William Wilberforce vs. Agatha Lin Zhao

Congratulations! You survived the very first day of Lent Madness 2019. Which is more than we can say for Mary of Bethany, who was bounced by her sister Martha 58% to 42%. Martha becomes our first saint to qualify for the Saintly Sixteen, where she'll face the winner of James the Greater vs. Nicodemus.

You should also congratulate yourself for having participated in a record setting day in the annals of Lent Madness history. Yesterday's sibling matchup received nearly 10,500 votes, with over 500 comments, and more page views than we've ever had on a single day (almost 39,000, for those keeping score at home). And, despite a few shaky moments, you didn't crash the server!

Today, in saintly action it's William Wilberforce, the 18th century English abolitionist and reformer, squaring off against Agatha Lin Zhao, Chinese Christian and educator.

Don't forget that tomorrow is the ONLY SATURDAY MATCHUP of Lent Madness 2019. After Ignatius of Loyola faces Tikhon of Zadonsk, voting will strictly take place on the weekdays of Lent, giving everyone a needed breather from the intensity of everyone's favorite online Lenten devotion.

William Wilberforce

William WilberforceWilliam Wilberforce was an English politician who underwent a dramatic conversion experience and spent his life trying to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire.

Born in Yorkshire in 1759, he lived with his aunt and uncle for a number of years, who influenced him with their love of Methodism. However, during his years at St. John’s College in Cambridge, their religious influence waned, and he was known as a man about town, fond of “theater-going, attending balls, and playing cards.” The horror.

He decided to run for Parliament when still a student, based on the solid premise that his friend was also doing it and it seemed like fun. Wilberforce turned out to be good at politics, being persuasive and gifted with a great speaking voice, but his persistent disorganization and proclivity for lateness meant he wasn’t much of a powerhouse.

In 1785, Wilberforce had a conversion experience, and after a period of discernment, he decided to use his public position to spread Christian ideals and ethics. He began meeting with several other high-profile politicians in England who were concerned about the moral depravity of the slave trade. At the time, the so-called Triangle Trade contributed about 80 percent of British income that derived from trade. The group, which included William Pitt, Thomas Clarkson, and others, became known as the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

The group launched an intense and long-lasting campaign, with logo, pamphlets, and chapters that sprang up across the United Kingdom—effectively the first grassroots human rights campaign in history. Wilberforce’s group networked with abolitionists in France, Spain, Portugal, and the United States and brought together Quakers and Anglicans on the same cause for the first time.

Finally, after a long and difficult fight, Wilberforce and his society succeeded in banning the slave trade in the United Kingdom in 1807. Wilberforce continued lobbying and working for a total abolition of slavery. He received word that a total abolition law would be enacted three days before his death in 1833.

Collect for William Wilberforce
O Lord, reassure me with your quickening Spirit; without you I can do nothing. Mortify in me all ambition, vanity, vainglory, worldliness, pride, selfishness, and resistance from God, and fill me with love, peace and all the fruits of the Spirit. O Lord, I know not what I am, but to you I flee for refuge. I would surrender myself to you, trusting your precious promises and against hope believing in hope. Amen.
(-Attributed to Wilberforce)

-Megan Castellan

Agatha Lin Zhao
Agatha Lin Zhao devoted her life to educating others about traditional Chinese culture, the world, and her faith. Ultimately, that commitment to education cost her life.

Early on, two conflicting commitments were made in Agatha’s life. Her parents had committed Agatha to be married to a young man whom they thought would help secure their family’s future. Meanwhile, Agatha had committed herself to serving God and the church.

Agatha’s parents were no strangers to the sacrifices of faith. Themselves Christians, Agatha’s father was in prison for refusing to renounce his faith when his daughter was born in 1817. When they found out about her commitment to God, her parents released Agatha from the betrothal. In the following years, Agatha pursued her education under her religious tutors, coming home at intervals to care for her parents.

At twenty-five, Agatha Lin Zhao took religious vows and was sent out as a missionary and educator. She proceeded to the frontier of Southern China, weaving together traditional Chinese culture and Christian faith as she taught in the local villages of the Hmong, Hmub, and Xong people (collectively known as the Miao by the Chinese).

Agatha did not see the Chinese culture of her childhood in conflict with her faith, but the Chinese authorities disagreed. Refusing to renounce her Christian faith, she was arrested and beheaded on January 28, 1858.

The work and sacrifice of Agatha Lin Zhoa was recognized as a martyr saint of China canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000. She is remembered on February 19 alongside Anges Tsao Kou Ying and Lucy Yi Zhenmei.

Collect for Agatha Lin Zhao
Lord Jesus Christ, who willingly walked the way of the cross: Strengthen your church through the witness of your servant Agatha Lin Zhao to hold fast to the path of discipleship even unto death; for with the Father and Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-David Hansen

William Wilberforce vs. Agatha Lin Zhao

  • William Wilberforce (59%, 5,677 Votes)
  • Agatha Lin Zhao (41%, 3,888 Votes)

Total Voters: 9,565

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William Wilberforce: By Karl Anton Hickel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Agatha Lin Zhao: https://catholicsaints.info/saint-agatha-lin/ Image, http://desertsilver22.deviantart.com/


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234 comments on “William Wilberforce vs. Agatha Lin Zhao”

  1. We honor today's saints with a ditty to be sung to "Superstar" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Jesus Christ Superstar"...

    After his conversion, he did not understand
    Why the evil slave trade had got so out of hand.
    Thought it was depraved and so he took a big stand.
    Strived to have all slavery abolished in England.
    An errant youth, no one would guess you had the volition
    To work your life to lobby for a full abolition.

    Didn’t get that wrong. (Repeat 3Xs)
    We want him to know. (Repeat 3Xs)

    Wilberforce. Wilberforce.
    Your life was one we could all endorse. (Repeat)

    Wilberforce. Modern saint.
    Thank you for fighting without restraint. (Repeat)

    Christians born in China often ended up dead –
    First, our girl was tortured then they chopped off her head.
    Jesus – he was where it’s at – so that’s what she taught.
    She mixed Christ with Chinese culture. It put her in a spot.
    Due to her beliefs, they threw her into a prison.
    She would not renounce Christ, so they said, “Cut short her mission!”

    Oh, her faith was strong. (Repeat 3Xs)
    We want her to know. (Repeat 3Xs)

    Agatha. Agatha.
    Your faith in Christ gave them agita. (Repeat)

    Agatha. Modern saint.
    Thank you for teaching without restraint. (Repeat)

    1. Excellent. Now Superstar will be playing on repeat in my head all day. Great earworm!

    2. I love it! The pressure’s on now. You realize you have to do this for six weeks now, don’t you?? 😀

    3. I was deeply touched (read: sobbing) most of the way through watching the movie, Amazing Grace. He suffered so much, and his health got terrible as he fought to abolish slavery. Plus he was a really cute actor. I love William.

    4. Mike, you know we love you,
      We can all see why,
      You should pursue poetry,
      It's written in the sky!

      We wanna let you know
      You really ought to know
      Don't you let it go,
      Don't you let it go!

      On this International Women's Day, I say: Go, Agatha!

    5. Bravo!

      I will look forward to your musical contributions throughout Lent. Incidentally I now have this tune stick in my head.

  2. One could say that Agatha fought the enslavement of her fellow countrymen's souls, but anyone who fought or alleviated the plight of actually enslaved people gets my vote. I also was moved by the movie Amazing Grace, so I voted for William.

    In case my use of first names seems to familiar -- I teach history and I say to my students who refer to George Washington as "George" that you only get to use the first name if the person sits next to you in class or was a king , a queen, or a saint. Practicing what I teach.

    1. I too was moved by the movie AMAZING GRACE.

      Recognizing Zhao's life and sacrifice, I voted for Wilberforce. This match up was not an easy one for me.

      1. While Zhao gave the ultimate sacrifice for God, Wilberforce's life impacted far more people. That is why I voted for him.

    2. Carolyn Mack, I like how you teach history. I have always thought of history being about the people more than the dates and happenings. I especially love British history and have told
      my children the people breathed, slept, ate, cried etc just like we do and their thoughts, beliefs and actions are what made history happen. For me, the history of Britain can be found in its churches. My ancestral church was built in 1478 and still stands in Essex. I too voted for William with all his very human "faults"!

    3. Off topic, but as an astronomer I have to ask: What about Galileo Galilei and Tycho Brahe? Both usually referred to by their first names, Galileo almost exclusively.

  3. His name does not command the same attention in the United States as Lincoln or Garrison, but William Wilberforce deserves great credit for his forty-five year campaign to end first the slave trade, then slavery itself, in the British Empire. A committed Christian, a gifted orator and Member of Parliament, he joined Thomas Clarkson and others in spearheading the effort to abolish it.

    When he began his work, the “triangle trade” accounted for four-fifths of Britain’s foreign income, with the slave trade one of its legs. Around 11 million men, women and children were taken from Africa, subjected to the horrors of the middle passage, where over a million died, and sold into lifelong bondage in the New World.
    Great fortunes were made off this trade, and Wilberforce and his allies met stiff resistance from wealthy and powerful families. Britain was a superpower with interests around the globe; Wilberforce and his allies faced a challenge roughly akin to ending fossil fuel use in the present-day United States.

    Nevertheless, they persisted: the passage of the Slave Trade Act in 1807 ended much of the Empire’s trade in slaves, with the Royal Navy’s West African Squadron charged with seizing slavers and freeing their captives. In 1833, shortly after Wilberforce’s death, the Slavery Abolition Act effectively ended slavery itself in most of the Empire, freeing nearly 800,000 African slaves worldwide.

    Wilberforce’s deep Christian belief in the moral repugnance of slavery, and his tireless efforts to eradicate it, led directly to the freeing of nearly a million people from bondage in the dominions of the the world’s leading superpower. It took another thirty years (and hundreds of thousands of lives) for the United States to free its four million slaves, but the example had been set for the world.

    And now, the limerick du jour:

    A parliamentarian and moral force;
    Forbidding the slave trade his chosen course.
    Its eradication
    Deserves acclamation:
    Please join me in honoring Wilberforce!

    1. I did join you, John! William got my vote. Love your commentary - looking forward to more
      " limericks du jour".

  4. Although William is my countryman, on International Women's Day it's got to be Agatha!

      1. Ditto to both of your replies...we need a like button for replies Supreme Executive Committee!

        1. Totally agree for a like button! 🙂
          Both were faithful passionate servants working for others on thier religious principals. To do that within a democracy and politcal framework accepting and allowing change (though not easy or without objection and difficulty) is so much easier than to do it inspite of and against a culture and government where the final result was her life. Both worthy saints, but for standing faithful and strong to the point of loosing her life I have to go with Agatha.

          1. William Wilberforce was a true “force” in the abolition of slavery. Because he is better known in the West than Agatha Lin Zhao, I expected Wilberforce to win; however, my vote was strongly cast for deserving Saint Agatha.

            For the “Round of 32” contestants, I always do some independent research before casting my vote, because the short articles supplied on Lent Madness will likely not include important and salient information, IMHO, needed to prayerfully consider the more deserving Saint.

            Knowing something about the difficulty of being Christian in China in earlier centuries, I was pre-inclined to vote for Saint Agatha. It was difficult to discover additional information about her life to support my inclination. For those interested, I succeeded in learning more about St. Agatha from 2 books that I found in part online: 1) Guizhow, The Precious Province by Paul Hathaway, copyright 2018 and 2) Christians in China A.D. 600 to 2000, by Jean-Pierre Charbonnier, copyright 2002. Armed with this additional information, particularly from Charbonnier’s book, and though still appreciating Wilberforce’s significant work to abolish slavery, there is no doubt in my mind that Agatha Lin Zhao deserves to win this challenge. She isn’t winning so there will be no “Saintly Sixteen” round article on her. How unfortunate.

            I found these books buried deeply on Google’s “Agatha Lin Zhao” search. For those who would like to learn more about the Christian virgin women teachers in China and St. Agatha’s life and martyrdom, I recommend the 2nd book. The link to Charbonnier’s book is: https://books.google.com/books?id=YIRHDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT265&lpg=PT265&dq=Agatha+Lin+Zhao&source=bl&ots=keHFBav8u_&sig=ACfU3U1t39es-q37_8VODXSNEKP8yx-oEA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjU08i9gfTgAhVKZawKHZehBkg4FBDoATABegQICRAB#v=onepage&q=Agatha%20Lin%20Zhao&f=false

        2. Exactly! Of course they are both amazing, but it is International Women's Day, so Agatha.

      1. I voted for Wilberforce, commented on Michael Wachter's "saint song du jour," and then Safari dropped the connection. Since my comment was posted, I assume that my vote was counted. I hope so. I served my Perkins School of Theology internship in the Human Trafficking department of Mosaic Family Services, and I became a huge fan of Wilberforce. I can't decide whether I'm rooting for him or for St. Damian of Molokai to win the Golden Halo.

  5. Both saints made a commitment to Christ in their twenties. Agatha died for her faith. She is almost our contemporary. My vote is for her !

    1. Agatha gets my vote. Unlike Wilberforce, she committed her entire life to sharing the Good News of God's love for all people, all the way to her ultimate sacrifice for her faith. And since this is also International Women's Day, that sealed the deal for me. Go, Agatha, go!

    2. Agatha got my vote too.
      And if she could weave together her Christian faith with her Chinese culture, we can certainly follow her lead in more thoughtfully weaving together our own Christian faith with our modern times. She suffered death for proclaiming that faith, yet all we fear is social shaming for proclaiming our faith. She certainly is someone to look to for such strength.

  6. He gads, we are dealing with talented folks and amazing stories of the witnesses to faith. Again a hard choice. But it is International Women's Day today so.....

  7. William Wilberforce is close to my heart, but I had to vote for Agatha who paid with her life

  8. I cannot compete with the song and limerick, but I voted for Agatha. We don't need more white male Europeans to win a bracket, albeit, it was a white male European who fought for non-white non-European men and women (#ally!). I'll leave the song and limerick speak to his honor.

  9. As moving as the story of Agatha Lin Zhao was, I must align myself with the righteous works of William Wilberforce in the fight against slavery. All these years of championing the mystics, and I have now picked up the banner of " be ye doers!" I shall have to pray diligently, it seems!

  10. WW didn't lose his head over his beliefs. He benefited from living in a civilized country – as much as any is civilized!

    1. Whoa! Careful with language. Chinese civilization is one of the oldest in the eastern hemisphere.

  11. Another hard choice. Both saints amaze me, being called by God to minister to brothers and sisters in need of salvation, physical and spiritual. How glad I am that William Wilberforce lived to see the outcome of his calling. And I am assured that, like Stephen, Agatha Lin Zhao saw those heavens open to her. Such exemplars.

  12. I’m so glad I found this! My church (church of the ascension in nyc), posted about it in their bulletin. I’m one day late but I’m def coming back. The story of Wilberforce was so inspiring and the collection prayer brought me to tears. Well done!

  13. Wilberforce was clearly quite the man, but I had to go with Agatha if for no other reason than to get her name out there - especially in light of the current Chinese crackdown on freedom.

  14. Let's see - I voted for Mary yesterday and Agatha today so it looks like I am starting off this year's "Madness" with the losers. That's OK - William's story (taking an idea from the teacher who posted above) is very familiar, but Agatha was new to me. I like to learn new things about the servants of God. Go, Agatha.

  15. William Wilberforce, for his turn-around from shallowness and carousing to speaking for the enslaved, working to free them, and for that beautiful prayer attributed to him.

  16. Yay, Martha! You were always overshadowed (by your saintly sit down sister). But here you go!

  17. Wilberforce is one of the few Anglicans on the calendar to have a movie made about him, and President Bartlett's cat (or housekeeper?) was named Mrs. Wilberforce!

  18. I very much admire William Wilberforce. However, having seen what is still going on in China I admire Agatha Lin Zhao a little more. Her courage is astounding having a small idea of what she faced. I do not think I could be that strong. She gets my vote today because her battle was not just about abolishing one thing knowing you would not be put to death, she faced huge odds and did so at great peril to her own life.

  19. Christians in China today are still persecuted. Owning a Bible there is a crime. The few Christian churches that are allowed to exist do so under the scrutiny of the Chinese government. I am blessed to know many Chinese Christians who have given up so much to find their way to America where they can worship in peace. My vote for Agatha honors their faith and hers.

  20. Sarah, I have the same problem. I have results but no vote button. I want to vote!

  21. I have never heard Agatha's story, and how sad that she's not in the books of the saints I was given as a child. What a remarkable and brave woman. She's my vote today.

  22. I love these stories and am awed by their faith and steadfast work to further God’s kingdom I have voted for Agatha because she found a way to honor her culture and reach people where they are rather than asking them to abandon their traditions

    1. Susie Stanley, this was a hard decision, but your comment tipped the balance. I'm also voting for Agatha.

    2. Me too. If it was a really close race I'd probably have to vote for William since he probably changed more lives. But in honor of International Women's Day and that she gave her life I vote happily for Agatha. I was completely humbled by how she honored her culture and brought Christianity to her people.

  23. Agatha gave her life, which is laudable. However, I can better relate and model the long life struggle of William Wilberforce who stayed within the system, using Christian patience and friendly persuasion.

  24. Tough one, despite Agatha's lack of name recognition. But I have to go with Willy the Force for his success in translating the energy of ethical principle into political activism

    1. "Willy the Force" - I like this. I had been trying to think of a "...Force be with you" riff on his name. Thanks!