Monday, April 30, 2007

Bruin-ness and the church

Excellent sporting weekend (except for the CWC)- at least the local derby was a draw. What stand out however, was Fokus on Freek with quite a lively debate on bruin-ness. My youngest afterwards wanted to know what we are- brownies or coloured. Difficult to explain: we are Coloured in english, but 'Bruin' in Afrikaans. mmm difficult to explain. Anyway, the book of Gilliomee, Nog altyd hier gewees, tells the story of a Stellenbosch community- the 'bruin' gemeenskap. How do we see ourselves in the new SA- with Freedomday celebrations fresh in our memory. More pertinently: how do we see ourselves in the church, a uniting church, a URCSA church. I can speak of our experiences down in the Stellenbosch, but would prefer to narrow myself down to the place where I find myself now- in the North. I agree with Danny Titus, we cannot for now at least deny the Bruin-experience and simplistically evaporate into 'blackness' or South African-ness. This denies the unique history of colonialism, slavery and apartheid, but also (now) assimilation in the new South Africa. Suddenly, we ( in our church) have to let go of 'precious memories' and stories of struggle with the Kain's merk coming out of African, Asian, European creolization and adapt to the dominant NGKA churchculture and history. Yes, we are not significant in terms of the numbers, but still, the church is the place where we celebrate the reconciliation, unity in diversity, where we overcome the shallowness of uniformity and aim for justice - with God standing on the side of the weaker side, the oppressed and the marginalised. Whether He is on the Bruin-side is maybe pushing the argument too far , but I would assert that God doesn't in this case side with the powerful who in their selfish desires define and supress the weak. Beware: This is what Afrikaner-nationalism tried to do- mark you and put you in place. What we however as a church need to become aware of, is the reality that these 'sides' are not as clearly demarcated as we think it is- I think that these hybrid identities, the reality of fluid negotiated selves denies essential definitions of what it means to be an African or authentic member of the nation and of the church. That is why the future for national identities lies in shades of bruin- in multi coloured varieties and dialogues that includes rather then draw thick bold lines. These shades are in constant interaction allowing new strong colours to emerge- what beautiful, open possibilities are opening up in this context.... if only we we let it be...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Emergent church

Last night I listened to two radio programs on the new forms of church. Some call it emergent church, others alternative others say its just another word for the charismatic renewal and the AIC's. Maybe it is merely the Americans trying to label and intellectual property-fying and exporting back a move that has been going on in the aftermath of decolonization in the South anyway. Jurgens Hendriks on 702 seems to say that AIC's - or as it was called in the program, the 'breakaway' churches is simply part of this new move of God. Earlier, on RSG (Afrikaans radiostation) it was refered to as the alternative church, which is basically spreading the same old gospel story, in a new way (package). I agree that we need to have a historical perspective on what is happening currently. What is happening in the UK and North America ( also in Australia and NZ-Aot ?) need to be viewed in terms of the context that the church finds themselves in there. The Newbigin-inspired gospel and our culture network is doing just that- a mission by and for and to the north. We have these pockets of the West in the colonies still and they have their links to the metropole ( to the motherland). Then, we have the South, the colonies, the rest... do we now ( again) swallow the medicine that the doctor prescribe or do we go for the traditional healer. It seems to me that a lot of what is suggested in the glorification of the AIC's is a regression back to the traditional healer. If only we could go back to a primordial past, purged from Western influence and culture, in church and society then we can sit ( again) under the tree and smoke the pipes whilst the women, the children and the slaves go on with their work on the land. I quess, it doesnt take a lot of brainpower ro realise to discover that we have moved on, due to the colonial project and now in the context of neocolonialism we discover we are mixed, mobile, Euro/Asian-Africans, who are negotiating and re-inventing our self-concept as we engage in living.A postcolonial position will assert: we are not only in Joburg any more the colony, we are Joburgers in Seattle for 7 months, in Amsterdam for a year, working on a pig farm in the UK for 3 years and 'come visiting home' in Stellenbosch for a month. Even the US and UK are not what it used to be... the key players in the England cricket team look more Indian, and sound more South African then typical English- and it is in this fluid and emerging context- postcolonial that church has to make sense. This for me is not the case in AIC's and charismatics ( let alone us 'mainstreams' or sidestreams !

Monday, April 16, 2007

Rugby and cricket woes

It was not a good sporting weekend for me. The worst thing about the loss of the Stormers and the South African cricket team is the fact that you cannot do anything about it. Maybe I should, like many newspapers over the weekend, blame it on transformation and qoutas. If only we had spinners like Botha and Harris, instead of Pietersen (Robin, not Kevin) and bag-carrying Telemachus ( and now Langeveld as well) and if only Hershelle ( despite his 60) and Ashwin didn't dropped their catches.... Rapport's only photo of the cricket is Hershelle dropping that one (oh yes, and the glory of AB in the previous match against Windies with a few spinning the future of our golden boy) and so we can go on. The same can be said of rugby. The bottom line is that it's enough to loose badly-and take the rap for it, but its so sickening when black players are singled out for blame. It is for me symptomatic of so many aspects of our time: people ( and Afrikaans newspapers like Rapport) oppose transformation and affirmative action arguing that it militates against merit and excellence. I don't think its that simple. I think that in the messy world that we live in powergames plays its part-and colour (pun intended) the way emerging talent is managed , that entrenched interests still militates against harnesing all the best we have to produce (winning) results. We are not doing this well enough- this is why talented black schoolchildren are left behind (put down) by the wayside. I've seen them at games and meets at Stellenbosch 10 or so years ago at highschool events taking the honours- today- maybe at their prime age of 20-25 they're gone.