Here, for a Sabbath morning, is a little performance from a good old Adventist preacher:
Thanks to Katrina for sending me this link. It was timely, as I’d been thinking about the hymn “Amazing Grace,” having just used it in a scene in the novel I’m writing (not that I haven’t used it before in fiction). Then, as part of our not-going-up-in-the-woods Victoria Day weekend celebrations, we bought the DVD of the movie Amazing Grace and watched it last night.
Now I know you can quibble with the mythology of the hymn’s origin as Wintley presents it in this clip (the melody was an American folk tune that might well have had African origins, but it’s unlikely John Newton himself sang it to that tune), just like you can quibble with how accurately the film portrays the life and career of William Wilberforce and the other English abolitionists. But for me, quibbling misses the point. The song “Amazing Grace” is powerful because it touches people with a hint of God’s grace even when they don’t know or believe anything about the gospel story of grace. It reaches into unexpected corners, just as grace does.
And the story behind the film Amazing Grace is powerful and timely because it’s a story about people driven by their Christian convictions to bring about a great change in society, to fight one of the greatest abuses of human rights in history. People like Wilberforce and many others, who believed that their religion was not just a private affair, but a belief that would drive them to action. God knows we need more of that today.
I’m in the middle of reading Shane Claiborne’s Jesus for President and along with so many other things I’ve been reading and thinking, it really makes me question what action my beliefs should lead me towards. One thing that struck me in watching Amazing Grace was how acceptable the slave trade was in a civilized, rational society like eighteeth-century England. It was seen as necessary to the social and economic order, and therefore it was dangerous and radical to question it — and justifications had to be found, including religious ones, to prop it up. And those whose convictions led them to fight it, had to be willing to shake up people’s perceptions of what was “normal” and “necessary.”
It makes me wonder: what do we take for granted today as “normal” and “necessary” that future generations (should the earth last so long) will look back and see as appalling? What are we doing now, as part of the everyday social order we all accept, that will lead them to cry, “Why did it take so long for Christians in the twenty-first century to ACT???”
Where do we need a little more of God’s amazing grace in today’s world?