May God Give Me Amazing Grace

Last weekend, Mike and I saw the movie Amazing Grace. It was wonderful. (Despite its lack of female characters.) It told the story of William Wilberforce, a late 18th century politician deeply motivated by his Christian belief in helping the less fortunate. Aided by Quakers, other abolitionists, and even anarchists, Wilberforce worked tirelessly for 20 years, against powerful opposition, to outlaw the slave trade in England. I was deeply moved by the issues it presented – the confluence of faith and action, the struggle against injustice, the effort to redeem past wrongs.

With my Western 21st century eyes, it was strikingly clear to me that outlawing the slave trade was the right thing to do. But at this time in England’s history, even good people were conflicted about this issue. What about the harm to England’s economy? What about the port cities whose business would dry up, thus causing working class people to suffer?

As the movie reached its powerful climax, I couldn’t help but wonder if there are modern day parallels to the horrible slave trade, terrible awful injustices, that are right in front of my face. That I am unaware, or unconcerned, or conflicted about. That I am complicit in.

In 200 years, I wonder, what common practices will be looked upon with abhorrence the way we look at slavery? What will be looked back on with disgust and embarrassment by our descendents? Will it be the lack of resources directed towards stopping the trafficking of hundreds of thousands of women who are forced to be sex slaves? Will it be raising animals to kill and eat them? Will it be the idea that humans have the right to keep out from certain lands other humans who want to migrate and move to a better life?

The song “Amazing Grace” is a refrain throughout the movie, written by an old sea captain of a slave ship who had come to bitterly regret his role in the business. And as a reviewer on NPR said, may God give me the amazing grace to discover and work against the injustices that are blighting my world today.

I’d love to hear your ideas about the current practices you think will, with time, be looked upon widely with abhorrence. What injustices are blighting our world today, that too many are unconcerned about?


Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.

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  1. Doc says:

    How about driving cars, digging oil, overfishing the oceans, polluting the seas, and overheating the earth.

  2. Mark IV says:

    Good post, Caroline, and thanks for the write-up. What a wonderfully beautiful movie! I enjoyed it very much, too. I liked how Wilberforce had to negotiate the tension between his loyalty to the Crown and his own conscience, and moral purity and political reality. I got a laugh out of his use of subterfuge when he bought his opponents tickets to the horse races on the day he brougt the issue to the floor of parliament. And I found the part where the old captain finally is able to confess his sins, and wants them to be written down, to be emotionally very moving. All in all, it was a great, great movie, and anybody who hasn’t seen it is missing something important.

  3. Anonymous says:


  4. JohnR says:

    This is one of the benefits of studying history, methinks. We can get a sense of how fluid societal norms can be, in spite of how solid or self-evident they may seem to us today. While this perspective can be paralyzing for some, it gives me the motivation to take on widely accepted values and social structures in the hopes that history will vindicate me.

    I think at some point global capitalism’s myopic focus on increasing consumption and profits and its lack of accountability for human and environmental costs will be viewed as barbaric (not sure what will replace it, though).

  5. C. Biden says:

    Today? The genocide in Darfur and global warming.

  6. Caroline says:

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. Mark, glad I’m not the only one that was so impressed by it.

    Doc, C.,I agree about global warming. I saw an Inconvenient Truth and thought, as strange as this sounds, that Al Gore may very well be a modern day prophet on this subject.

    The genocide in Darfur is also an interesting example. I don’t know if I’d consider it a good parallel to the slave trade, since Western countries aren’t exploiting and gaining from it, but it is troubling that more isn’t being done diplomatically to stop it.

    John, yes. I agree that global capitalism’s exploitation of the earth and the poor could very well prove to be abhorrent to our descendents.

  7. ianjmatt says:

    It was an incredible movie. I saw it on Sunday night with my wife (the actual 200th anniversary of the 1807 Act) and it really helped to cement some things for me. I did rant about stuff this morning in my blog but it is going to be more than ranting to change the world (again).

  8. The Amazing Change says:

    Thanks for the blog regarding the film, Amazing Grace.

    Just wanted to let you know that this weekend and next, supporters of the Amazing Change Campaign are hosting Amazing Nights Of Grace, in a concerted effort to get everyone talking about the issue of modern day slavery. The Amazing Change is a social justice campaign launched in conjunction with the release of Amazing Grace to abolish modern day slavery.

    Plan your own Amazing Grace event and use the film to discuss your activism, faith, and other important themes from Amazing Grace. All the tools are ready for your use. The steps to plan your own event can be found at the following website:

    Learn about people continuing the work of William Wilberforce today at Thanks again for your support. Please let us know if you have any questions or need any support by contacting us through this page.

    The Amazing Change Campaign

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