The book Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas is fantastic. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. Metaxas is a creative and entertaining author, and William Wilberforce is definitely one of the most influential and important Christians ever. After finishing this biography, I was struck by the creative ways the abolitionists employed media to distribute their message. When only about half the population could read, they used every means available to reach the average person, from the written word, to music and poetry, to art. Metaxas even claims that the abolitionists created the very first “logo” for a human rights campaign:
Another interesting thing they did was utilizing the slave trade’s own images against them, by publicizing a schematic image which shows how to stow slaves on a slave ship. Metaxas describes this well:
It is almost impossible for most of us to grasp the depths of hell pictured in this image, which is why it helped make the public turn against the idea of the slave trade. Yet, it wasn’t just creative marketing that changed people’s minds. To make a change of this magnitude requires something far greater: several decades of faithful consistency from William Wilberforce (and several other key players, but he was probably the most important abolitionist for keeping the movement alive). Wilberforce’s creativity and constant enthusiasm over several decades and throughout constant political defeats, threats against his life, and ill-health is breathtaking. He had to be driven by something greater than himself. It reminded me of this quote from Kierkegaard: “What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know…What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.” That’s how movements go viral.[Tweet “To change people’s minds, you need more than marketing, you need something to live and die for.”]
I wish that more Christians had a firm purpose for their lives. It would help us look past the hard days to the great victory ahead, and inspire us to creatively use every means available for good. When the day of abolition finally happened, Metaxas described it this way: “a Saturday of joy as Wilberforce lived that day can only come after a thousand Saturdays of battle. But it had come. It was a dream come true.” Ibid., Kindle Location, 4551[Tweet “What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know. #Kierkegaard”]
Recommended Book:[amazon template=thumbnail align left&asin=0061173886]
3 thoughts on “How Abolition Went Viral: William Wilberforce”
Dear Josh, Why don’t you move to Moose Jaw and tell me inspiring things like this every morning? Love, Steve Atkins
Steve Atkins, yeah, great idea!
Thanks Steve Atkins and Evan Pinter! Maybe one day, I do like Moose Jaw!