Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Government, synods just can't deal - let us join hands.

I published a collumn today in Die Beeld today. It is in Afrikaans so I thought it should be wise to translate it here on my blog. You might also find it on my other Afrikaans blog - uncut.
What did I say?

Last week my church, the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) held a General Synod in Benoni. As observer on social media, and through a few visits of some sessions, we could follow the discussions. Of course, church meetings are very complex (and tiring!). It is also not always indicative of what happens in faith communities. Sometimes the decisions is simply the outcome of the powerplay amongst personalities. Other times you feel however, now here's a moment of truth - just sometimes.

One of the difficult issues they dealt with, was the question whether members of the LGBTQI community may become minister and also, whether ministers may bless same-sex unions. The Nederdutch Reformed Church (a very conservative church) in the same week said yes, URCSA however

For many of us, this was (again) a painful realisation that the lipservice towards openness and love is embodied so difficultly. There was however another realisation for me. This also relates to the disturbing images of students tearing into libraries, lecture halls and streets demanding that they must be heard.

It must be of deep concern for all of us when it seems as if we have simply not developed the competence to embrace differentness. No community (even within faith communities) think the same. Our backgrounds and exposure on different levels make that we simply need to look in another manner at the reality of difference - even in our theological views.

This means that the question is no whether the one is correct and the other wrong. That is not the question. It simply means that we have to accept the challenge to seek, with each other, in love, the truth. None of us have the final right to the full truth. The Confession of Belhar describes it so beautifully: (We believe) that the variety of spiritual gifts, opportunities, as well as the variety of language and culture, by virtue of the reconciliation in Christ, is opportunities towards mutual service, and enrichment within the one people of God.

This is then also the framework within which the current conflict need to be seen. The tragedy is that our young people have been brought up in a culture where the one group first had to silence the other (even shouting them down), to assert themselves. The consequence is that we cannot debate, differ, learn and live with each other anymore. We are pressured to win all the time - sometimes at all costs, especially at the expense of those who live and think differently from our established traditions.

For our bigger cause and dream, namely our living together, which is so needed, the question is not whether we are right or wrong, but rather, how do we make it possible for all of us to live with each other and to serve and enrich each other.

The challenge is indeed: how can we use our different gifts, opportunities and convictions to become a better society?
Perhaps, we shouldn't expect too much from the government and the church meetings.
Perhaps, we need to realise that the gifts are in our own hands, by taking each others hands.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Too prophetic for words.

Many religious leaders now jump on the bandwagon to say that we must now get rid of Zuma. In a way it is understandable. We all want to be seen to be prophetic. We in South Africa like to be nostalgic about 'the role of the church in the struggle' and now, there's a moment in history to also be prophetic - in the struggle, so to speak. For most, this is where it will end - so to speak.

I do sound cynical, yes. Why, I ask myself? Given the view points that I've raised on various fora (as well as this blog) this is perhaps the moment of reckoning - the moment to join forces for that last push in order to get rid of #1. I am not that excited though.

If I think for a moment, there's a few reasons why this kind of prophetic opportunism doesn't cut it for me. Is Zuma really the individual that we should focus our attention on, I wonder. Looking back at the struggle against apartheid, it was clear: whether the National Party replace John Vorster with PW Botha, didn't matter. The revision of the constitution didn't matter - it didn't matter that PW Botha was senile or suffered a stroke, and did not effectively lead the government, or was replaced by FW de Klerk. What mattered was the system, the fundamental injustice that was embodied and perpetuated. The monstrosity of a colonial system was the target of the struggle for justice. Is this what is at the heart of the current haste to get in line for a seat in Luthuli house or the Union buildings?

The serious allegations against the current president and all his cronies, points to a deeper rot that is entrench into the system of governance. To take out Zuma or Mbete is not going to improve the living standards of the poor, black masses in this country. It is the kind of macro-economic policies which governments like South Africa follow and put in place which need to be targeted. These faith communities and their leaders, who continue to preach a capitalist, middle class gospel, and who continues to aspire to take the seat of the current high and mighty will not go to the heart of this systerm. They want to be there in those leather seats.
It is also important to note that like what happened in Polokwane in 2007, it is not enough to simply join hands to get rid of the one individual, without having a clear picture in our minds on what the alternative will be.

So, let us (not) wait and see. Rather, we need deeper conversations on what we are today compared to where we were since the 1980s where black lives didn't matter. It still don't matter. Can any of these leaders, drinking tea in Luthuli House show us what has changed for the black masses since the ANC has taken over government? The challenge is how to we turn this reality around and do it with a long term view of where this country, within the broader post-colonial context of Africa will be 20 -30 years from now. That is prophetic - in the true sense of the word. This is where our focus should be.
Or perhaps I am simply too cynical for words.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Its really about decolonisation, not managerialism ...

Unless we connect the dots between the current struggles in the various Higher Education institutions and the broader quest for decolonization, we will not understand fully what is happening.
Of course, there are unique, contextual issues and tensions which might differ from one institution to the other. It is however not enough to see these as individual matters to be dealt with by the respective senior management official - it is rather about asking the question about what it means to be a learning community in Africa.
Missionaries (and their children) had to wrestle and come to terms with the reality that we don't stay children forever. Africa, was never a child to be reared from the onset. Hence there was bound to be tension and contradictions. It makes therefore sense to ask the missionaries (again) to please leave. Of course, here I am not referring literally to missionaries - but to the mindset that wants to simply ignore agency, the local and an appreciation for difference. Missionaries (the real ones) had to come to terms with their identity and role in a new context, in the face of decolonization. That journey is not yet close to completion - but it started. Perhaps, current managers and political bosses can learn from this experience and connect the dots.