Poor old William Wilberforce, if he only knew the brand of Christianity that would be marketed under his name. His name is invoked to debate health care, capitalism, immigration, national defense, the Presidency, politics, and who knows what else.
Now I’m not saying that the Bible does not inform our thinking on some of these matters, but I am suggesting that neither the Bible nor Mr. Wilberforce provide the political coloring that certain Christians use to paint many of these issues.
To place the issue of slavery on the same level as economics, health care, immigration, and the like can be to demean the horror of slavery and the life of Wilberforce – especially when these issues are primarily framed in economic and nationalistic terms. Now if we want to focus on the moral dimensions of health care and immigration – well then, perhaps we can do the gravity of slavery some justice – but even then, as serious a matter as decent health care is, at the end of the day is it really as serious as slavery? (I do view health care as a moral issue.)
It is difficult for me to see William Wilberforce engaging in the reactionary rhetoric that certain people use who invoke his memory with regularity.
It reminds me of the way a certain deceased leader invoked Paul at Mars Hill; this leader spoke of his “Mars Hill ministry”. The leader’s Mars Hill Ministry was political. Since the leader was the founder of a university and seminary you would think he’d realize that Paul was preaching the Gospel of Christ on Mars Hill in Athens, not engaging in political debate – but why let facts get in the way? This particular leader’s attacks on the President were as vitriolic as I have ever seen – hardly a mirror of Paul’s ministry.
William Wilberforce, from all I’ve read, was a man of peace – something those that do political battle in his name might do well to consider.