DAY 86: Friday 12 June
A national conversation over the past week has been the calls to remove statues across the country of anyone in history directly or remotely connected with the slave trade. Whilst none of us would wish to celebrate the actions of the slave traders which was finally brought to an end through the efforts of William Wilberforce who battled for 20 years from 1787 to 1807 when the Act came into force in the UK and British Empire although slavery was not completely abolished in the British colonies until 1833.
However, it is ironic that the greatest opposition to the abolition of slavery came from the Church of England bishops in the House of Lords, but many leading abolitionists came from the Quakers and some evangelical Anglican clergy and independent evangelical churches.
Now campaigners have drawn up a list of dozens of statues across the country which they are demanding be removed, including Admiral Horatio Nelson, Christopher Columbus, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Cecil Rhodes, Robert Baden-Powell, Robert Peel and even John Newton and others I’ve not heard of.
John Newton was vicar of Olney in Buckinghamshire was previously involved in the slave trade having first gone to sea with his father at the age of 11 and later was conscripted into the Royal Navy. In 1748 he was rescued during a violent storm off the coast of Donegal when it was thought his ship might sink, but he had prayed for deliverance. This experience began his conversion to evangelical Christianity.
Later, whilst aboard another slave vessel bound for the West Indies, he became very ill with a violent fever and asked for God's mercy; an experience he claimed was the turning point in his life and later led him to write the words that we know as the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ in which he describes himself as ‘a wretch’ and declaring it was only by God’s amazing grace that he lived.
In 1787, Newton wrote a tract supporting the anti-slavery campaign, 'Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade', which became very influential. It graphically described the horrors of the Slave Trade and his role in it. He later joined with and encouraged William Wilberforce in the 20-year campaign for abolition of the Slave Trade. In February 1807, when the act to abolish the Slave Trade finally became law, John Newton, by then nearly blind and only weeks away from death, "rejoiced to hear the wonderful news."
Perhaps we should pause and sing that great hymn (traditional version) >>> AMAZING GRACE
The question in my mind is does it make any actual difference if statues are removed? It can’t change the facts of history and as several commentators have stated, wouldn’t it better to have these edifices to remind us of the darker history of this nation rather than pretend, by taking them down, bad history is wiped away? It's a tough one and the debate will go on…
Over centuries, rulers, dictators and ruthless regimes have sought to rewrite history in their favour. Today millions of people across the world are being told perversions of the truth and even outright lies. But changing historical fact is not always for sinister reasons – political correctness often refuses to accept that the human race can learn from disaster and tragedy and can rebuild upon those experiences, although history has proved that we rarely do. Denial of uncomfortable truth only weakens future generations to deal with similar problems.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 - What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
The Bible also reminds us that we cannot change our history, but we can change our future through repentance and receiving new life from God through Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17-18 - Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new. God has done it all! He sent Christ to make peace between himself and us,
On a lighter note, here’s a video of what was originally an 8mm cine film of a journey into Birmingham City Centre in 1964. The journey starts in Digbeth and travels into the City centre via the Bull Ring. Look out for all the 1960’s cars, blue and yellow Corporation and red Midland Red buses. And the fashions are nostalgic – I’m sure I’m still wearing some of my 1960’s clothes! >>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFGLNvBMmBo
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