I have a new favorite movie.
Amazing Grace, starring Ioan Gruffudd, is the story of Great Britain’s MP (Member of Parliament) William Wilberforce, whose passionate persistence ended the slave trade in Great Britain in 1807. The movie chronicles his efforts as an abolitionist, which began in 1789. The amazing thing about Amazing Grace is that this movie depicts committed, repentant Christians as something other than wild-eyed, witch-burning fanatics. William Wilberforce followed God’s call on his life to use his position as MP to promote social reforms. And he did it all with – yes, AMAZING Grace. The movie touches briefly on Wilberforce’s other pursuits, including his involvement with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, presenting an accurate portrait of a man who was willing to speak for those who could not speak for themselves. (Although not included in the movie – you can’t cover EVERYTHING in two hours - Wilberforce also was instrumental in opening India to Christian Missionaries, helped found the British and Foreign Bible Society, and worked for the relief of boy chimney sweeps. He wrote a book challenging people to re-examine their Christian faith and give it its proper place in their lives.)
This is one of the most inspiring works to come out of Hollywood since The Ten Commandments – the old one with Charleton Heston. If I may digress, (and of course, I may – this is my blog) I had high hopes for End of the Spear, which was a movie about Jim Eliot, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Peter Fleming and Nate Saint, missionaries who were martyred trying to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Auca people of Ecuador. While the story seemed accurate, they managed to tell it all without once mentioning the name of Jesus.
Amazing Grace also offers viewers an honest introduction to other Christian men, such as Thomas Clarkson, who followed “a direct revelation from God ordering me to devote my life to abolishing the trade.” (Quote not in the movie, but in a historical document). He worked for abolition and emancipation throughout his life. We also meet John Newton, the ex-slaveship captain who wrote the beloved Hymn “Amazing Grace.” Newton was a force of encouragement to Wilberforce throughout his 18 year campaign to end the British slave trade.
Albert Finney as Newton speaks the words that are at the heart of Christian belief and in the heart of every Christian; “I am certain of two things: that I am a great sinner and Jesus Christ is a Great Savior.”
I highly recommend this movie.