We watched the movie Amazing Grace this past week. It was a wonderful historical telling of the struggle by William Wilberforce and his colleagues face during the late 18th century and early 19th century to pass legislation in the British House of Commons to abolish the slave trade. I must admit only knowing the name Wilberforce and his connection with the abolitionist movement, but not the story behind the struggle. From the reviews I’ve read, this telling is apparently reasonably accurate, or at least as accurate as such major release movies ever are.
The movie is inspiring in its telling of how a small group of dedicated individuals working collaboratively can make a difference in the world. But it pulls no punches in making it clear doing so can take much of your life and can come at a cost, and sometimes a very high cost. But hopefully without spoiling the end, the question ultimately is what kind of hero you want to be; whether when falling asleep at night would you rather dream of all those you helped, or of those you’ve hurt. To often we celebrate those who are champions whose victories come because of others loss, whether in sports, business, or war. Amazing Grace tells of a story whose heroism came through a major step in avoiding more from being forced to leave their homes and freedom to enter into the long-suffering of slavery.
While inspiring, perhaps the greatest danger of this and similar movies is that we can too easily admire the hero’s efforts but to also see it as an act of a superhero and therefore an act which cannot be emulated. But it’s clear Wilberforce was hesitant to take on the fight. That is to say, Wilberforce did not set out to be a superhero, but through conviction and a bit of cajoling by friends and colleagues took one step, then another, into what became a 17 year struggle to stop the slave trade in England. Becoming an active part of a movement that captures our heart IS something we can emulate today.
Take some time to watch this movie. While you’re at it, grab a friend or family member and have a discussion afterwards!