Saturday night, Josh & I splurged and went to see a movie at the theater. We went to our new favorite theater, the new art theater in Indy, Keystone Art Cinema. Previously, we had seen A Prairie Home Companion and Lassie at the theater. This time, we were there to see Amazing Grace.
We first heard of this movie last week at church. Through a series of events (primarily, there was a snowstorm, so the choir couldn't practice their special song), an element of the service was a highlight of this movie and of William Wilberforce, the man who tirelessly fought for an end to the British slave trade in Parliament. The film gets its name from the hymn written by Wilberforce's childhood pastor & mentor, former slave trader John Newton.
The film takes place at the end of American Revolution, but on the other side of the pond. Wilberforce and his friend William Pitt are both young politicians with a promising career in front of them. They are both idealistic and ready to change the world. Wilberforce, however, surprises his friend one day with a letter explaining that God has gotten a hold of his heart, and now he is torn between service to God and service to country- full-time ministry or political achievement. He sees these as one-or-the-other paths, and talks both to Pitt and Newton when trying to make a decision. Pitt, in an effort to keep his ally in Parliament, hosts a dinner at Wilberforce's house, inviting British abolitionists and a former slave. These passionate activists explain to Wilberforce that serving God and country are not mutually exclusive, and they need someone to champion their cause through proper channels, to make a difference in the lives of the thousands and thousands of slaves in the British Empire.
Pitt goes on to be Prime Minister, and Wilberforce, in this cause, found a purpose in which he could serve God in public life, and he did so passionately, at the expense of his own health, persevering through many setbacks. It is a beautiful story, to be sure- to see how God can capture the heart of a man so completely and work through him to accomplish His purposes. I thought it also had good reminders to Christians- often, we uphold the full-time-ministry career path as the only one that a person can take if they truly want to "give their life to God". Wilberforce's story (as well as many others') proves that God calls people to a variety of professions, and uses them there. Also, we need to make sure not to pull away from public life and politics, because true, lasting good at a systemic level can be done through the government in the fight for social justice, equality, and a host of other issues. It is also interesting the creative way Wilberforce and his allies chose to solve the problem of slavery, after years of setbacks trying to convince the other Parliament members of the moral abhorrence of the act. They took a back door- but I won't give away what that was. I guess you'll have to see the movie :)
For more links about William Wilberforce, see this blog post. Google Books has some of Wilberforce's own writing. I especially like the title "A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Class in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity". I wish someone would write a 21st-century, American version of that (His is not an easy read.) Also, check out the movement the movie supports, The Amazing Change, fighting against modern-day slavery.