I’ve recently read Eric Metaxes’ book Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. I highly recommend it, even if there are sections that could really have used a meaner editor. (An example: “The king’s sanity would come and go over the next several years,but for now it was definitely back, and like a kidney stone, the crisis passed.” That’s … awkward.)
But overall, the book is excellent and one of those “everyone should read” books, especially those who are working to affect change. Metaxes does a wonderful job of placing Wilberforce’s life and work in historical context and reveals how savvy, patient, and wise Wilberforce was in bringing about a massive cultural change.
Despite his life-long battle which was only won at the literal end of his life, Wilberforce seemingly never gave into the anger that sometimes characterize those who have worked long and hard for justice that seems to be denied. It is easy to become bitter when an uncaring, indifferent world looks on injustice and seems completely unmoved. I see this — I’m prone to this — as we mark the 40th year since Roe v. Wade made abortion legal everywhere in this country. It is one thing to be persevering, and another to be persevering in joy.
I also think activists on any issue are prone to dismissing questions and criticisms. When something seems self-evident, it is sometimes difficult to honestly address other opinions. “If you can’t see the logic in my position and back it 100%, then obviously you’re an idiot/evil/a hypocrite.” We can fail to give room for people to be convinced. Persuasion is a process, and people are not coins to be flipped on a whim. And of course, there are those who may agree with our position, but not feel the same urgency or the need to act. Those times, too, are trying for activists.
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As activists, we have the greater responsibility in the conversation. Our job is to be the ones who persuade, who create opportunities for non-activists to act, and who make paths so that the culture can change. That’s why I was so encouraged to come across this podcast (via the indispensable Life News). Sure, they’re still young and haven’t yet had the opportunity to become old and bitter, but let’s not despise them because of their youth. This is a wonderful example of reaching out to people where they are and giving them room to agree with us on some things, if not everything, and leaving room to grow together in understanding.
It’s a 30-minute podcast, but I think it has great benefit for pro-life and pro-choice people alike and is well worth the time.
From more from these wise whippersnappers, check out Prolife Podcast.