Thursday, March 1, 2007

Amazing Grace: The Movie

I rarely go to see a movie in a theater. Last year was a record for me in this regard. I went to see three movies. However, last night I went to see "Amazing Grace", the true story of Christian William Wilberforce's fight against the British Slave Trade. I was not disappointed. It surpassed all my expectations.
Wilberforce has been a hero of mine for some time. From the 1790's to the 1830's, he dedicated his life to freeing Britain of slavery against great odds when no one else was brave enough to do so. For a member of the House of Commons to champion such a cause would have seemed political suicide to most. Yet he felt a clear call from God to fight this fight. Another fight he waged, not much mentioned in the film, was his efforts to save his countrymen and women from lives of the godless decadence which is just as bad as what we witness today in Europe and America. His fight to end slavery was sucessful. His campaign for Christian living helped transform England in the Ninteenth century.
The film makes it clear that Wilberforce's motivation for all that he did was his faith. He could have been portrayed as a heroic humanist, yet the makers of this film chose to be honest in their portrayal of why he fought against the slave trade. That Wilberforce struggled with whether to leave the public eye for a life of Christian meditation, and that his political ally William Pitt convinced him he was needed in the public arena, is handled convincingly. Also well done is the contrast between Wilberforce's faith and his friend Pitt's lack of belief. The relationship between the two is brought out well by the actors. The film makes it clear that most of Wilberforce's fellow abolitionists were Christians, thereby giving a good indication to the audience how the movement was rooted in the Gospel. While not treated in a substansive manner as was Wilberforce's hatred of slavery, Wilberforce's hatred of the profligacy that was threatening to distroy all of society was brought out.
Upon reflection, I think the portrayal of Wilberforce is one of the best representations of a Christian I have ever seen. His early struggles to live as a Christian in a sinful world are well handled. His love of people, including his enemies, is realistically presented. He is neither censorous, nor monkish, nor prudish. He is a man whose behavior revealed a serious renunciation of all things that offended God mixed with a natural good humor that made his personality attractive to those who met him and knew him. It is interesting that his early Christian walk is marked by a renewed curiousity about the world God created. His love for man and animals is presented well.
The actors are all first rate and the screen play is well written. Some historical facts may be stretched. My only disappointment was that the relationship between John Wesley and Wilberforce and the anti-slavery movement was not mentioned. Without Wesley, there might not have been an anti-slavery movement. I do not know how well "Amazing Grace" is doing at the boxoffice. If you have a chance to see it at the theater, I would take the opportunity. If you miss it, buy the DVD. It is acceptable for all ages.

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