Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wilberforce was misguided!

Wilberforce was misguided....sort of. As you may recall, William Wilberforce was the man who rallied to get the slave trade banished in England in 1833. He did this after becoming a Christian and knowing that the message of the Gospel leaves no room for slavery, and now he is a hero to most Christians as a great example of a Christians using politics to correct injustices in the world.

While I am all about correcting injustices in the world, i believe the technique in which we do this is not limited to politics. To go further, i would say, its pointless to use politics and sometimes very dangerous. As a holder of this view, Wilberforce would be one of the best people to persuade me otherwise. Afer all, few things are more repulsing than the idea of slavery, especially when you hear all the horrifying true stories of the way slaves were treated.

Heres the thing. I have argued, and im not original on this, that you cannot legislate morality. More to the point for me, no laws could change the hearts of the people who are perpetrating these evil acts. Specific to our subject; The evil in the hearts of slavetraders is what caused the slave trade, and outlawing slavery will not change that. Therefore the evil in their hearts will be manifested in another way. The root of the problem has not been uprooted. You can cut back a weed with sissors, but rest assured, it will return quickly unless you completely uproot it.
My argument therefore is that we work to uproot the problems of the world, which is lodged within the heart, and do not waste our precious time on fighting the symptoms of the problem, through politics.

Here is a prime example of the evil of slavery (although outlawed, still in the hearts of some) being manifested in a new way. recently i listened to an hour long radio program on the subject of micro-loans in Third World countries. I have heard a lot of great things from organizations like Mennonite Central Committee who have been working with others to make these very small loans a possibility for people in extreme poverty. The loans are used to create small businesses, enabling them to have a livable income. Some non-profits give out these loans and help support the loan holders with a 0% interest rate. Other for-profit companies can do these loans for no more than 20% interest.

On the other hand a woman on this radio program was interviewed who, like many in her field, have come under great criticism for their loaning interest rates. The Radio host questioned her saying, "Some people have been saying that your offices have outrageous interest rates that do more harm than good to people who are already in extreme poverty. They say your taking advantage of them with interest rates up 50% !, what do you have to say?"

she replied, "We do what we have to in order to cover costs."
"so what is your interest rate?" He asks

She dances around the question, "It varies from country to country."

"Alright, say Mexico, what is it in Mexico?"

She continues to dance, "Its the same as most companies there."

"Well, what is it?!?" He's getting a bit annoyed at this point.

"Well in order to cover our costs we charge an interest rate of 70%"

!!!!!!!!!!! 70% interest!!!!!!!!!!!!

It is easy enough for us rich "educated" Americans to be taken away by robber barron credit card companies, who charge an outrageous amount of interest, like 25%. But to consider these poor people, already in abject poverty being taken advantage of by these credit agencies, giving them loans they can't pay back. Or if they can, they will have to pay almost twice as much as they recieved, this is slavery! Because if they dont pay it back, the agency goes to work on them.

So we may not be able to go steal people and bring them to the mother land to harvest the crops, but believe me, the same evil that created that kind of slavery is creating other kinds, and this example is just one of many.

At this point, those of us who believe this is unjust, like myself, and believe something should be done about it have atleast two options. (1) we could work to make these sort of actions illegal, or (2) we could go at it with a philosophy that says, if i can help to change a persons heart that does these things, then we may actually uproot the problem. Let us focus therefore on the renewal of hearts! On forgiveness, reconciliation, so that we may spur one another on towards a life of purity and love for all of mankind. So that the greed we are all so inclined to is cast off, and destroyed. Lord help us.

Brandon W.


  1. As you write, "(2) ...if i can help to change a persons heart that does these things, then we may actually uproot the problem." Yes, a heart change for a loan shark will save the shark and safer the seas, but what of impoverished & frustrated people who would otherwise under their teeth? William Wilberforce may not have imagined the economic slavery that, like a purulent plague, now overtakes the families of former "slaves". So that we do not become the slave owners of today & tomorrow, our heart change also seems in order.

  2. Brandon, let me play devil's advocate. A quote from Martin Luther King Jr. :
    "Now the other myth that gets around is the idea that legislation cannot really solve the problem and that it has no great role to play in this period of social change because you’ve got to change the heart and you can’t change the heart through legislation. You can’t legislate morals. The job must be done through education and religion. Well, there’s half-truth involved here. Certainly, if the problem is to be solved then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart. But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also. So there is a need for executive orders. There is a need for judicial decrees. There is a need for civil rights legislation on the local scale within states and on the national scale from the federal government." Thoughts?