Amazing Grace: What Faith Can Do
I thought of the wisdom of the Tao as I watched the film Amazing Grace the other evening. Based on the book of the same name by Eric Metaxas, Amazing Grace tells the story of British parliamentarian William Wilberforce, who was a Christian and an abolitionist.
Though his years-long effort to end slavery in Britain made him famous--or infamous, depending on your perspective--in his time, he is largely unknown now. That the spokesman for a humanitarian political initiative that transformed the British economy should be forgotten yet the abominable nature of slavery roundly understood brings to mind the end of the second verse of the Tao: "When the work is done, it is forgotten.That is why it lasts forever."
Wilberforce was a good teacher: through sheer faith and perseverance and, finally, with a pragmatic strategy, he convinced his generation and successive ones that doing right is the only right thing to do. Wilberforce, who had a profound religious experience that transformed his life into one of focused piety--he was a champion of the poor and oppressed in all areas of society--was not looking for a place in history but a place for every human being in the present.
It is a measure of Wilberforce's humility that his biographer is more interested in him than he ever was in himself.
In an interview with the National Review Online in February, Metaxas made the startling remark that Wilberforce's greatest achievement was not the abolition of slavery but the popularization of social conscience. He taught us that we need to take care of each other at every level of society. He believed this is God's will. Today we call it being decent. Perhaps that's the same thing.
Wilberforce sought social change through the political system. He did so on the advice of John Newton, a former slave ship owner whose own profound spiritual experience caused him to turn away from that horrible trade. Newton was the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace."
Amazing Grace is beautiful and believable. Watch it, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the size of the mountains faith can move.
Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty,only because there is ugliness. All can know good as good only because there is evil. (Verse Two, Tao Te Ching)