Saturday, March 17, 2007

Now Playing: Amazing Grace

It's time that I chimed in on the Amazing Grace bandwagon. Like many of my colleagues, I echo the sentiment "It's a great film. Very moving. We should go see it."

Check out what some Presbyterians have been saying about it:
Dennis at The Reformed Angler takes issue with the critics who say that Wilberforce's faith is downplayed in the film.
Andy at State of Mind talks about the power of the film in challenging his church's youth group.
Bill at Faith Matters raises the interesting observation that some are making a connection between pro-life activism and Wilberforce's anti-slavery activism. The comments on this post are a doozy!

All these theological and practical reflections are worth reading -- and pretty stimulating. I don't have a lot to add from these angles. However, I'm intrigued that history buffs haven't chimed in. For instance, I found it amazing to discover the reappearance of one of the great villains of history, Banastare Tarleton.

Tarleton in the film (and in history) was the British Minister of Parliament who staunchly opposed Wilberforce. The wikipedia article tells us that members of his family were in the Liverpool slave trade, and he was protecting their interests. He's played as just the kind of arrogant villan that makes for good movies. However, when his character is first introduced, he is making a speech denouncing Wilberforce -- saying that first wanted to give away the colonies and now the slave trade, while Tarleton went to America to fight, and now he's home to fight for the British Economy.

My mind began to click back through the name Tarleton -- and then it occurred to me that he was none other than "Ban the Butcher" who ravaged South Carolina during the war of Independence. He was hounded by Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox (one of the great heroes of South Carolina, depicted under a different name in Mel Gibson's The Patriot.). Tarleton also had a run in with a young Andrew Jackson, who was caught running messages for the American patriots. He had Jackson whipped. After the war, he returned to England a hero and became a politician -- where he faced off against a different determined foe.

Another interesting historical piece that is lost: The bill that Newton pushes through to undermine the slave trade. In the film, it is portrayed as a "sneak attack" -- a bill that declares that all ships flying neutral flags (ie -- American Ships) would be subject to search and seizure. It was played as a brilliant victory on Wilberforce's part -- appealing to British patriotism in the war with france, and cutting out the capacity for slave ships to fly the neutral flag. However, this action was one of the deciding factors for drawing the United States into the War of 1812 (from which our national anthem was penned).

History always has story that preceeds it and flows from it, and the Wilberforce film is no exception.

Soli Deo Gloria