Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Feast of William Wilberforce

Today is the feast of William Wilberforce, a hero of mine and the focal point of the movie "Amazing Grace" that I saw just one year ago at Chautauqua while I was the chaplain there. Then I got to give a homily on him for the morning service. The thing that I found odd about the movie is that they actually made the job of ending the slave trade sound EASIER than it really was. What was that about? I can't remember the particulars, but as I recall, the movie suggested it was FEWER years than it really was.

The movie suggested that Wilberforce got to see the fruits of his labors when in fact he died one month (!) before Parliament abolished slavery in Britain and its extended domains. One month! I'm sure he knew about it, though. What the movie showed was the end of the slave trade, abolished in 1807; what it doesn't show is that Wilberforce was in Parliament another 18 years, trying to end slavery; and he died 8 years after that. That's another 25+ years--in addition to the 27 years Wilberforce was in Parliament (beginning in 1780) before he saw the slave trade ended.

The thing I draw from William Wilberforce is that the task of righteousness is not impossible, but that I shouldn't be under the delusion that it might be anything less than very, very, very difficult. Difficult, long, and painful is not the same as impossible.

"Let your continual mercy, O Lord, kindle in your Church the never-failing gift of love, that, following the example of your servant William Wilberforce, we may have grace to defend the poor, and maintain the cause of those who have no helper; for the sake of him who gave his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."

1 comment:

qoe said...

Maybe it is just me, but the Wilberforce depicted in the painting rather resembles Kevin Spacey...