The story of one man’s fight for human rights and the abolition of slavery is a compelling saga. Eric Metaxas’s book “Amazing Grace,” recently made into a movie, recounts the remarkable life of the British statesman William Wilberforce (1759-1803).
Wilberforce was a man who actually did change the world. Up until that time slavery was accepted all over the world as the status quo. The slave trade, along with opium trade, was the leading commodity sold around the world. Millions of lives were destroyed and lost on every continent while the rich became richer and the poor poorer.
Metaxas writes: “What Wilberforce vanquished was something even worse than slavery, something that was much more fundamental and can hardly be seen from where we stand today: he vanquished the very mind-set that made slavery acceptable and allowed it to survive and thrive for millennia.”
The mind-set that slavery was a necessary evil had been questioned by Wilberforce. Slavery was an accepted way of life for those in power. It had been so from the dawn of history. Slavery was just a part of life. Minor slave revolts took place, but the idea persisted that slaves must always be among us.
The evil contained in slavery went against one of the earliest (and most ignored) commands of the God of the Bible. The story goes that God told Adam he could have dominion over the birds of the air and beasts of the field and stream, but not over another human being.
Love thy neighbor and treat him like you would like to be treated never did catch on. It was a mind-set and that is what Wilberforce was able to change. Slavery still exists, even in our country. The immigrants who sell their soul to get here and end up in steamy Chinese or Mexican restaurants (and other trades too) are all too common.
David Batstone, in his book Not for Sale, The Return of the Global Slave Trade–and How We Can Fight It, says there are 27 million slaves in the world today. Precise numbers of slaves are difficult to know because it is carried on in the shadows. The book is filled with facts and figures from many studies of the problem.
What was called “white slave traffic” in the old days now is more precisely called what it is: trafficking in women for sex. This degrading practice goes on in every country and especially in rich ones like ours.
It is a mind-set that needs to be changed. What does having a semi-clad woman standing by an automobile do for sales? Why in the selling of anything must there be the selling of sex? It is on our screens and in our homes on an hourly basis.
I know I am preaching to the choir, but we need constant reminding. The mind-sets of slavery, sex and drugs being accepted is pitifully short of where we need to be. Products we buy and events we attend show how seldom we recognize what Madison Avenue is putting over on us.
Peace is another mind-set that needs adjusting. Where is the William Wilberforce for peace today, someone who can cry out for peace instead of war? War, like slavery, is a degrading mind-set that needs to be vanquished.
Just a fraction of percentage point of our war budget given to education would be a blessing. Our children deserve the best teachers who are paid a good wage. But the money goes for war and armaments.
A culture of peace would change the world. The bullies and their armies cannot stand up to the power of peace. This has been shown over and over in history. People weary of death and fear must constantly seek something better. Jesus said, “Fear not, only believe” and “My peace I leave with you.” What is our response?
Britt Towery, a retired Baptist missionary, writes for the Brownwood Bulletin in Brownwood, Texas.