Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Justice rooted in Faith -- William Wilberforce

With a new film coming out -- Amazing Grace -- attention is being given to the effort of one man, William Wilberforce, to rally a nation to the cause of justice -- in his case the abolition of the slave trade. For Wilberforce this was a 20 year ordeal, but one he never flagged in. Finally, he achieved his goal when Parliament voted overwhelmingly to abandon a lucrative but dehumanizing practice. Of course the slave trade and human trafficking remain with us today, as a stain upon humanity.
Joseph Loconte's essay in the LA Times ---"British Abolition's Faith-Based Roots," lifts up Wilberforce and offers him as an exemplar to a faith based advocacy for humanity.

Most important, he was unafraid to invoke the moral obligations of the Gospel to challenge the consciences of slavers and their supporters in Parliament. In his "Letter on the Abolition of the Slave Trade," published in January 1807, Wilberforce placed the brutish facts of human trafficking against the backdrop of Christian compassion and divine justice. "We must believe," he warned, "that a continued course of wickedness, oppression and cruelty, obstinately maintained in spite of the fullest knowledge and the loudest warnings, must infallibly bring down upon us the heaviest judgments of the Almighty." A month later, on Feb. 23, the House of Commons voted 283 to 16 to abolish the slave trade.

Loconte reminds us that in this post-9/11 age, when there is both "suspicion and antagonism toward religious belief, especially when it mixes with politics," that it was "people with deep Christian convictions about the dignity and freedom of every person made in the image of God" who fought this battle. He concludes "Surely we need more of Wilberforce's brand of faith today, not less." I would concur!


kwenk said...

Gee, and what would he have to say about the church's (most denominations) treatment of GLBTG folks?

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

That would seem to be next! Hopefully, anyway. There are, of course, many voices now being heard, but remember it took Wilberforce 20 years to get the Brits to stop the slave trade and it would be another 50 plus years and a Civil War to finally end slavery in America. That's not the best news, but the tide is beginning to change -- just quite slowly.