Saturday, February 2, 2008

You've got work to do

Last night, I watched the movie Amazing Grace. It chronicles the efforts of William Wilberforce, British Member of Parliment, to abolish the slave trade, and subsequently, slavery as a whole in Britain and its empire. At the beginning of the movie, Wilberforce has a crisis of conscience: to follow God, or continue on his career track as a politician. He goes to his childhood minister, John Newton (the former slave trader who wrote the song, Amazing Grace) for advice. When Wilberforce suggests that he might leave politics to lead a more spiritual life, Newton tells him, "Wilber, you've got work to do." A meeting with Christian abolitionists confirms that he can "do both;" he can serve God and work in government at the same time. Wilberforce sets the legal proceedings for abolition of slavery in motion, passing the Slave Trade Act in 1807 and barely living to see slavery abolished in 1833.

Now, I've been stewing over the appropriate mix of politics and faith (different from politics and religion) for a while now. I've given up on my 2004 dream to become president and I've tried not to get too wrapped up in the 2008 election (see this post). But after seeing the potential for a person of faith like Wilberforce to do God's will through politics, I've changed my mind about staying out of it. It's ok to be involved in a worldly system for godly purposes. What would have happened if William Wilberforce had not taken advantage of the opportunity he'd been given to make a difference in the British slave trade? Slavery might have gone on for many more years.

Whenever there is injustice in the world, it is right and good to take whatever moral means necessary (legal and illegal if it comes down to it) to right it. (Bombing abortion clinics and taking hostages would definitely NOT fit into the "moral" category.) There is still illegal slavery going on in the world, and by God, I intend to work to right it. Getting hooked up with Free The Slaves is the first step I know to take. Writing my senators and congressperson is another.

I don't necessarily agree with all of the things that William Wilberforce did in his life, but if a person can run himself ragged and spend every waking and sleeping hour pouring effort into justice for humanity, then I can too. God help my parents for having such an idealist child. And maybe I'll get nothing done in my lifetime to fix the list of things that I keep in my wallet, but at least I'll be able to live with myself. I've given up on public office, but who's to say an ordinary comrade can't make a dent?

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