AMAZING GRACE

4 Stars - Inspirational

The 18th and 19th century slave trade was a barbaric practice that shocks our sensibilities one century later.  Students of history know that the American Civil War was a turning point in the emancipation of human beings sold as property.  What is lesser known is the fact that America continued trafficking in human slaves over fifty years after it was abolished in the British Empire.

"Amazing Grace" tells the true story of William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd), the man of conscience in the British Parliament, who fought for years against overwhelming political odds to end the British sanctioning of slavery.  Wilberforce was a young man of economic privilege who sought to be in political office while he was in his mid 20's.  Having committed his life to Jesus Christ, his Christian convictions compelled him to seek justice and compassion for all people throughout the British Empire. His experience in a wealthy and unequal social structure constantly tugged at his conscience.

Wilberforce entered Parliament in the later part of the 18th century. He and his closest friend (who became Prime Minister), spent their time contemplating how to rid society of the practice of trading human beings as property.  His deep faith was strengthened by the hymn "Amazing Grace" written by the former slave ship captain, and now Anglican pastor, John Newton (Albert Finney).  Ultimately, it was the woman who would become his wife who gave William the strength to persevere against overwhelming odds in Parliament.  Barbara Wilberforce (Romola Garai) matched William's commitment to the poor and enslaved and gave him the strength to continue the fight for 16 years.

Year after year, Wilberforce introduced measures into Parliament to end slavery, and each time his colleagues used political patronage to outvote him.  Many times William sank into despair and almost gave up.  It was his constant faith, and the encouragement of his wife and John Newton, that kept him going.

His faith, his faithfulness to his cause, and his pure intent attracted many followers, including members of Parliament who had earlier opposed him.  One by one, detractors became believers.  When the final vote was cast to end slavery, an elderly and nearly blind John Newton entered Parliament to witness this historic turn of events, and all of Wilberforce's political enemies gave him a standing ovation.  It is a remarkable story of a man of faith and God's faithfulness to see him through years of opposition in his struggle for justice.

 

Discussion:

  1. Many of the social changes to bring justice for the poor and powerless have been led by Christians, from the abolition of slavery to the civil rights movement.  What political causes do you see Christians leading today?  Are you a part of these movements?  Why or why not?
  2. Many say that the slavery of the past and the slavery of the present are both fueled by economic forces which can be solved by economic change.  Others claim that slavery is motivated by a racial degradation of some humans toward others and is solved by racial integration.  Still others claim it is an evil that is spiritually based and must therefore be solved by a change of the human heart.  Which of these arguments do you find most compelling?  Are you a part of the solution you believe will help end slavery?
  3. Some believe that people of faith should not bring their convictions or consciences into the political decision-making process of our nation.  Do you agree or disagree?  Why?
  4. The personal support William Wilberforce experienced from his wife and pastor provided a resource that allowed him to ultimately end the heinous practice of human slavery.  How do you think the world would be different if they had not supported him?
Posted on July 7, 2007 and filed under 4 STARS, INSPIRATIONAL.