America's Calling William Wilberforce

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By Dr. Tony Beam, Christian Post Guest Columnist
February 27, 2007|8:39 am

The United States Congress is clearly on a path to end the Iraq war. Please notice I said they are on a path to “end” not “win” the war. The steady anti-war drumbeat continues to pound out its incessant rhythm even as Mitch McConnell does all he can in the Senate to muffle the sound. In the House, a group of 17 Republicans joined the new Democrat majority minus 2 to condemn the President’s plan to reinforce the existing troops in Iraq and begin the execution of a new plan to secure Baghdad.

The next move for the Democrats in the Senate is to begin maneuvering in the Senate to cut off funds for the troops while appearing to continue their support. Some Democrats want to “revisit” the original authorization they gave the President to wage the war. This re-visitation will no doubt give a certain Senator from New York who wants to be president some political cover. No one on the political Left seems to be even slightly concerned about what will happen in Iraq if we leave before we actually win the war. What will happen when Iran and Syria rush to fill the void? What about the fledgling Iraqi government? Will they simply fold while the world witnesses the same type of wholesale slaughter that followed our retreat from Vietnam?

The average American’s attention span has become as short as their memory. Patience and perseverance are not virtues Americans are willing to grant when it comes to any endeavor that requires sacrifice. What America needs is another William Wilberforce. As both the Senate and the House wrangle over who will get to declare defeat in Iraq first, perhaps both chambers should simply recess and go to the movies. Amazing Grace should be required viewing for anyone who needs to understand that truly great endeavors require passion, persistence, patience, and leadership that perseveres in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

William Wilberforce, inspired by the preaching and his personal encounters with John Newton (who penned the words to the hymn Amazing Grace), stood virtually alone against England’s abominable slave trade. In 1787, Wilberforce was persuaded by Thomas Clarkson and Sir Charles and Lady Middleton to become the leader of the parliamentary campaign to end slavery. On May 12, 1789 he made his first major speech on the subject of abolition in the House of Commons. At the time of the speech, no one seriously considered the fact that the slave trade would ever be abolished. It had become deeply rooted in the British economic structure as well as deeply ingrained in the English mindset as being “just the way things are.”

Wilberforce didn’t get his first vote to abolish slavery until April of 1791. The measure was soundly defeated 163 to 88. Most men would have wrapped themselves in the warm and fuzzy thought that at least they had tried. But Wilberforce refused to give up in the face of initial defeat. He brought the measure again and again while Thomas Clarkson traveled across England speaking and writing about the horrors of the trade. Finally, after multiple failures and untold disappointments in the midst of which Wilberforce refused to yield his principles, the British Parliament passed his bill on February 23, 1807 – twenty years after it was first introduced.

How many men would have endured 20 years of failure because of their passion for what it right? Today, we can’t wait five minutes for our frozen dinners to defrost without complaining. Wilberforce waited 20 years for his vision of morality to become the law of the land. America needs William Wilberforce…. We desperately need “men with chests” who aren’t afraid to persevere until right prevails.

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In 1953, a team of six men tried to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Four of the men pressed on from the final camp to reach the summit trying to outrun a huge storm. Their bodies lie buried in a nameless grave as a testimony to their failure to reach their goal. But one of the other two men who stayed at the base camp, upon hearing of the four adventurer’s deaths, shook his fist at the mountain and said, “We will conquer you yet because you cannot get any bigger but we will continue to grow!” Where are the leaders who look at the problems in the world and realize the power of evil is fixed while the power of God will continue to grow. All that is needed is a heart like William Wilberforce which will beat for God with a passion for what is right until what is right wins the day.
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Dr. Tony Beam is Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.

 

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