Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Wilberforce of One

Sam Brownback, Wilberforce Republican? If Al Gore can have An Inconvenient Truth, why can’t Sam Brownback have Amazing Grace, the movie?

Of course, not everyone is happy with the movie. While the CT reviewer liked it quite a bit, Charlotte Allen thought it underplayed Wilberforce’s faith. The WaPo reviewer found it boring; the NYT reviewer, sort of liked it, despite himself, though he couldn’t help insisting upon the politically incorrect complications of Wilberforce’s career (his big sin was opposing trade unionism). The LAT review is surprisingly good, concluding in this way:

Despite all its good work, "Amazing Grace" has those risk factors, including how unfashionable academically the notion of great men influencing events currently is. But while historians such as Adam Hochschild feel that too much emphasis on Wilberforce obscures the importance of other anti-slavery forces and individuals, Hugh Thomas, author of "The Slave Trade," insists that Wilberforce’s achievement is "one more reminder that individuals can make history." It is this point of view that "Amazing Grace" embraces and makes its own.

Perhaps the reviewer had read
this column, by the EPPC’s Michael Cromartie, who reminds us that Mme de Stael had this to say about Wilberforce: "I have always heard that he was the most religious, but I now find that he is the wittiest man in England." Unfortunately, I don’t think you can say that about Sam Brownback.

Discussions - 5 Comments

I can’t figure out why Charlotte Allen thought the movie underplayed Wilberforce’s faith. If you don’t realize that he’s fighting the slave trade precisely *because* of his faith, then you’re really a dolt. Besides, can you name another mainstream feature film that has as evangelical a statement as what John Newton says (played marvelously by Albert Finney) when he says that he knows two things - that he’s a sinner and that Jesus Christ is his savior? I mean, what did she expect, an altar call?

Michael,

I agree. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway shares Allen’s view (and provides links to other interesting reviews, particularly Andrew Stuttaford’s), but I don’t think it’s warranted.

including how unfashionable academically the notion of great men influencing events currently is.

Apparently the modern academy does not understand their present place intellectually in "western civilization". Currently, if it is "fashionable" in academic circles it is quite stale and unimportant to say the least (with few exceptions)...;)

I agree with Joe K. I saw the film last night, and I thought the spritual/religious dimensions of Wilberforce’s life were portrayed to pitch perfection. It was patently obvious that this man was driven by a passionate love of God. The subplot about John Newton, the former slave trader (and writer of the hymn Amazing Grace) who repented his ways and dedicated himself to a life of repentance and contemplation was also outstanding. I thought the film did an excellent job too of touching on the Christian notion of vocation - that we can love and serve God in a multitude of venues depending on our gifts. I should add, that I saw the movie with a friend who happens to be an agnostic, and the Christian themes were very apparent to her also. She still loved it.

I went again today with some folks (mostly youth) from my church. No one thought the religious themes were underplayed. I agree with Alyssa G. about the film’s presentation of vocation and would add that it also contains lessons for "Christian statesmen," who must learn to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves, and to work with the serpents (so to speak) who share their temporal goals.

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