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Friday, February 3, 2012

The Door Of No Return

While speaking to a group of Christians about connecting our faith with the world around us, I mentioned the need for believers to take roles in civil government. Afterward, a woman told me her church did not believe Christians should be involved in the political arena.

There are Christians who think politics is "of the world," and we should "let the dead bury the dead." But the Apostle Paul told believers in Rome that civil authorities are "God's ministers"[Romans 13]. This being the case, I'd say working in civil government is a fitting place for a follower of Christ. Not only fitting, but needed.

Last month, while in Senegal, I was reminded of this as I visited Gorée Island, in Dakar, the westernmost city of Africa. There I was reminded of the history-changing work of one civil servant who made connections between the biblical worldview and his work as an MP [Member of Parliament] in 18th century Britain: William Wilberforce.

At one time, Wilberforce thought he should quit his MP job and "go into the ministry." Thankfully, he was dissuaded from this misguided idea by his pastor, John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace. Newton felt Wilberforce could do far more good as a member of the British Parliament than he could as a pastor.

How right Newton was!

Gorée Island is believed to be the final exiting point for millions of Africans sold into slavery between 1536 and 1848. One "House of Slaves" still remains today as a reminder. Built in 1776, it is now the most visited tourist destination in Senegal. Many thousands of African men and women are believed to have walked bound in chains through "The Door of No Return" to waiting ships, for a grueling transatlantic voyage. The "House" has become a place where many African Americans return to connect with their roots.

Wilberforce's tireless battle to abolish slavery in Britain lasted for 46 years. It was not easy. Politics never is. He was fighting a money-maker of enormous proportions. But slavery was finally abolished in Great Britain in 1833. France followed suit in 1848.

Thank God Wilberforce applied his Christian worldview to politics! That's the "other" lesson of Gorée Island we should never forget.

Connecting the Christian worldview with civil government? Believe it or not, this was once common practice in America.

Next week: A French historian tells it straight.

Tools of the slave trade on display at the
"House of Slaves" on Gorée Island, Dakar, Senegal.
I'm standing at "The Door of No Return" through which
thousands of Africans were led onto waiting ships,
like cattle.
I can't read French [Senegal is a former French colony], but I recognized
the name of William Wilberforce in this commentary
near the display of slave trade tools shown above. 

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