January normally reminds me how long I’ve been doing pro-life work.
This is partly because our Houston Coalition for Life Benefit Dinner comes around in March, so in January I’m beginning to design invitations and flyers and wrangle volunteers, and I start to think about the Benefit and how I was hired at HCL the week of a Benefit Dinner that happened on my 21stbirthday. This year’s Benefit happens two days after my 25thbirthday.
Four years at HCL means I’m about to start my 5th year as a Programs Coordinator and my 9th 40 Days for Life campaign. But it also reminds me of the work I did as a volunteer before that – my family had always been involved, but I “made it my own” about halfway between 19 and 20 years old. I was looking for my own little niche, something I think a lot of young adults who take their faith seriously probably do about that age. I’d just moved back to Houston after a stint at a college in a different city, and needed to belong somewhere.
Then I met Karen.
Karen knew (and knows) everybody. Karen was (and is) a hub of Houston’s pro-life network. And in order to belong, all I needed was to know her. Meeting her was an introduction to a world I’d been searching for. She sent me invitations, introductions, opportunities, and schedules. She gave rides, encouragement, mentoring, and more. Karen found a kid who needed a niche, and then she found a niche for the kid. She did it for me, and I’ve seen her do it for literally dozens of others. Already a good and beloved friend of HCL at that time, she helped introduce me to the people who became responsible for my being given an opportunity to do pro-life work full-time. Even now, she’s one of the volunteers I’m responsible for coordinating, and she’s a crown-jewel in a treasury of wonderful people.
I remember one particular conversation I had with her, right at the beginning of our friendship. She was giving me a ride (again) between a training session and lunch. We were having some conversation about being effective (don’t all pro-lifers love that conversation?) and William Wilberforce came up. I’d seen “Amazing Grace” not too long before and was totally enamored with William Wilberforce. Karen loved that I loved him, and we had a super-fun conversation solving all the problems of the world in general.
A great article regarding William Wilberforce and some of the exact the themes Karen and I discussed that day was published recently. It reminded me of my conversation with Karen, and gave me the desire to watch the film again. This week, marking the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, is a perfect time to watch it. William Wilberforce has a lot to teach pro-lifers. I’ll let you watch the movie to find out why, but to get you to watch the movie, here are some mostly reasonable and occasionally shallow reasons to go for it:
1. Because Ioan Gruffudd’s Wilberforce will convict you.
Already an actor I liked, Ioan Gruffudd (I believe this is correctly pronounced Yowan Griffiths, dude’s Welsh) does a spectacular job as William Wilberforce. He makes accessible the complexity of Wilberforce’s journey, and there were so many things in the character arc I can now relate to even better: his yearning for a quiet life, the devastation he feels over the plight of the slaves, the conviction he must act, his exhaustion after years of advocacy, and the determination of the final stretch are all well-played by Gruffudd. He even sings for us.
2. Because, Benedict Cumberbatch.
(Totally Reasonable and Maaayyybe Slightly Shallow Reason)
Uhm, hello, I for sure know there are people who do not need another reason to watch something besides this. Because, Benedict Cumberbatch. This movie was the first time I ever saw or heard of him. This movie is the reason I watched the second Star Trek. And Sherlock. And watching the new episode of Sherlock made me want to watch this movie, again. Because, Benedict Cumberbatch. Seriously though, BC is really a great actor, and his William Pitt will knock your socks off. He’s brilliant showing the arc of a complicated character over a few decades and even makes us feel some sympathy for politicians. Sort of.
3. Because Barbara Spooner is an ACTUAL Feminine Role Model. Also, Redhead.
(REASONABLE REASONS. Seriously.)
Romola Garai sparkles (and occasionally snaps) as Barbara Spooner. Who is Barbara Spooner? Well, as depicted in this film, Barbara is the feisty, spirited, opinionated, knock-out redhead (REDHEAD!) that captures Wilberforce’s heart and gives him his fight back…and also wears gorgeous clothes. While adding comic relief to the storyline, she is a wonderful example of *spoiler warning but dude, not really because the outcome is super obvious* what a good wife should be. Gentle, encouraging, firm, persevering, and supportive, while being still very much her own person – Barbara Spooner is one of my favorites ever. And Romola does her really, really well. Also I want to walk around looking like this, too:
4. Because I know people like this:
I am convinced that behind every engaged activist, there is a Hannah More or a Karen who helped them find their niche. Wilberforce has some Karens. Wilberforce IS a Karen for a few people. The movie shows the importance not only of having a Karen, but of BEING a Karen.
5. Because of Matthew 10:16.
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.”
Wilberforce is a role model for pro-lifers because he illustrates this command of Our Lord remarkably well. It can be so difficult to find the balance between lax self-content and off-putting extremism. The balance we want to strike is a sincere dedication that attracts others to join us in our efforts to defend life. Wilberforce can help us learn how to find it.