Amazing Grace

Last week some of us saw the new movie, Amazing Grace, about William Wilberforce and the anti-slave trade efforts of the Clapham Sect. Here is Christianity Today's review of the new film.
The movie is good, I'd say at least on par with last year's The Nativity Story. They did a great job of touching on the complex political realities of the day and keeping it engaging at that, as CT's reviewer says, "There's something to be said for a film that succeeds in making Parliamentary legislation suspenseful, even when you know the ultimate outcome." At times it seemed as though the film-makers went out of their way to have a character sing "Amazing Grace" in the film, which struck me as a little hokey at first, but then it is hard to make singing an 18th century Christian hymn a cappella very "hip," isn't it? And some parts were simply powerful. On the whole, I heartily recommend it. Oh, and there is also a love story that, unlike most of what we expose ourselves to in movies, is real.
Many of the issues touched on by the film are likely to touch a nerve with contemporary audiences. The film is, after all, about a group of Evangelical Christians who try to change the laws of their country to come more in line with their own Christian values. Sound familiar? What is really amazing, perhaps even miraculous, is that the presentation is sympathetic to their cause - it is the Abolition of slavery after all (if the movie had been about Prohibition, perhaps it would have been told differently).

So, of course this film raises many of the same questions that we are always raising (but not so often exploring very deeply or insightfully) in our own political situation - what is the relationship between faith and politics both for Christian citizens in a democratic system like ours and for the society as a whole. The characters in this film are quite openly attempting to "legislate morality" - what do we (as Americans or as Christians) think about that? Is there, for that matter, a such thing as legislation that does not represent somebody's morality? (If you read Gloria Deo much, you know I would answer with a resounding "NO")

I left the theater thinking that the movie might serve as an inspiration for all sorts of Christians (and perhaps others) all over the political spectrum to pursue their own agendas with renewed vigor.

Another sort of interesting background issue was floating around - most of the characters are Anglican Christians (and a few are even clergymen) who are trying to express Christian love towards the African peoples who are being exploited. Just last week the Anglican Primates (archbishops) of the "Global South" met to discuss the current crisis in the Anglican Communion, with African bishops being among the most outspoken defenders of orthodoxy over against the innovations of the US Episcopal Church and the laxity of the Church of England. What does it mean? I don't know - but it must mean something, and it reinforces how sad their current divide is.



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