Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 18, 2007

Amazing Grace

Filed under: african-american,Film,racism — louisproyect @ 6:58 pm

Scheduled for nation-wide release this week, “Amazing Grace” is a hagiographic treatment of the life and career of William Wilberforce, the parliamentary opponent of the slave trade in Great Britain. (The film’s title is derived from the hymn written by John Newton, a retired sea-captain and reformed slave-trader who became a minister and who is played by Albert Finney.) In the press notes, director Michael Apted states:

This is a great moment in British history, and I wanted to portray it as a generational battle–the young men taking on the older generation–like Kennedys and their Camelot court were to America in the early sixties.

Ironically, this was exactly the political role of William Wilberforce. Using the language and gestures of reform, his gradualism helped to maintain a cruel racist system that forces to his left were far more interested in abolishing.

In an article on JFK that I wrote for Revolution Magazine in New Zealand a couple of years ago, I took note of the following:

Not only were the Kennedys hostile to the Civil Rights Commission; they appointed 5 segregationist judges to the federal bench, including Harold Cox, who had referred to blacks as “niggers” and “chimpanzees.” Robert F. Kennedy preferred Cox to Thurgood Marshall whom he described as “basically second-rate.” Kennedy frequently turned to Mississippi Senator James Eastland for advice on appointments. According to long-time activist Virginia Durr, Eastland would “invite people over for the weekend and tell them to ‘pick out a nigger girl and a horse!’ That was his way of showing hospitality.”

The film was meant to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the passing of the bill that banned the slave trade in the British Empire, an event that constitutes the climactic scene.

What it does not make clear is that the bill did not abolish slavery itself, which would persist in Jamaica and other British colonies for another 30 years. When younger and more militant abolitionists pressed Wilberforce to enter legislation to that effect, he replied that because of the effect “which long continuance of abject slavery produces on the human mind…I look to the improvement of their minds, and to the diffusion among them of those domestic charities which will render them more fit, than I fear they now are, to bear emancipation.” In other words, the slaves were not ready for their freedom. In the 1960s, the call was for “Freedom Now”, something the Kennedy brothers shrank from just as did William Wilberforce.

The above quote and those that follow demonstrate William Wilberforce’s true attitudes toward slaves, something entirely missing from Apted’s sanitized biopic. They originate in Jack Gratus’s 1973 Monthly Review book “The Great White Lie: Slavery, Emancipation and Changing Racial Attitudes,” a necessary corrective to the one-sided portrait drawn by Apted.

In 1823, 16 years after the slave trade was abolished, Wilberforce felt compelled to address the persistence of the institution in his “Appeal in Behalf of the Negro Slaves in the West Indies”. Always the religious moralist (he was an evangelical), Wilberforce looked at the slaves in a most paternalistic fashion as if they were sinners while at the same time showing ample generosity toward the planters who whipped and exploited them (“we should treat with candour and tenderness the characters of the West India proprietors.“)

While slavery was certainly evil, this was not in his eyes the worst aspect of the system. Instead, it was “the almost universal destitution of religious and moral instruction among the slaves” that constituted “the most serious of all the vices in the West Indian system.” He realized that it was hard for the Europeans to feel anything but contempt, “even disgust and aversion” for the personal peculiarities of the Africans, “but raise these poor creatures from their depressed condition, and if they are not yet fit for the enjoyment of British freedom, elevate them at least from the level of the brute creation into that of rational nature…Taught by Christianity they will sustain with patience the sufferings of their actual lot, while the same instructors will rapidly prepare them for a better; and instead of being objects of contempt, and another of terror…they will be soon regarded as a grateful peasantry.”

In Apted’s film, Wilberforce is played by Ioan Gruffudd as a kind of ascetic wraith. Suffering from colitis that he treats with laudanum, he is always rising from his sick-bed to dash off to parliament to make some stirring speech. Every other abolitionist figure is subordinate to him, which is of course detrimental to the film since they are far more interesting than this bible-thumping prig.

First among them is Thomas Clarkson (Rufus Sewell), a member of the anti-slavery group that Wilberforce had joined and on whose behalf he spoke for in parliament. From the press notes, we learn that Clarkson was a “fiery radical and a magnificent organizer” who took testimonies from sailors and captains involved in the slave trade. William Wordsworth, an abolitionist himself, wrote a sonnet to Clarkson on the occasion of the 1807 bill abolishing the slave-trade:

Clarkson! it was an obstinate Hill to climb;
How toilsome, nay how dire it was, by Thee
Is known,–by none, perhaps, so feelingly;
But Thou, who, starting in thy fervent prime,
Didst first lead forth this pilgrimage sublime,
Hast heard the constant Voice its charge repeat,
Which, out of thy young heart’s oracular seat,
First roused thee.–O true yoke-fellow of Time
With unabating effort, see, the palm
Is won, and by all Nations shall be worn!
The bloody Writing is for ever torn,
And Thou henceforth shalt have a good Man’s calm,
A great Man’s happiness; thy zeal shall find
Repose at length, firm Friend of human kind!

Oulidah Equiano

Even more interesting than Clarkson was Oulidah Equiano, a freed slave from Nigeria
who served with Clarkson on the abolitionist’s committee and who wrote a best-selling memoir. He is played by famed Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour. A website in his honor reports:

Kidnapped and sold into slavery in childhood, he was taken as a slave to the New World. As a slave to a captain in the Royal Navy, and later to a Quaker merchant, he eventually earned the price of his own freedom by careful trading and saving. As a seaman, he travelled the world, including the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Atlantic and the Arctic, the latter in an abortive attempt to reach the North Pole

Throughout the film, Clarkson and Equiano play second fiddle to Wilberforce and do not emerge as interesting characters. Furthermore, the film seldom strays outside the parliament or from Wilberforce’s country estate (he was fabulously wealthy.) Inside the parliament, we hear speeches for and against slavery. Around Wilberforce’s dining table, we hear him and his abolitionist guests trying to figure out what to do next to achieve their goals. Entirely missing is the ferment of the mass movement that existed all through Great Britain in this period. Ordinary working people, who were bitterly opposed to slavery, simply have no existence. This is very much a struggle between rival elites. In the conclusion of the film, there is a reference to their existence as Wilberforce unrolls a petition with more than 300,000 names on the parliament floor. It would have made for a more interesting and more historically accurate film if we saw how ordinary British citizens decided to take action against such an unspeakable evil

This is not to speak of the slaves themselves who were moving to abolish slavery themselves through insurrection. The film makes clear that the Haitian revolution and the French Revolution (that Clarkson supported and Wilberforce opposed) caused a backlash against the abolitionists. It is too bad that Michael Apted’s screenwriter Steven Knight found the parliament floor and Wilberforce’s dining room more compelling arenas than the sugar fields of Haiti. I myself would have preferred to see a slave revolt than one more speech from Wilberforce.

Although my complaints might be written off as what might be expected from a chronically disgruntled Marxist, there is clear evidence that even his contemporaries found Wilberforce lacking. Thomas Clarkson wrote the poet Coleridge (like Wordsworth, an abolitionist) that Wilberforce “cared nothing about the slaves, nor if they were all damned provided he saved his own soul.”

Essayist William Hazlitt, a colleague of Wordsworth and Coleridge who some regard as a proto-socialist, was scathing in his portrait of Wilberforce in “The Spirit of the Age”:

He goes hand and heart along with Government in all their notions of legitimacy and political aggrandizement, in the hope that they will leave him a sort of no-man’s ground of humanity in the Great Desert, where his reputation for benevolence and public spirit may spring up and flourish, till its head touches the clouds, and it stretches out its branches to the farthest part of the earth. He has no mercy on those who claim a property in negro-slaves as so much live-stock on their estates; the country rings with the applause of his wit, his eloquence, and his indignant appeals to common sense and humanity on this subject. But not a word has he to say, not a whisper does he breathe, against the claim set up by the Despots of the Earth over their Continental subjects, but does everything in his power to confirm and sanction it! He must give no offence. Mr. Wilberforce’s humanity will go all lengths that it can with safety and discretion; but it is not to be supposed that it should lose him his seat for Yorkshire, the smile of Majesty, or the countenance of the loyal and pious. He is anxious to do all the good he can without hurting himself or his fair fame.

Apparently, Michael Apted was not the only one to commemorate the British abolitionists. Adam Hochschild, the author of the very fine “King Leopold’s Ghost”, wrote “Bury The Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves” in 2005–a work that has received plaudits wide and far.

In a February 14, 2007 Nation Magazine review of Hochschild’s book, the always astute Daniel Lazare was quite positive but did raise some points worth considering. Lazare takes note of Hochschild’s comparison of the abolitionist committee that looked to Wilberforce for leadership and the humanitarian, middle-class movements of today. In his introduction to “Bury the Chains,” Hochschild writes:

Think of what you’re likely to find in your mailbox—or electronic mailbox—over a month or two. An invitation to join the local chapter of a national environmental group. If you say yes, a logo to put on your car bumper. A flier asking you to boycott California grapes or Guatemalan coffee. A poster to put in your window promoting this campaign. A notice that a prominent social activist will be reading from her new book at your local bookstore. A plea that you write your representative in Congress or Parliament, to vote for that Guatemalan coffee boycott bill. A “report card” on how your legislators have voted on these and similar issues. A newsletter from the group organizing support for the grape pickers or the coffee workers.

Each of these tools, from the poster to the political book tour, from the consumer boycott to investigative reporting designed to stir people to action, is part of what we take for granted in a democracy. Two and a half centuries ago, few people assumed this. When we wield any of these tools today, we are using techniques devised or perfected by the campaign that held its first meeting at 2 George Yard in 1787. From their successful crusade we still have much to learn.

Lazare asks whether the 12 members of the committee were responsible for abolition of the slave trade (a hollow victory in itself) or were there broader social forces at work. By concentrating on personalities like Wilberforce, Equiano and Clarkson, Hochschild implies that it is the former that were responsible. In contrast, Lazare stakes out a position much closer to Jack Gratus’s:

Although they [Wilberforce et al] made a big splash at first, they were quickly overwhelmed by momentous historical events that were constantly erupting offstage. They exercised about as much control as a twig does over the flood bearing it downstream.

Morally, moreover, their legacy was more ambiguous than we might like to think. Not only were abolitionists silent about new forms of slavery that were springing up in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, most notably child labor in coal mines and factories, but, in a particularly ironic twist, the movement they created segued all too smoothly into the movement to colonize Africa directly. In 1839 a leading abolitionist, Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, established a new organization whose title said it all: the Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade and the Civilization of Africa. The more Europeans inserted themselves into African affairs, the more Africa became a playground for their imperial ambitions. Shutting the door to one form of hypocrisy meant opening it to another.

Lazare also has a pointed observation on Hochschild’s apparent willingness to segment the struggles of the early 19th century–something that a radical like Clarkson never considered doing himself:

Hochschild concludes his study with a swipe at unnamed critics who complain, he says, that “all this fuss about the slaves in the West Indies helped distract the public from the oppression of labor at home.” The statement is not footnoted, and it’s hard to imagine whom Hochschild has in mind, since it has long been a tenet of the left that the struggle against wage slavery and the struggle against chattel slavery are inseparable. As Marx put it, “Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded.” Still, there’s no doubt that British humanitarianism was selective in terms of whom to feel sorry for and whom not to. Abolition did not succeed in Britain until it transcended the narrow middle-class moralism that Hochschild celebrates. If reformers are so ineffectual in Bush’s America, perhaps it is because they have not transcended it either.

Although I am obviously very disappointed in “Amazing Grace,” I would still urge you to see it when it opens since it is the very first film to my knowledge that deals with an obviously key historical moment. I hope that it will inspire others to delve into historical material that is more accurate and more meaningful, starting with Jack Gratus’s excellent “The Great White Lie”.

An update on “Amazing Grace”:

I just discovered that the production company behind the film, Bristol Bay Productions, has launched something called the “Amazing Change Campaign” that intends to fund and promote Christian missionary work in troubled areas in Africa (Uganda, etc.) in the spirit of William Wilberforce.

When I discovered the Christian connection, I did a little more investigation and learned that Bristol Bay is owned by Philip Anschutz, who also owns Walden Media, the production company responsible for the Christian film “The Chronicles of Narnia”.

Philip Anschutz, rightwing billionaire responsible for “Amazing Grace”

Philip Anschutz is an evangelical Christian billionaire who has funded organizations that oppose abortion and gay rights. Last year Anschutz got into a bit of a scandal trying to launch a gambling casino [perfect–just perfect] in London’s Millennium Dome, which inspired this report in the July 7, 2006 Independent:

The Christian tycoon who wants to ban gay marriage; Deputy PM Under Fire

By Andrew Buncombe in Washington

John Prescott’s genial host in Colorado is a billionaire conservative who has used his vast wealth and influence to promote his Christian viewpoint, to rally against gay marriage and fund an organisation that questions the theory of evolution. He has also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates.

The Deputy Prime Minister claims he spent only two-and-half hours with Philip Anschutz over the entire July weekend he spent at his 35,000-acre ranch, Eagle’s Nest, an hour from Denver. Mr Prescott said he went to satisfy an ambition to see a working cattle ranch – stirred by watching Westerns as a boy – and to talk with sugar-beet farmers about the state of their industry.

But if the MP for Hull East had time to dig a little he might have asked Mr Anschutz about Amendment 2, an ultimately failed ballot initiative he funded to overturn state laws that protected gay rights. The measure was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1996.

He might also have asked Mr Anschutz about the Discovery Institute, a “think-tank” he funds in Seattle that criticises Darwin’s theory of evolution and argues for the involvement of a “supernatural” actor in the development of living things.

Critics accuse it of offering little more than a new spin on creationism and the institute was recently caught up in a notorious lawsuit about the teaching of creationism in schools. And over dinner at the ranch, complete with its own golf-course and formerly owned by the beer magnate Peter Coors, Mr Prescott could have raised the topic of the Media Research Council, a Washington-based group that attacks the liberal media and which, in 2003, was responsible for half of the complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission about alleged indecency on television.

The wealth of Mr Anschutz, 67, is huge and his interests are vast. Born in Kansas, he inherited his father’s land and oil businesses before expanding them.

His empire includes sports teams – he owns the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, a cinema chain, a film production company that has produced such films as Ray and The Chronicles of Narnia, oil, railroads, telecommunications and newspapers.

Forbes lists him as the 28th richest person in the US with a net worth of $7.2bn (pounds 4bn) but, in 2002, Fortune called him the “greediest executive”.

Another Update: Excellent review of “Amazing Grace” by historian Peter Linebaugh 


  1. a thoughtful essay on a timely subject. worth reading and discussing.

    Comment by neil amdur — February 19, 2007 @ 7:01 pm

  2. Amazing Grace was written by John Newton, not John Lawton. If you can’t get this basic and well known fact right what am I to believe regarding the rest of your diatribe?

    Tom Scott

    (The film’s title is derived from the hymn written by John Lawton, a reformed sea-captain and slave-trader played by Albert Finney.)

    Comment by Tom Scott — February 19, 2007 @ 8:26 pm

  3. Mr. Scott, I have a day job as a programmer and write film reviews when I can find the time. Unlike people such as Andrew Sarris at the NY Observer, I don’t have copy editors to look over my prose for typos. However, I think it is far more important to understand the truth about Wilberforce, which Sarris and most other reviewers obviously don’t. I took the trouble to read a critical history of the period. If you have a better grasp of the period, why don’t you share it with our readers.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 19, 2007 @ 8:35 pm

  4. Having a day job is no excuse for getting the facts wrong. The Unrepentant doesn’t apologize, but blames the reader for not co-operating.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — February 20, 2007 @ 8:01 am

  5. Insightful critique and good points. I went to the preview in Chicago where the actor pointed out the Anschutz connection. I have to admit that gave me pause. But I thought the director did a good job in toning down the evangelical side of the movie. I got a little nervous that I was being brainwashed in someway when I saw who was behind the movie, because for me the evangelicals are very scary. Overall, the movie did have a kind of corniness to it. However, I thought it was good that it raised my awareness however stilted of the abolition of slavery in Britian. I really think kudos should go to the director for toning down the Christian angle and they did in however an awkward way demonstrate what the slaves went through on the ships. This movie could have gone in a lot of different directions but I think if they pursued the slaves in the field angle it would have turned the movie more into a historical epic and I think they were trying to focus in on the machinations of Wilberforce in parliament and the wheelings and dealings that went on then that are not too different from what goes on today, The U.S. government is still run by elitists, none of the senators, congressman’s children went to Iraq, and the decisions and bargains are still done in closed rooms…..

    Comment by JB — February 20, 2007 @ 6:09 pm

  6. I believe Mr. Louis Proyect has done an incredible analysis. My sincere regards to you sir. I only hope that may your review of the movie and the analysis of the related time period and issues, find greater audience.

    I am not a Marxist and do not believe that power (or justice, or compassion, or equality , or progress) flows from the gun. But I do believe that gradualism has had enough gradual opportunity to dissipate by now but has not. And what sustains gradualism is the graded moralism of the missionary minded Evangelism, which places the furtherance of blind obedience to mythology ahead of rational inquiry and dialectical discourse.

    Here I would like to draw attention to the fact that I do believe that (even for one who is contesting the realms of philosophy bridging agnostic, atheist and deist;) religion is the opium of the masses and that to purvey the missionary agenda with the biopics of Wilberforce and the like, is an ingenious intoxication. Wilberforce, who had never been to the colonies himself … was incredibly interested in their conversion to Christianity. He tried, unsuccessfully to require the East India Company to aid and keep in its pay priests and pastors for administering the moral upliftment of the natives of India. But he did manage to institute a Christian ministry in Calcutta.

    It is not surprising that the Christian Right has chosen Wilberforce as the soft mascot for the projection of a self righteous image and give missionary work a rather clean chasuble.

    The links on the website of the movie is self evident. This biopic is not to celebrate Wilberforce (whatever his contribution in furthering the debate against slavery.) or even the anniversary of the so-called British attempt at abolishing slavery. It is about impressing the unbelievers to become a member of the flock. This falls neatly into the World Vision’s agenda of the 20-40 window of opportunity for conversions in Africa and Asia.

    But rationalists and socialists know better. They know that concentrating on real issues and problems frames the 20-20 window of opportunity for progress in Africa and Asia … and the world.

    Keep on writing Mr. Louis Proyect. Spellings and typographical errors are not the issue. People lacking the ability to see other human beings and cultures as equal and valid are.

    Comment by Grille Weltercourse — February 21, 2007 @ 5:32 am

  7. Thoughtful article. My objection is this–the critique points out the shortcomings and limitations of Wilberforce but is there not something admirable in what he DID accomplish? Was there anyone else in Parliament stepping up in this matter? Even with the mixture in his motives and philosophy toward slaves was it not a good thing to ban slavery in Great Britain? While biopics do have an irritating tendency to infer sainthood on those who are not saints, I think your criticism reflects an unhealthy and unfair bias toward anything that hints of “evangelicalism”. I guess I prefer the way Wilberforce (in all his imperfections) went after slavery as opposed to the way that the other 99 percent did not.

    Comment by Melville Wiley — February 21, 2007 @ 4:17 pm

  8. There was something admirable about his fight against the slave trade. But I am fairly uncompromising when it comes to the subject of human freedom. That is why, for example, my blog has also been critical of Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”. It is good that he is campaigning around the issue of global warming. But it is not so good that he fails to identify its underlying cause, namely the profit-hungry capitalist system.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 21, 2007 @ 4:23 pm

  9. I am amazed at how biased socialists enjoy using technology that would have never been created in a socialist society. I guess as long as nobody has toliet paper then all is equal and fair. While capitalism is not perfect, because all the participants in it are not, at least it promotes equity above equality. Therefore it is the only system that even comes close to creating the amount of wealth to not only provide compenstation for productivity, but also enough excess (charity and taxes) to pay for the basic needs for those who either choose or do not have the ability to produce enough to sustain themselves. US residents below the poverty line on average have cable television.

    Comment by MJ — February 22, 2007 @ 6:38 am

  10. So capitalism is the ultimate cause of global warming. Brilliant. Then all we have to do is to go back to that first principle, capitalism, extirpate it and we’ll be sitting pretty. O those lovely first principles. They skip all the tiresome intermediate steps and avoid so much onerous thinking. The worst environmental conditions I ever experienced were in the USSR. There were no capitalists around, only a lot of workers treated like so many expendable cogs in a decrepit machine. Luckily I got out before Chernobyl blew up and poisoned a good part of Europe. A capitalist plot? Passing through Bulgaria I glanced at another rickety nuclear plant ready to pop. The workers and press had orders to shut up about that bit of capitalist intrigue.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — February 22, 2007 @ 2:06 pm

  11. I imagine that Peter Byrne is not really familiar with how the USSR ended up with Chernobyl, etc. For another take on this issue, read:


    Comment by louisproyect — February 22, 2007 @ 2:12 pm

  12. Thank you Mr. Proyect for a well written and interesting review. I suppose its neither necessary nor expected that your readers will agree with everything you say, but it strikes me as odd that some of your most strident critics appear bent on personal attack without so much as a passing concern for the merits of your efforts.

    Comment by Richard Greener — February 22, 2007 @ 3:52 pm

  13. Given the traditional absence of historical perspective in the American reviewing community, Mr. Proyect’s carefully researched and strongly put dissent can only be seen as a welcome corrective. His emphasis on the less admirable side of the Wilberforce story might not serve so useful a function were it directed toward a better educated film and film-viewing community. That absence of perspective among the literate strata woefully mirrors the astounding historical ignorance of the nation as a whole. Mr. Greener’s comments are, of course, well taken.

    Comment by J. Marlin — February 22, 2007 @ 5:01 pm

  14. Dear Mr. Greener. No one more than Louis Proyect knows that errors are always personal and that the debate of ideas is not a Sunday school picnic. After all, he’s an ex-Trotskyite. Examples abound. Take the article of Jan.21’07 entitled May 6th (06/05). It ends with the slanderous “error” that Ayaan Hirsi Ali made a “false allegation that she was fleeing a force (sic) marriage” when she entered the Netherlands in 1992. She in fact claimed political asylum at that time, altered her name and date of birth and said she arrived directly from Somalia. These were indeed lies made on the advice of a coach provided by an NGO for refugees. She was told that flight from a forced marriage would not get her into the Netherlands. At any rate it was mainly death threats from extremists that drove her across the Atlantic. Since the murder of Theo van Gogh she was under heavy police protection and forced to keep changing her address. In his comment on the article, Louis Proyect disposes in two words of Ian Buruma, who wrote on the subject, calling him a “disgusting pig”. He then calls the assassinated van Gogh an even more “disgusting pig”. That’s not the language they spoke in my Sunday school.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — February 22, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

  15. Somehow your attack on Wilberforce, a man seen through the lens of your own philosophical foundation, has been classified as a movie review on Rotten Tomatoes. No doubt your essay here will find a much greater audience than you imagined.

    It is unclear to me why a Christian’s desire to spread what they regard as the highest truth ever revealed to mortal men should be so reviled by you, Mr. Weltercourse, or anyone else. If they sincerely regard their beliefs as true then they are only acting on deeply held principle and should be lauded for their courage, regardless of your opinion of the historical identity of Christ.

    Comment by Justin Vest — February 22, 2007 @ 8:53 pm

  16. “That’s not the language they spoke in my Sunday school.”

    Oh noes!

    Comment by Kalkin — February 22, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  17. who freed the slaves? Atheists? Yes, that’s it! It was atheists…those who uphold no absolute right and wrong…who freed the slaves. You see, one day, an atheist looked at the WORLD WIDE slave trade and said, “hmm…all these societies are *wrong*….those xians are at it again!” so, in the end, it was atheism who had the moral fortitude to step outside of society and declare it to be wrong, and it was atheism that ended slavery.

    ok. ya. uh…..ok.

    Comment by arthur — February 22, 2007 @ 11:35 pm

  18. the author of this review is nothing more than an armchair quaterback. sitting around in his envioronmentally balanced home, with his comfort food, easy living, and (probably) overweight gut. He philosophises and relaxes in his cozy room with his computer, his music, remote controls and individualistic lifestyle. He has no idea…NO IDEA…what it is like to live in a world where slavery was considered RIGHT and LEGAL by civilizations world wide. Its easy for him to pick and judge a man who stood against it. Martin Luther King was a great man, but if I was as reckless and callous as this reviewer, I could pick him apart and make him into a flaw.

    You are a pathetic person, and your disengenuine hostility and irrational judgments are loud and clear. Your review completely neglects the context of that world, of which you know nothing about.

    Comment by more rational than the reviewer — February 22, 2007 @ 11:41 pm

  19. Good lord, was this review linked from Free Republic or something? You should get some google ads or something, Mr. Proyect, and make some money off of these determined-to-remain-ignorant fools.

    Comment by Nathan — February 23, 2007 @ 4:49 pm

  20. Everytime you write something, the sum total knowledge of humanity is decreased.

    Comment by Reader — February 24, 2007 @ 4:12 am

  21. The greatest truths of the movie were the assertions by John Newton, “I am a great sinner and Christ is a great savior.” Mr. Wilberforce knew both. Mr. Proyect apparently knows neither.

    Comment by Paul Aganski — February 25, 2007 @ 2:25 am

  22. Good work. And this from an orthodox Christian. You do come across as a bit spiteful toward Christianity in general, but I let your sound analysis lead me onward. Thanks for taking the time to balance the picture. It should be no surprise, especially for us Christians, that Wilberforce was a hearty sinner. Trust Jesus, Louis.

    Comment by Chris — February 25, 2007 @ 2:52 am

  23. Hopefully, such critiques will serve to bring us to a “higher” level of awareness of the intentions, not only of these movie heroes, but of ourselves, and of those who present, through film, or otherwise, a version of events. The critique serves to expand and broaden the overall good, by causing us to think – and by fleshing out the apparently limited version of historical events portrahyed in the film. It might be kept in mind, that despite the critisism of the movie, the movie was, nonetheless, recommended. The point might be to use whatever effort that is made, whether that of Willberforce, or that of the makers of the movie, or of such a movie critique, as a launching pad to a greater good – which seems to be what Mr. Proyect’s critique is about.

    Comment by HTwelker — February 25, 2007 @ 3:10 am

  24. I suppose if you cherry-pick your sources and quotes, you can write an article that “proves” anything. Someone has allegedly proven that Abraham Lincoln was gay, for instance. The author certainly has a wealth of knowledge on the subject and period, and probably even knows more than he’s sharing. Acknowledgment of contrary sources, (or of potential bias of ones used) is curiously absent.

    Additionally, Mr. Proyect’s smug style of writing and single-minded perspective make his conclusions suspect. If billionaires funding media projects upset him, he must be livid that Air America still exists.

    Comment by Terminus Eldorado — February 25, 2007 @ 4:15 am

  25. […] from the left, from Marxism list, posted by Louis Proyect (see this other commentary at his blog: ) The Unrepentant Marxist (I[Louis Proyect] found out about this article from […]

    Pingback by Darwiniana » Left takes on Amazing Grace — February 25, 2007 @ 10:40 pm

  26. The movie is called “Amazing Grace” after a hymn that sets forth the foundations of Christianity: man as sinner in need of a savior, Jesus Christ that savior. And, the hymn was written by a repentant slave trader turned preacher. Why would anyone expect this film to be anything other than a portrayal of Wilberforce as an evangelical? The angle of the film is that of Wilberforce against the House of Commons. The film chronicles his story and his battles, in Parliament and in his personal life. If you want to see a film about the other characters or using another angle, then don’t go to one that uses a hymn as its title.

    Comment by gh — February 26, 2007 @ 9:08 pm

  27. Man is not a sinner. There is no “original” sin. Those who plant a baseless fear of the divine in the hearts of ordinary humans, to extend their influence on the basis of their religiosity, are the foremost amongst sinners. So, missionaries who “do good” with the goal of conversion, are sinners, for they poker using God’s calling card. So, evangelicals, who right off the spirituality and faith of other cultures, are sinners, because they are agents of intolerance. So, supporters and donors, who grant huge sums of money to smother the cultures of others by organizing a “harvest of faith”, are sinners, because they cannot appreciate the beauty of god’s creation.

    Mr. Proyect is forthright in his criticism. And so much the better for it. Because, the shibboleths by which we uphold our methods and assumptions to be above debate and reproach need to be domolished. And the so called Christian Evangelism, as has come about in the red states, is a huge perversion of the original Christian faith. Wilberforce is an example of that strain of thinking. And for that reason alone, is he being hosted onto a pedestal as a seer of sorts. He was no seer. Nor was he a saint. His motives were not entirely secular and therefore to accord him a secular berth in history, as the movie does, is deception and yes, a sin.

    Comment by Grille Weltercourse — February 27, 2007 @ 1:17 am

  28. Grille, you’d be correct in calling missionaries the foremost of sinners if they believed, as you do, that there is no “original” sin. As it is, you are either contradicting yourself or being disingenuous.

    A Christian missionary sees him or herself has requiring grace to be in communion and friendship with a perfect God, on account of their own sin. They see that grace as one of the expressions of God’s beauty, in that a God who is perfectly just is also perfectly compassionate. God is not seen as being just one or the other, but both in their divine completeness. In Christ that tension is seen as being resolved.

    The beauty of God’s creation is perfectly visible to the Christian, but the Christian acknowledges that that beauty is severely marred. This again resolves another tension: why are there disagreements between cultures, faiths, and philosophies? Is there not something at the core of humanity that is unresolved that causes brother to take up arms, either literally or figuratively, against brother? After all, is Christianity the only religion or culture that seeks to transpose itself elsewhere? A cursory examination of history will tell you this is not so.

    Finally, if all is as it should be, then why do you disagree with Christians? This is a most blatant self-contradiction. Are they not a part of God’s perfect creation as much as every other culture? Christians can’t spoil perfection all by themselves, surely? There IS a tension in creation. This is undeniable. Why single out Christian culture as the antithesis for an all-tolerating philosophy?

    At least be fair to the missionary. You can either object to the missionary’s beliefs OR you can assassinate the missionary’s character, but not both. It is true, that if the missionary truly believes as you do, then he is doing a most cruel thing, teaching people in Muslim, Marxist, or any other culture hostile to Chrisitianity to give up their life and their families, for a God that the missionary doesn’t even believe exists. Such a man is demented, the worst of sinners. But if a missionary who believes that all men, religious or otherwise, are disconnected from God apart from grace through Christ, and that missionary gives up the comfort circles of home and friends to go to a place he barely knows to live and love its people for the sake of Christ, then that person is worthy at least of respect, even if you don’t agree with his beliefs.

    Comment by greyhoundbus — February 27, 2007 @ 6:31 pm

  29. While I admire critical thinking of any kind, I think it’s unfair of you to criticise someone of the basis of the good they didn’t do, rather than applaud them for the good they did do. To say that the abolotion of slavery was “a hollow victory in itself” seems to be finding fault in something because you didn’t agree with the person who was (at least in part) resposible for it. While some appalling things may have happened after such abolotion, to blame one man for not achieving enough seems incredibly short-sighted, as well as meaning that no one can campaign for anything good without making sure every single problem in the world gets solved. We only live one short life, Wilburforce achieved more with his than most of us manage, and for that he should be applauded.
    If someone managed to do oend unfair trading laws, gets enough AIDS drugs to Africa, or release 3rd world countries from debt I would likewise applaud them for what they had done, regardless of whether they were able to either of the other two.
    Christians are often criticised because they are unable to call atheists ‘good’. Let the same not be true of athiests.

    Comment by mark_davo — March 1, 2007 @ 9:52 pm

  30. Greyhoundbus, let me concede at the very outset, that you have given a very good exposition … good … but no cigar.

    If Christ and Grace were sufficient yardsticks for the resolution of the “creative tension” manifest in all creation … then the schisms endemic within Christianity and within the folds of various Abrahamic faiths should not have occurred. Indeed, by extension, Christianity itself would be an aberration of Judaism. It is. It is. It is. All religion is. And religion occupies a much different rank than morality and spirituality. The latter two qualities are necessary precedents for the foundation of religion. Religion cannot exist without them but morality and spirituality have and will exist without Religion. Their staying power is not myth (story), sophistry (theological interpretations of scriptures) and miracles (unsubstantiated magical realism) but the innate rational thinking of all human societies. This is the only explanation that is consistent will according all cultures an equal value as they beat a self negotiated path to universal synthesis. Religion and Evangelism thwart this reality and hence must be seen for what they are. An attempt at uniformity, fueled by the tacit rejection of the “other”. No more and no less.

    However flawed ones reasons for being an instrument of the propagation of millenia old notions of do’s and don’ts, you are right, one must respect the rare person who sacrifices for the sake of the larger goods. But then again, why must Christians alone have the monopoly on the good, lest their clergy and the broadly technical advancement of their nations, instill in them the sense of absolute superiority. That confidence further fueled and made more robust by the prosperous coffers available through their industry must need to find an outlet. The missionary, has always been a willing agent of intolerance.
    We need to make a distinction between the Servant of Christ and the Soldier of Christ. There is a huge difference amongst the two. The Servant can wear the crown of thorns and yet be the king of kings. The Soldier, well with him I will spar.

    You mention in passing that there are cultures hostile to Christianity. This is to miss the trees for the wood! It is not Christianity that is being assaulted but the Occidental premises on which our civilization places itself as superior in reckoning the nature of the world. Christianity is a totem for the muscularity by which the self nominated ultra conservative institutions in the West approach the rest of the world. A culture is not about what a group of people think they are. It is by extension, what that group knows it is not. When a culture knows that it is impolite to press ones own premises on those of other cultures, such a culture also by extension will not accept others telling them how or whom to consider worthy of their litany. But we in the West, want it both ways. In our approach, it isn’t a matter of our way or the highway. Our approach is, our way is the highway. Muscular Christianity and its variants are to be roundly censured for this perversion of Christian values. Doing this earns believers and non-believers alike the sobriquet of “Un-Christian”.

    To serve Christ and to bring his good news, the Bible is not sufficient or even necessary. A beggar may convert for a bowl of rice, but his soul may not be saved. Maybe healthy sinews are more important than heavy scriptures for those that the Servant of Christ is seeking to aide. What then of the Soldier of Christ? He presses on with the scriptures, like one born without the gift of sight … and no saviour in sight. He lives, in a sense, to use a Christian metaphor … in “dis-grace”. His motives sullies his absolute faith and mocks the absolute.

    Wilberforce and the Evangelicals, are no exception. They have created so strong a repulsion in the rest of the world, where any Christian representation or presence is immediately suspect and loathesome. Where Christ, once considered at least as a source of benevolence, is now seen a symbol of cultural overlordship.

    You had mentioned: “Is there not something at the core of humanity that is unresolved…”. Well Christianity is not the corollary to the ultimate resolution. It is just another well intentioned step. It was not so from its genesis and its growth. Its history will bear it out. It could be much more effective if its adherents and propagators chose to practice the example of compassion and not conversion.

    Regards, bretherens.


    Comment by Grille Weltercourse — March 2, 2007 @ 5:21 am

  31. Well, I see no good deed goes unloathed.

    Comment by Margaret — March 2, 2007 @ 5:53 pm

  32. Or, hidden agendas … unchallenged.

    Comment by Grille Weltercourse — March 3, 2007 @ 5:12 am

  33. I wanted to thank you for your critique of this movie. It’s good to look at opposing views. I have to say, however, that your harsh criticism of Wilberforce and the evangelicals of that period is a little unfair. You have to look at men and women in light of the era that they lived in. At that time slavery and the slave trade was very well established as an important part of the economic life of the British empire. To challenge slavery then, as Wilberforce and his friends did, was clearly going against the current. And then to keep at it for twenty plus years without giving up is something that should be lauded.

    It should also be pointed out that Wilberforce also fought for better treatment of animals and eliminating child labor. He and his friends were some of the first social reformers. That his views don’t completely agree with those of the twenty-first century, is no reason not to give credit for accomplishing what he did.

    Comment by Paul Durgala — March 6, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

  34. Where mythology was once the bedrock of mass mesmerism, in our age the bio-scope has acquired the same stand. We are primed to accept the images without plumbing the patterns being projected upon our mind.

    What is the mass image of a Gandhi shaped by … the Movietone newsreels and his quotations? Try Richard Attenborough’s movie.

    What is the mass image of a Malcolm X shaped by … his books? Try Denzel Washington’s performance in the movie “X”.

    What is the mass image of a Napoleon today … that of a conqueror, benevolent empereur who unified Europe? Scores of books and movies will spin that yarn endlessly. But none has yet been made, even a documentary that will label that man as the first tyrant and war criminal of the “modern” era.

    Cinema, that high art, whose virtue it is to bring the imaginary to reality, has a evil twin too. Propaganda, is used to repurpose the reality into the imagined and sometimes even the unimaginable.

    My objection has been sparked scarcely by Mr.Wilberforce’s achievements but mostly by his motivation. A person’s progressive thoughts, his willingness to go against the grain to seek a better hand from humanity for his fellow human beings, must be lauded and learned from. But the mere element of his being ahead of his contemporaries is and cannot be the sole arbiter of his progressive qualities. His motivations have to be weighed too. Because those motivations define the quality of effort and discourse that emanates from the person and into the society. This is even more important in an educated society where citizens engage in rational debate to gradually unravel the Gordian knots that bundle up the real issues. We should study the ideas of men, but not so keenly, that we worship them in stone. Their ideas, must stand up not against the relative intellectual poverty of their own era, but against the critical examination and re-evaluation of our own time. Praise for their effort can co-exist with the objective reappraisal in our own time.

    The power of propaganda is not lost upon the organized God industrialists (Evangelicals are not the only ones. Try any religous grouping or cult of any persuasion. Try them all …). They are not oblivious to the influence that movies have on the masses. Whereas once propaganda was gratuitous and free, today we pay for it at the box office willingly and defend its contents willfully. To a rational mind, even entertainment has to be sound enough to withstand a strong critique. (Those quick to dismiss this grain of thinking, I would like to emphasize that I am not suggesting “reasoned” entertainment, but “reasonable” entertainment.)

    The agenda behind this movie has little to do with promoting an insight into the internal turmoils that any progressive faces when his convictions contest conventions. In which case it may have been called “The Force of Wilberforce.” (Lame, but you get the point.) Instead, it is to define the belief in a specific evangelical version of a particular religion as the starting point of morality and spiritual rebirth, which is a reversal of causality. (Please see my previous post.). Which is why perhaps it is suggestively called “Amazing Grace”.

    But I will say this in favor of my earlier and present criticism; I study the motives before I pay for the motion pictures. You should too. It gives you a dual benefit. It sharpens your critical thinking and conserves your financial resources, for which we enslave ourselves … willingly.


    Comment by Grille Weltercourse — March 9, 2007 @ 5:29 am

  35. Yes, we should be concerned about motives. I agree. But doesn’t truth have a life of its own? Certainly Socrates thought so. He believed that people could discover truth through persuasive argument and debate, and I’m sure that he was not deluded about our self-serving human nature.

    The fact that Amazing Grace has been sponsored and promoted by Christians doesn’t mean that it’s untrue. It probably means that truth can come even from quarters that we may not sympathize with. I, for one, think it’s refreshing to have Christians presented in a positive light for a change. Most of the movies and TV shows for the past sixteen years have treated them very negatively.

    When I study the lives of men and women of the past, one of the things that strikes me is that most of them were just as much products of their era and culture as we are today. I’m sure Wilburforce and his friends were no exception. So was Abraham Lincoln. So was Ghandi. So was Martin Luther King. But what strikes me is
    A wise friend, who was also a scientist, once said to me that when you look for truth you should look at both sides or several different sides, not just one.

    Comment by Paul Durgala — March 11, 2007 @ 4:57 pm

  36. I apologize for my rather disjointed last paragraph. I meant to delete it. I’m still getting used these new technologies.

    Comment by Paul Durgala — March 11, 2007 @ 5:03 pm

  37. Grille Weltercourse empties his litterbox on Christianity:

    “Man is not a sinner. There is no “original” sin. Those who…are the foremost amongst sinners.” [Argueing both sides?]

    “But the mere element of his being ahead of his contemporaries IS and CANNOT BE the sole arbiter of his progressive qualities.” [Emphasis mine, illogic the author’s.]

    “Christian Evangelism…is a huge perversion of the original Christian faith.” [Ever hear of the Great Comission?]

    “His motives were not entirely secular and therefore to accord him a secular berth in history, as the movie does, is deception and yes, a sin.” {Whoops, I thought that man is not a sinner.]

    “Christianity is a totem for the muscularity by which the self nominated ultra conservative institutions in the West approach the rest of the world.” [Have you studied Ward Churchill, Derrida, or do you just make this drivel up as you go?

    “To serve Christ and to bring his good news, the Bible is not sufficient or even necessary.” [Without the Gospel, i.e., the Good News, how are you to bring it?]

    “[E]vangelicals, who right [sic] off the spirituality and faith of other cultures, are sinners, because they are agents of intolerance.” [Tolerance means putting up with something harmful, sinning would be not sharing the faith as commanded.]

    “This is the only explanation that is consistent will according [sic] all cultures an equal value as they beat a self negotiated path to universal synthesis.” [This is just laughable!]

    “The agenda behind this movie has little to do with promoting an insight into the internal turmoils that any progressive faces when his convictions contest conventions.” [Perhaps you should quit now while you still know everything.]

    “Is there not something at the core of humanity that is unresolved that causes brother to take up arms, either literally or figuratively, against brother?” [Uh, that old ‘original sin’ you dismissed maybe?]

    “Whereas once propaganda was gratuitous and free…” [When was that? What is gratuitous propoganda?]

    “They have created so strong a repulsion in the rest of the world, where any Christian representation or presence is immediately suspect and loathesome.” [At least in your own mind.]

    “Well [sic] Christianity is not the corollary to the ultimate resolution. [Can anybody parse this?]…It is just another well intentioned step [to what?]…It could be much more effective [at what, exactly?] if its adherents and propagators chose to practice the example of compassion and not conversion. [Our intent is compassionately making disciples of all nations. Do you want us to disregard the direct instruction of Jesus?] Regards, bretherens.” [I might be a bit more convinced of your regards for us ‘breatherens’ if you would display a better knowledge of Christianity.]

    “What is the mass image of a Napoleon today … that of a conqueror, benevolent empereur who unified Europe? Scores of books and movies will spin that yarn endlessly. But none has yet been made, even a documentary that will label that man as the first tyrant and war criminal of the “modern” era.” [Is your ignorance truly bliss? Try Paul Johnson, who sees the tyrant Napoleon as the embodiment of the great French “progressive” Revolution. Also Alan Schom, Frank McLynn, Avner Falk, David A. Bell, etc.]

    Wow! I thought that this was just a movie. Do you hold the same high standards of motivation for Matrix? The Blob? If these self-refuting statements and pontifications are what pass for critical thinking and writing, then the liberal arts propagandists have been working overtime.

    Mr. Weltercourse, it looks like you’ve allowed too many Marxist cats of relativism into the litterbox. Clean it more often and dump it elsewhere. OK, we get the picture – you hate Christianity – now what?

    Comment by Rich D. — March 15, 2007 @ 8:39 pm

  38. Repent, Marxist!

    You would have preferred a ‘hagiography’ about Marx and all the good his lamentable ideology showered upon his unfortunate comrades? Get a grip, sir.

    Comment by Udopia — March 20, 2007 @ 2:50 pm

  39. I saw the movie yesterday and caught the difference between abolition of the slave trade and abolition of salvery. I know enough about history that salvery was not abolished for many decades later. However, I was interested to learn the facts surrounding the producers of the film and their point of view so that I could examine the movie for other possible examples of bias that might exist. I would have liked to know more about Willberforce’s other accomplishments as well, particularly in the area of animal welfare. I don’t care that his motivation for doing good works might center around the salvation of his own soul. I feel the purpose of our lives might very well be our own salvation through our good works. By salvation I don’t mean an afterlife, I mean a feeling that one has lived a good life while he is alive. Being able to life with oneself on a day to day basis. Thank you!

    Comment by Roberta Bowman — March 25, 2007 @ 10:50 pm

  40. I find it interesting that you criticize others for doing something, even a little something, that is in your eyes not enough when you yourself merely blog about such things. So are you any better? I also find it interesting that your reference “profit-hungry capitalist system” You are a computer programmer are you not? Do computers not have a fairly sizeable role in this capitalist system? This is much less a film review than it is a poor history lesson from a computer science major. If you are going to write a movie review critique the movie not the questionable truthfulness, or moral aptitude (or lack there of from your standpoint). I’m curious, were you this critical with The Davinci Code? I know that was a novel, but it was highly touted as being quite accurate if I remember correctly.

    Comment by Tommy — April 7, 2007 @ 7:31 am

  41. About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

    Peace Be With You

    Comment by Micky — April 9, 2007 @ 9:38 am

  42. Thanks for telling us about your life Micky. I suspect that we’re all orphans until we let Christ in. I know I was.

    Peace be with you
    Paul W. Durgala

    Comment by Paul Durgala — April 14, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

  43. Dear Rich:

    Thank you for pointing out the lacunae in the syntax and statements in my previous postings. I am responding to your last post after quite some introspection. At the very start, please accept my apology for using intemperate language.

    I do not purport to know everything about anything.
    But I do strongly feel that organized religion is a bane for most of the world.
    And good deeds, if motivated by the sense of absolutism … lack a certain moral force which is necessary to sustain them over a long time.

    And one last defense. I do not hate Christianity, Christians or Christ (as you have unfortunately concluded in your last post.)
    But I do think that all faiths and isms and ideologies must be able to stand up to scrutiny and at least allow a room for query. None are above debate. Unfortunately, evangelists and evangelicals, while reserving the pulpit for their own Apology and theology, do not extend the same platform to those who differ from their approach in interpreting the Christian faith or for that matter, any another faith.

    It was Gandhi who said:
    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.
    Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    Grille Weltercourse.

    Comment by Grille Weltercourse — April 15, 2007 @ 6:44 am

  44. Mr. Weltercourse:

    Thank you for your most recent comment. I thought it might be worthwhile to point out some of the things christians have done.

    Christians are responsible, to a large extent, for building and staffing hospitals both in the west and in underdeveloped countries. They’re responsible for building schools and staffing schools both in the west and around the world. They’re responsible for pushing forward free education for all children. They’re responsible for providing free tutoring in reading. Most of the abolitionists both in the British empire and here in the USA were christians. They’re responsible for providing food and clothing to some of the neediest people in the world. The Boy Scouts and the YMCA were founded by christians.

    I read an article not to long ago, by a fellow who was adamantly opposed to christian beliefs, and yet he was thankful and glad that we have christian missionaries in Africa and throughout the third world. He was glad because he knew that christians were responsible for providing food, medical care and other things for people in need. (I can’t remember the author.)

    In fact, most of the things we consider as charities today were founded by christians. Much of the good that we see in the world is due largely to the efforts of christians.

    It’s also true that a great deal of abuse and cruelty in the world has been perpetrated by people who have named the name of Christ. It is shameful and inexcusable. Misguided religious zeal is a horrible thing. But to me it still seems obvious that in these cases the problem was not that they were christians, but that they weren’t christian enough. If they really took the person of Christ seriously they would have demonstrated it better. I fear that in the church, as well as in other situations, you often see imposters or pretenders who claim to be genuine. These are the folks you have to watch out for. If they gain to much influence they may start directing policy and taking over. And of course even true christians act badly at times. That’s why we need a savior.

    The reason why christians usually don’t “extend the same platform” (ie. the church pulpit) to different beliefs and opposing views is because the purpose of the pulpit is to preach and teach the Bible, which is God’s Word. In other situations, outside of church, christians are often willing to discuss and debate. If you’re interested in hearing some interesting contemporary debate, you may want to try Intelligence Squared USA. It’s oxford style debating that you can listen to through the internet. They’ve had some good ones.

    In summary, yes the behavior of many so-called christians is bad, but please don’t overlook the good that’s been done in the service of Christ. The latter is just as true as the former.

    Comment by Paul Durgala — April 17, 2007 @ 7:43 pm

  45. Wow, I stumbled onto this site accidently, and clearly I live in a much more mainstream world than most of the contributors to the discussion. I don’t even understand half the words you guys use. I don’t consider myself stupid, but obviously I’m lacking … luckily though, I don’t take myself seriously enough to care. Since you guys seem vey passionate on both sides and I dig it, I’ll represent the general opinion of the everyman, and let you get inside my head to change me.
    1)Writing or speaking with venom is a real turn off.
    2)I’m not impressed by big words because I just don’t understand them.
    3)Quotes sound pretensious, and make me think you can’t come up with your own material.
    4)I’m impressed if statements are backed up by some sort of numeric statistic and/or logical statement (they can be true or not, I won’t check) an example would be: “Stalin was a communist, he killed 25 million innocent people, therefore communism is bad” or “9 out of 10 priests polled say the have to fight their sexual urge for prepubescent boys, so stay away from church, unless you are a girl or old”
    5)My idea of what life should be like comes from a movie, so make a romantic dramedy about your particular cause and I will want to be just like your characters.
    6)I like hot ladies. I’m sure there is some way you can exploit this.
    7)Too much effort is not cool so try to convince me without seeming like you are trying to convince me.
    8)I don’t generally go to hippy websites like this one so you’ve got to try to get onto Yahoo or AOL or something.
    9) Be fast, I lose interest quickly.

    Comment by Richard Gregory — May 9, 2007 @ 3:49 am

  46. Mr. Gregory:

    Regarding item 6 on your list, I think Wilburforce’s wife in the the film was quite attractive. Of course, I don’t know if his wife was that attractive in real life, but Hollywood always like to include beautiful ladies.

    Comment by Paul Durgala — May 22, 2007 @ 3:26 pm

  47. After reading this article and most of the comments, I would like to ask a couple of questions. Why is the composer so opinionated and so cock sure that he is right. He sounds like a pope when pontificating on the errors of ‘evangelicals’ and on their treatment of ‘gays’. I would hazard a guess that the huge majority of fair minded people world wide of whatever political or religious persuasion find his remarks to be extremely naive and even distasteful. What the composer fails utterly to understand is that Wilberforce was a man of his times and was simply trying in his own imperfect way to make this world a better place. To de-contexualise Wilberforce is to be guilty of anachronism. Instead of writing learned and laboured pretentious drivel which obviously cherry-picks ‘facts’ out of context , I urge the writer to be honest as he attempts to brainwash us with his marxist dialectic. The tone, style and content is so old-fashioned that it is laughable. Please-most have moved on from ‘unashamed Marxism’ . It only lingers to impoverish and enslave within undemocratic states. Whilst human nature remains unchanged and experience and observation says the Christian diagnosis of it is fairly accurate , Marxism with its idea of creating a ‘new man’ is and will always be mere wishful thinking. Finally, how many people have been encouraged by Wilberforce’s example? How many deaths did he cause? Let’s compare his record with that of say Stalin, Pol Pot or other communist worthies. I hope you get my point!

    Comment by Khrisered — August 9, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  48. The author’s position gave me much food for thought. I will see Amazing Grace this afternoon. I am a Christian do-gooder trying to operate within the political system in Hong Kong, as William Wilberforce did in his own country. My aim is to reduce air pollution. Not much compared to opposing slavery. What can I learn from the movie and this review? My home is in proudly capitalist Hong Kong, where medical care is free, but there is no minimum wage. We have no democracy but we have the best public transport in the world. Half the population lives in public housing, yet very little money is paid out in welfare. Freedom of speech is protected. Life expectancy is one of longest in the world. Socialist, Marxist, Capitalist? Change the system or make it work? I appreciate the opinions offered both in the movie and in this review. Thank you.

    Comment by Annelise Connell — October 27, 2007 @ 6:16 am

  49. Wow. Just saw the movie on DVD and was much inspired. Have very much enjoyed this blog. My only comment is that Marxism (as has already been pointed out) has certainly brought MORE than it’s share of misery, slavery and murder to the world, perpetrated by those who claimed to espouse it’s ideology.

    Comment by Kathy — November 17, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

  50. […] to the viewer that Slavery was still legal in the British Empire for a further 30 years.  This blog article by Louis Proyect points this out and provides an informative persepctive on a worthy storyline not tackled within […]

    Pingback by :: The Wendy House :: » Amazing Grace — March 7, 2009 @ 9:35 am

  51. […] with respect to Philip Anschutz, he is a far more evil bastard than Dr. No as my review of “Amazing Grace” would […]

    Pingback by Won’t Back Down; Obama’s America 2016 « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — September 28, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

  52. […] decade ago I reviewed “Amazing Grace”, a hagiographic biopic about William Wilberforce, the parliamentary opponent of the slave trade […]

    Pingback by The Fearless Benjamin Lay | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — December 29, 2017 @ 3:13 pm

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