Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Amazing Grace" and Wilberforce -- something to think about

I finally watched the film, Amazing Grace, which is the story of William Wilberforce and his relentless pursuit for the abolition of slave trade in England and its colonies.

Verdict: Thumbs Up.

There were two scenes that caught my attention more than others. Both scenes take place early in the film when Wilberforce is trying to decide whether he should give himself to politics or religion.


Wilberforce, who seems to be leaning towards religion at this point, meets with his good friend, William Pitt, who tells Wilberforce of his plans to become Prime Minister and to have him at his side in the government. Here are the last two lines of the scene:

WILBERFORCE: No one our age has ever taken power.
PITT: Which is why we're too young to realize that certain things are impossible, so we'll do them anyway. I need an answer, Wilber. Do you intend to use your beautiful voice to praise the Lord, or change the world?

I love Pitt's response. That's something to think about those of us who have dreams that we wish to accomplish, but feel that all the odds are stacked against us. Despite tradition and any expectation placed upon us by someone other than ourselves, do we dare chase our dreams? The part of his response with which I am not on board is where he separates praising the Lord and changing the world. This is where the second scene gets me.


Wilberforce has dinner with a handful of people who will become his close friends and allies in the fight against abolition: Thomas Clarkson, Olaudah Equiano, and others. Equiano and Clarkson show Wilberforce the shackles that are used on slave ships, and demonstrate how they are used. Equiano shows him the brand on his chest from when he was a slave. At the end of the scene, Clarkson looks at Wilberforce and says:

CLARKSON: Mr. Wilberforce, we understand you're having problems choosing whether to do the work of God, or the work of a political activist.

The lady at the table, Hannah More, follows up:

MORE: We humbly suggest that you can do both.

I love it! -- merging your gifts and passions with your desire to do the Lord's work.

It seems that Wilberforce's faith and hope [in Christ] was the driving force behind his work in politics. Without it, I don't suppose he would have endured as long as he did, which would have changed the course of history for sure (I'm not suggesting that slavery would never have been abolished, but that it would not have been abolished as early, and countless more lives would have been lost. There are other results that I could speculate on, but that's not the purpose of my post).

Anyway, I enjoyed the film, and I can only hope that my faith and hope [in Christ] comes through in all my work, and that I may also be an agent of change for the better in this world.

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