A Wilberforce To Be Reckoned With

The movie “Amazing Grace” is opening this weekend and aims to, according to the New York Times, tell “the story of how William Wilberforce and a handful of other Quaker activists persuaded a reluctant British Parliament to abolish the slave trade.”

The Right has wasted no time in claiming the film as its own and has been actively promoting it.  

The Traditional Values Coalition says its “staff attended a private screening of ‘Amazing Grace’ this week and encourages all Christians and concerned citizens to see this inspiring film,” and Chuck Colson writes that “we would do well to rekindle [the spirit of Wilberforce] our day.”

Vision America’s Rick Scarborough also recommends the film, saying “It isn’t often that I can recommend a movie wholeheartedly. ‘Amazing Grace: The Epic Story of William Wilberforce’ is such a film … I urge you to see ‘Amazing Grace’ when it opens in theaters nationwide the weekend of February 23.”  And Focus on the Family’s James Dobson is dedicating two days of his radio program to Wilberforce and his efforts to “turn the world upside down in his campaign to respect life.”

As USA Today notes of the film, “evangelicals in America are recasting their hero's faith for a 21st-century audience” – and nowhere is that more obvious then with GOP presidential hopeful Sam Brownback, who has been busy claiming the Wilberforce mantle for himself. 

Brownback recently introduced a Senate resolution honoring Wilberforce and has not been shy about tying his own political agenda to Wilberforce’s anti-abolition efforts, saying in his presidential announcement :

Two hundred years ago this year, a little known British Parliamentarian by the name of William Wilberforce finally achieved success after a lifetime of effort to end the slave trade in the British Empire. A committed Christian who believed his faith should be a force for good in Britain and around the world, Wilberforce had two great passions: ending the slave trade and renewing the culture. Although his goals appeared impossibly lofty, both were achieved. 

He used Britain's greatness for goodness.

Our mandate today has a similar feel. If William Wilberforce were alive today, I believe he would be passionately fighting for the dignity of every human life everywhere, without regard to race, wealth, or status. He would also feel compelled to take up the vital cause of renewing the family and the culture.

It is no surprise that the Right is hailing the film, considering that the movie’s marketers have been actively courting churches and managed to get 5,000 to join together in declaring February 18 as “Amazing Grace Sunday.” As for Brownback, he was invited to a screening of the film in Los Angeles and to participate in a panel discussion with the film's producers.