Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

Amazing Grace


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?


9 thoughts on “Amazing Grace

  1. Interesting question. And really a question one has to think about.

    But my kneejerk, not-thought-about response is: automatically aborting a baby just because she has an extra chromosome.

    But then, I’m a little biased. 🙂

  2. On that issue, Katrina, I think you have every right to be a little biased! I have learned so much from your posts about your wonderful daughter.

  3. I was so caught up watching Wintley play the black keys, that I was surprised to catch a glimpse of Larnelle Harris in the congregation. I thought…wow…now that’s a Church service I’d like to be a part of. Then there was Guy Penrod…and Jessie Dixon. After the piano fell on me, I realized this isn’t a clip from Wintley preaching in his Church down south…it’s a Gaither video. 🙂 I’m having a Mr. Magoo day.

    In reading ahead in your blog, I couldn’t help but think of the Holocaust which happened within our parents lifetime. Then there’s Rwanda and Darfur.

  4. Was it a Gaither video? I didn’t even notice the other people there.

    Sherry, I hope you saw the next blog with the Chris Tomlin video … if that song ends up getting requested a lot this week you will know who to blame, because I canNOT get it out of my head.

    I hope more people answer my question thoughtfully like Katrina and Sherry have, because each answer has added something I hadn’t thought of. I was thinking of our misuse of the environment and our dependence on oil, and how that will affect future generations, and our willingness to buy cheap goods even if they’re produced in sweatshops or even by slave labour (so long as it’s on the other side of the world where we can’t see what’s happening) but having other people’s responses gives me other issues to ponder on too. That’s why God needs all of us I guess … because we all notice different problems (and hopefully can contribute to the solutions).

  5. After visiting the Holocaust museum in Washington, and reading about Canada’s borders being closed to the Jews, and stories of people being turned away…it hits home. Standing there I felt so ashamed. Canada was a young nation and probably could have taken them all. I know the atrocities that took place were outside the norm…but what do we do to make a difference today?

    On a different note…Chris Tomlin won a Dove award this year. Male artist of the year. “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Free)” also went number one for him. Thought that would make ya smile.

  6. It even happened in Newfoundland … a group of Jews applied to come here from Germany in the 30s, and the local Jewish community (which was tiny) asked the Nfld. government to please take them in, and our government refused. I agree, the real question is what can we do today?

    I haven’t really heard much Chris Tomlin except for this song, and this one never really struck me until I saw the video on the Amazing Grace DVD. Have you seen the movie? If not, come watch it at our place sometime.

  7. No I haven’t seen the movie yet. I think I have the soundtrack somewhere. 🙂 I’ve been wanting to see it though. I don’t get out to many movies these days. I saw “P.S. I Love You” this weekend. I really liked it, but probably because of the Irish men in it…oh, and Harry Connick Jr., who isn’t Irish…but should have been.

  8. You can’t go wrong with Irish men in a movie.

  9. I think the health care situation in the States qualifies – it’s something everybody knows is wrong, but there’s a deep sense of learned helplessness about it, as if it is a necessary side effect of democracy.

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