Saturday, June 07, 2008
Amazing Grace: Reflections on the life of Wilberforce
I've watched the movie twice already, but still find it inspiring especially when watching together with about 80+ friends, brothers and sisters at Community Baptist Church. It was also the final wrap-up discussion of the Total Truth group. Look forward to the day a Malaysian movie maker do a commentary or movie on Tan Sri Tan Chee Koon :D
Some brief comments from my post-movie sharing: Firstly, social justice is a marathon, not a 10 second sprint or 100 metre dash. Wilberforce suffered 20 years of defeat, discouragement and even death threat for his struggle before slavery was finally abolished 3 days before his death. Winning an election in 2 weeks is just the beginning...
Secondly, the life of Wilberforce reminds us the need for more full time Christians in the world (and more fulltime workers in the church) to make a difference where they are. When Wilberforce was 25 years old, he has a spiritual transformation so dramatic that he considered quitting politics to be a priest. As depicted in the movie, a wise mentor in the form of John Newton (ex slave trader and famous hymn writer of "Amazing Grace") counselled against a career change.
Thirdly social justice is a community project, not a solo effort. Burnout is a constant danger. The scene of Hannah, Clarkson, Equiano etc sharing a meal together ("We humbly suggest that you can do both (serving God and being a political activist)") shows how different people bring their unique skills, contributions (look for evidence, write books, look for loopholes in the legislation etc)
Although not a part of the movie, Wilberforce has a group of friends who meet up regularly for prayer and worship called the Clapham Sect. They share evangelical Christian faith, long term commitment to social cause and lifelong friendship. Together they worked hard for missions, translating the bible, improve working conditions for the poor in manufacturing industry, agricultural reform to supply affordable food, prevent animal cruelty (RSCPA), prison reform, improve child labor conditions, freedom of religion, education and oppose blood sport/duels etc.
You can't do all of that on your own, we need the power of community. Imagine if every cell group in our churches just choose ONE cause of mercy or justice and commit long term to it!
Finally, there's a scene in the movie where Wilberforce asked his affluent MP friends to "remember the Madagascar (a slave ship that reeks of the stench of death). Remember that God created man equal". The theological conviction behind his activism is that every human being regardless of race is created in God's image and therefore has inherent dignity and worth. Especially relevant in Msia where race relations have been so politicised, and the church needs to work for racial reconciliation.