Amazing Grace: The story of how William Wilberforce, John Newton and Olaudah Equiano stopped the English slave trade in the early 19th century.
Another subtitle to this movie could be: How a British production company produced an uncannily evangelical film. If you haven’t seen Amazing Grace, go to your local theater this week and see it. It’s not likely to be in theaters for long. It’s not the most riveting action packed film in the world and at over two hours it drags on in places.
As a low production budget film, it is excellent on several counts. The main one being its fairly accurate portrayal of the faith of William Wilberforce and how he was initially torn between a calling to the ministry and political life as a member of the British Parliament at the turn of the 19th century.
The best lines of the film for me were delivered by the abolitionists sent to recruit Wilberforce to the cause, “Mr. Wilberforce, we understand you’re having problems choosing whether to do the work of God or that of a political activist. We humbly suggest, that you can do both.”
But this is not intended as a review. Pro-life advocates have long held Wilberforce as a patron saint of sorts. Here I want to outline how a “Model for Reformation” in the life of Wilberforce. The obvious parallel between Wilberforce and the modern pro-life movement is how the two are set apart by almost exactly 200 years – February 23rd, the films release date, being the 200th anniversary of the initial legislation against the slave trade. The full ban on slavery did not take effect in Great Britain until July 26th, 1833. Ironically, Wilberforce died of influenza three days after the news reached him.
On a side note, most people don’t know that today, even at a conservative estimate, there are 27,000,000 slaves worldwide. This is far more than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. For more information, I encourage you to check out the excellent web site: www.williamwilberforce.com
A lot of people also don’t know that William’s son, Samuel Wilberforce, debated with Thomas Huxley, criticizing the theories in Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.
Here again, there are obvious parallels to the debate over abortion — the murder of hundreds of millions of children in our lifetime — the greatest holocaust in world history.
We see in the British anti-slavery campaign a slow toil fraught with seemingly endless setbacks. Almost all hope seemed lost during the Napoleonic Wars, when members of Parliament argued that a withdrawal from the slave trade would guarantee a French dominance in West Indian plantation profits.
Wilberforce still plodded on with only a handful of supporters. According to Wikipedia.com:
A change of tactics, which involved introducing a bill to ban British subjects from aiding or participating in the slave trade to the French colonies, was advised by maritime lawyer James Stephen in early 1806. It was a smart move, as the majority of the ships were, in fact, now flying under American flags and were manned by British crews, sailing out of Liverpool. The new Foreign Slave Trade Act was quickly passed and the tactic proved successful. The new legislation effectively prohibited two-thirds of the British slave trade. This was in part enabled by Lord Nelson’s victory at the Trafalgar which had given Britain the sea power to ensure that any ban could be enforced.
What this did was to hit the slave trading industry in its most vulnerable spot — its profits. With the money of the slave trading lobbyists cut off, Parliament was able to proceed to pass a more universal Slave Trade Act just a year later.
We see a modern parallel in the federal law, the Born Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA) and other federal and state legislation that limits the abortion industry. Such laws are flouted and violated at every turn by killing chains such as Planned Parenthood and others such as those owned locally by Dr. James Scott Pendergraft. If we will simply keep pressing our advantage, it may be possible to shut down many if not most of the clinics who perform dangerous surgery as an outpatient procedure.
In the meantime, the negative press generated by abortuaries that routinely violate health and medical codes, doctors who delivery viable babies alive and leave them to die, and other atrocities, can work in favor of turning public opinion. This strategy of enlightening the public to what is really happening can work. Even if we put only a small dent in the abortion industry due to litigation, we can change public opinion. Even “pro-choice” Americans draw the line at infanticide. Yet most are unaware that abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason.
The tactic should proceed as follows:
1. The public will be made aware that actual infanticide is going on in these killing places. Abortionists will be prosecuted.
2. A variety of other health and medical code violations in these killing chains will be publicized. Abortionists will be prosecuted.
3. Public sentiment against abortions of viable unborn children will rise as stories of premature birth success stories are published.
4. State by state, second and third trimester abortions will be outlawed as infanticide.
5. State by state, abortion can be pushed back to the original intent of Roe v. Wade, which is to limit abortion to the less than three percent of all abortions currently procured for the so-called “exceptions.”
6. A Constitutional Amendment banning all abortion will be enacted.
I have heard many pro-lifers hold a hard-line against this type of “incremental” approach as cowardly compromise and an accommodation with the culture of death. I myself am sympathetic to this viewpoint. However, what we need to be aware of is the vast amount of money taken in by the killing chains owned by Planned Parenthood. These resources are used in lobbying and the creation of false polls, such as those by Planned Parenthood’s Alan Guttmacher Institute, which effectively maintain the status quo distortion of “a woman’s right to choose” even though a vast majority of Americans support a ban on second and third trimester abortions and abortion in the first trimester as a matter of convenience.
Another thing that convinces me that we are at a pivotal point, is the number of recent news stories that are systematically exposing abortion — at least in the latter stages of pregnancy — as infanticide in the national consciousness. I believe that this is the work of God now moving through the Holy Spirit to change the American consciousness. Our “ground troops” need to seize our advantage even while the “air support” is still striking. I also find it significant that many of these stories are focusing the nation’s attention on Florida and especially Orlando and Miami.
A British newspaper recently carried the story of the huge number of babies who are surviving late term abortions and a current move is under way to rewrite abortion laws in that country. I encourage you to go to this link and check out the comments – all by Europeans who are mostly “pro-choice” — that show that this is pushing people slowly but surely toward a pro-life position.
Another story that astonished Americans was the Miami, Florida baby born at 20-weeks who survived even though she weighed less than one pound at birth. This baby was actually younger than Baby Rowan who was left to die in an Orlando killing center owned by James Pendergraft.
As William Wilberforce was forced to alter tactics in order to win, we must now seek to break the back of at least one-third of the abortion industry and cripple their financial resources. Once the “abortion-for-profit” killing places are limited, we will be better able to work on changing the hearts of churches. The initial step can be won a lot sooner than most people think. We actually have cut the abortion rate by one-third in America due in part to the efforts of Crisis Pregnancy Centers and street activism. With public opinion on our side, we could gain further ground if we will keep pressing our advantage.
What is most amazing to me is that in April 1791, when Wilberforce introduced the first Parliamentary Bill to abolish the slave trade, it was easily defeated by 163 votes to 88. Yet Wilberforce continued to move bills throughout his career until on February 23, 1807, a bill limiting slave trade was carried by 283 votes to 16.
We can expect to see much the same turning of the tide in the pro-life effort if we will only remain faithful and settle for nothing less than a total outlawing and criminalization of abortion without exception or apology.