Movie Review: Amazing Grace (And Some Things We Can Learn From William Wilberforce's Life)


   The transatlantic slave trade was thriving. Africa was torn by tribal warfare, and tribes kidnapped members of other tribes and sold them to European slave traders. Shiploads of Africans sailed around the world in the worst of conditions, and were then sold as slaves. In England in the late 1700’s, few people believed the slave trade was wrong. Of these, even fewer were brave enough to speak against it. William Wilberforce was one of those few. So begins the movie Amazing Grace, the inspiring true story of William Wilberforce and his fight to end the slave trade in Great Britain.
   William Wilberforce had a successful career in the English Parliament’s House of Commons. But then, as he puts it in the movie, God found him. William Wilberforce became a Christian. At first, he considered leaving Parliament. But then he realized God had a job for him right where he was. His eyes were opened to the horrific reality of the slave trade. His friend William Pitt, (who later became Prime Minister), Olaudah Equiano (a former slave), an abolitionist named Thomas Clarkson, and others urged him to take up the fight. Wilberforce, unsure what to do, went to see John Newton. John Newton was formerly the captain of a slave ship, but later repented of his sins, became a preacher, and wrote the famous hymn “Amazing Grace.” He encouraged Wilberforce that using his position in Parliament to fight the slave trade was what God had for him to do. So William Wilberforce presented a bill for the abolition of the slave trade to the House of Commons. When it did not pass, he presented it again. And again. And again. He later met and married Barbara Spooner, who shared his Christian faith and passion to end the slave trade. And he kept fighting.
   One of the themes in this movie is being willing to stand up for something that is unpopular. In William Wilberforce’s day, it was very unpopular to speak against the slave trade. But Wilberforce cared more about what God thought than what other people thought of him. He knew the slave trade was wrong, and was willing to risk unpopularity to fight against it. In our day, it’s unpopular to speak out against abortion. But the Bible clearly teaches that an unborn baby is just as much of a human being as one who is born, and to kill an unborn baby by abortion is murder. It’s also unpopular to speak out against homosexuality and transgenderism. But the Bible clearly teaches that God created man and woman, male and female. We can’t change our gender. And marriage is supposed to be one man and one woman. (See Genesis 1:27, Matthew 19:4-5, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).We can’t just stand by and say nothing when so many people are being deceived and led astray. Thank God that Jesus died and rose again to save us from our sins. Because we're all sinners; whether or not we've committed the specific sins of homosexuality and abortion, we've still sinned and need Jesus to save us. 
   Another theme in this movie and Wilberforce’s life is perseverance. He presented his bill for the abolition of the slave trade again and again for over twenty years before it finally passed. He faced a lot of challenges including health problems, but he kept on. We can all learn a lot from that. It’s easy to give up when things get hard, but the Bible talks a lot about perseverance, keeping on doing what God wants you to do even when it’s hard. (See Hebrews 12:1, James 1:12, and Galatians 6:9).
   Another theme would be what some people call not separating the sacred and the secular. We often think of parts of our lives as being sacred or spiritual and other parts as being secular. We think of some jobs as being more spiritual than others. For example, we might think, you can have an ordinary job or you can serve God by being a pastor, missionary, etc. But in reality, every part of our life belongs to God. We are to serve Him in whatever we do. The work God gives you to do might not seem extremely spiritual. But you can do it for the glory of God.
   And one final theme I’d like to mention is the worth of every human being. At one point in the movie, Wilberforce says to “Remember that God made men equal.” There is only one race, the human race. It doesn’t matter whether someone is African or English or whatever else, they are still a human being created in God’s image.
   I really like this movie. They kept it pretty close to the real story. There are a few fictional elements added, but for the most part it’s accurate. There are several instances of what they call “brief, mild language” which I think they could have left out. Also, one of Barbara’s dresses has a very low neckline.
   But, overall, I’d say it is a very good movie. It’s made very clear in the movie that it was William Wilberforce’s faith in God that inspired him to fight the slave trade. It was God that moved him to take up the fight, and God who kept him going through all the challenges. I would definitely recommend this movie and I give it five out of five stars for an excellent, inspiring, and encouraging movie.
   Through the brave efforts of William Wilberforce and others, the slave trade was finally abolished in Great Britain. However, slavery has not ended. Human trafficking and other forms of slavery still exist today. Jesus said the poor will always be with us. Poverty and slavery will not be completely eradicated until the Lord returns and makes all things new. But God has asked us to seek justice, to rescue the oppressed, to love our neighbor, to care for the poor and the sick, and to speak up for the weak and vulnerable. We need more people like William Wilberforce who will do that, following the principles God has given us in His Word.
   So, have you seen the movie Amazing Grace? What are some of the best movies you've seen? How are you inspired by the life of William Wilberforce? 
   Always remember, "He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it," (1 Th. 5:24). 
    All for Him,
Savannah Jane
P. S. I also recommend the book The Amazing Grace of Freedom: The Inspiring Faith of William Wilberforce by Ted Baehr and Susan Wales. It's an excellent companion book to the movie. Also, Grace Triumphant by Alicia Willis is a wonderful historical fiction book covering this time period. 
P. S. S. This post was previously published on my old blog, Written On Your Heart


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