Over Christmas I had occasion to see Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce and his long, lonely, and ultimately successful struggle to end slavery in the United Kingdom. Like all great stories of struggle, their are eternal life lessons to be passed on, this time from the pen of William Pitt the Younger.
Wilberforce, the affluent and brilliant son of merchants, experienced a religious awakening not long after he had established himself as a force in the House of Commons. He embraced evangelical Christianity, and became a fervent Methodist. Wilberforce was unsure if he could stay in Parliament and be true to his religious convictions.
Pitt, his Cambridge classmate and close friend, was already on the path that would make him the youngest Prime Minister in British history. He both wanted and needed his talented friend and his legislative and oratorical skills in the House. Pitt sent Wilberforce a lengthy letter urging him to remain in office. The letter included the comment:
Surely the principles as well as the practice of Christianity are simple and lead not to meditation only but to action.
Wilberforce ultimately agreed that it was not enough to live a mediative Christian life; he had a responsibility to see live it’s principles and apply them to help people in the UK. Wilberforce went on to not only lead the fight to first end the African slave trade and then to end slavery in the UK, but to also fight for social welfare issues.
This observation strikes me in a secular sense as we enter the presidential selection season. All of use have our ideas of how government should run and what it should properly do…and yet how many of us act to put our ideas into action? We like or dislike certain candidates or campaign ideas, but what steps do we take to see that those candidates and ideas we support are actually elected?
We have the blessing in this country of being able to vote for our leaders. I consider it a responsibility and a privilege, and one not taken lightly.
Yet so many do.
They don’t vote, they don’t work the polls, they don’t work for candidates or issues…they sit and contemplate and then complain that they are somehow left out of the process.
To paraphrase Mr. Pitt, surely the principles as well as the practice of electoral responsibility are simple and lead not to meditation only but to action.
I don’t know what your new year’s resolutions are-but resolve to make this the year you take action and seek involvement in the political process…and you are already involved, do more.
Embrace the grandeur of the historic electoral process of this country, and regardless of party or position declare yourself for action, and not simply for meditation.
Absorb William Pitt’s entreaty to William Wilberforce, and embrace them as your own!