Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Faith in Public Life

“Things have come to a pretty pass,” thundered Lord Melbourne, “when one should permit one’s religion to invade public life.”

That statement expresses the contempt Lord Melbourne felt for the enthusiasts of his day (those pesky religious peasants that followed Whitfield and Wesley and insisted on taking their religion seriously. They were shaking up the social order of the wealthy status quo of Great Britain(Metaxis/Amazing Grace/Harper/San Francisco/2007/xix).

In that statement, Lord Melbourne also expresses the GREATEST FEAR OF MANY CURRENT CITIZENS who want either to eliminate religious faith in the marketplace, or chain it to the church pew and confine it to the limited boundaries of ritualized worship.

By invading public life with his faith, Newton the slaver became a public icon as “Amazing Grace” and the Rector of Saint Matthews Anglican Church in England. It was Newton that a certain young politician sought out privately, much as Nicodemus the Pharisee sought out Jesus under cover of night.

It was the converted slaver, a true evangelical, who helped the highly successful politician understand that he could serve God without giving up his successful career as politician-legislator, and intimate friend of William Pitt the Prime Minister.

That 25-year-old dedicated the rest of his life to serving God in the public arena of the British Parliament. True to form, there were those like Lord Melbourne who shot off their verbal artillery, attempting to suppress the presence of divinity in the public arena. On the other hand, because William Wilberforce stayed true to God for the remainder of his life, while filling his role in a half-century of public service, he saw legislation passed that ended slavery in Great Britain, and virtually ended the world of slave trading.

From Warner’s World,
slave-traders like Isaac Newton are now a relic of the past. However, hundreds of former slaves owe their freedom to that one life-long member of the British Parliament who dared to take his religion into his public life. Today, no man, woman, boy, or girl worries about being forced into legalized slavery, although there are numerous new forms of human slavery today.

The “slave trade” is no more, all because one man took his personal faith in Jesus Christ into the public arena and consistently worked at making human rights a public issue. The next time someone tells you religion has no place in the marketplace, you remind them that had not William Wilberforce spent his Christian life in public service, we might still be buying, selling, and trading slaves on Wall Street. I am


Uriel said...

Good article, but you had me going there for a bit with "Isaac Newton the Slave trader" - did you mean "John Newton"?

Wayne said...

Oh my;
you embarrass me, friend! Looks like a real editorial sin, which I try to keep pure from ... :-) Thanks for asking, and yes, I meant John Newton. I am greatly enamored with both Newton and Wilberforce. I. too, was a (Bank) Security Guard in a former bi-vocational position. It is amazing the people you touch out there!