regent College Marketplace Institute

The Marketplace Institute (MI) is a theological research and design institute associated with Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. Our vision is for the gospel to be recognized as public truth again. We want to see Christians owning the gospel in all aspects of their lives, and demonstrating its positive impact at all levels of society—individuals, communities, sectors, and the entire marketplace of ideas. Through our research and our grounding in the calibre of theological education found at Regent College, our mission is to provide and embody fresh, reliable, and well-informed expressions of the gospel that reveal its truth, necessity, and relevance to all spheres of public life.