Keeping level heads amidst statue anger

byafrika

James 1:20 says, “For a man’s anger does not lead to action which God regards as righteous.” This Scripture came to mind this week when I considered the debate around colonial era statues. Anger is an emotion that is prone to lead people along a destructive path where they do actions that they end up regretting later. Consider for instance people who allow their anger to lead them to destroy public property and sabotage government services that are meant to uplift them.

Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness and all passionate feeling, all anger and loud insulting language, be unknown among you — and also every kind of malice.”Malice is the desire or intention to harm another human being but the Merriam Webster’s online dictionary also adds that malice is “an intent to commit an unlawful act or cause harm without legal justification or excuse.” Does this not explain the actions of those who have defaced and vandalised what they consider to be offensive statues?

They might claim that the end justifies the means but that argument is morally bankrupt and legally unjustifiable. It is this sort of argument that is behind the flareups of violent attacks against foreign nationals from other African countries and fits in very well with the modus operandi of the Economic Freedom Front (EFF) in the campaign to illegally occupy vacant government land. The issue is not just about statues of Cecil John Rhodes, Paul Kruger, etc. but about civil disobedience and lawlessness which are the very things Christians cannot support.

The claim is that the statues represent the offensive and repressive system of apartheid and indeed we should have a conversation around issues of injustice and notions of racial superiority but the conversation should not be at the behest of people with a narrow political agenda. Some of these people erroneously believe that they have hegemony over the idea of “blackness” and that to be black and proud a person must throw in their lot with them and their political ideals.

If I read the Bible correctly I do not see how a Christian can justify being in cahoots with groups that are bent on creating anarchy and chaos. Our mandate is that of being bridge-builders and peacemakers and we cannot allow ourselves to be seduced into trading our identity at the altar of political expediency. Someone told me that the removal of Cecil John Rhodes’ statue at the University of Cape Town represents a psychological victory for the students.

But I keep asking myself, what happens after the statue has been removed? Will its removal help to heal past hurts and contribute to social cohesion? It seems to me that we are sacrificing long term gains for short term victories. More importantly, if these statues are so offensive then why were they not dealt with as part of the political settlement entered into between different political parties during the CODESA negotiations? Is this an oversight on the part of our democratic founding fathers or do we now have a generation that has just decided that it is time to be angry against something?

How do you pass a concrete block for decades and then decide to agitate for its removal and are unwilling to even follow due process in having it removed? Perhaps the issue is a deep seated anger caused by various factors and the statues happen to bear the brunt of it. How does the church respond to this? We pray and keep level heads. We seek to hear God’s voice because He always has a plan. We refuse to be polarised along racial lines and to be derailed from our task of nation building.

18 Comments

  1. Well analysed, Afrika! The founding fathers of Democracy in SA committed themselves to ‘social cohesion’. But it seems that those who vandalise are committing themselves to destroying that ‘social cohesion’. But Christians (and others who want ‘social cohesion’ and not ‘social polarisation’ must be careful lest we react in the Anger against which Afrika warns. Let’s find ways to ‘love our enemies’, and ‘pray for them’, so that we be true followers of Jesus Christ in an anarchic world.

    • Thanks Hugh. We can’t afford to be sucked into a war that may not be God’s and therefore may not have His backing. I believe racism should be dealt with but in a manner that builds and not destroys.

  2. Margaret Ferguson

    I am sure that it no accident, Afrika, that as I read the front page lead article in the newspaper today that the SA President meeting with business executives with Robert Mugabe, stated ‘We should be angry as we were in the political struggle. It’s urgent, important and correct’. Actually I have to comment as an ex Christian politician elsewhere that in my view he is incorrect. I am very concerned when a leader of a country in peacetime suggests that ‘anger; is the answer. Anger is what creates the negative actions of throwing poo, burning down community libraries and other violence that does nothing to help the country move forward or create social cohesion. The church in unity needs to show and articulate a different approach in terms of how the nation should behave including the views of the national leadership.

    • The problem with our president and in fact the ruling party Margaret is that they don’t want to be outdone by the EFF. They can see that the EFF is getting all the spotlight with their politics of anger and now they want to match them. This is nothing but gutter politics.

  3. Thank you for yet another perceptive, Biblically based viewpoint. We do indeed need to join together in prayer for our nation. “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray, then I will heal their land.”

  4. “Hate” is a strong word, and I rarely if ever use it. But one thing I DO hate is racism. And sadly it seems that we have exchanged the racism of Apartheid for the racism of “transformation”. Under the Nats (for whom I never voted) we had separate development and job reservation for “whites”. Under the ANC we have BEE(E), which is “job reservation” for “blacks” – and coloureds (if they’re lucky) etc etc.

    I am sick to death of racists! Let the best person – male/female or black/white/coloured/whatever – be appointed to the post, whatever it is, based purely on their COMPETENCE and ability to fulfill the task required.

    Zuma has just met with Mugabe, who has destroyed Zimbabwe, the previous “Bread basket of Africa” and said he will meet with him (Mugabe) every year from now on. Why? To discover how to destroy South Africa?? Which he (Zuma) and his cadres are busy doing by their thievery as I write this comment.

    Eishh. Cry the beloved country…

    • Unfortunately the word racism has become a “weapon” under the auspices of the ‘PC’ers’, who intimidate people with the accusation of being such when one says anything they don’t agree with, especially in North America and the UK. A case in point in the UK has been the ongoing sexual abuse of young British girls by men, of mostly middle eastern origin, and the police did nothing for fear of being called racist. Closer to home is Trevor Noah, who is being called a racist in the US for his humorous political jokes, to the point of delving into his past works to get more ‘racist’ ammunition on him.
      The world is going mad and we can only hope for the Lord’s speedy return.

    • Tony you are right that racism, in all its manifestations, is deplorable. However the advantage given to previously disadvantaged individuals is not a classic case of reverse racism, as you make it. It is not always possible for the ‘best person’ to get the job if the structure of the economy and certain companies continue to discriminate against black people. And when black people cannot achieve their best and optimal potential due to developmental constraints they encounter from primary school and onwards. The idea that the market forces would have taken care of SA’s racial issues is simplistic and not true. There are white people who would have continued to make sure that no black person, regardless of competence, assumes managerial or leadership positions where they are in charge. This would have happened even in the democratric era. So although BEE and Affirmative Action have sometimes been poorly implemented, there was and is a case for government’s intervention in how the economy works. To be the ‘best’ candidate for a job people of colour are, at times, forced to work twice as hard as a white person. So if the government hadn’t intervened we would continued seeing white people in positions of power and people of colour in subservient roles cause I don’t know any white person who would have relinquished his privileged position.

  5. Jesus is the only answer…

    • What you sharing TL is really sad. When we abuse the word racism then it makes it difficult to see when there are real cases of discrimination. I also get irritated by people who, when caught in some despicable conduct, use race as an excuse.

  6. As always, you have a Godly answer and a clear perspective on political matters. The reason is because you’re a man that is walking in God’s footsteps. As you have said at the KMMC in 2013, SA will change for the good when our leaders start to open Parliament and all other national assemblies by reading out of the word of God. When our leaders fear God and pray for His guidance to lead this country. May God hold his hand over us and our children that are the future. Looking forward to seeing you at the KMMC 2015.

    • Thanks Mark. Yes see you at the KMMC. Let’s us pray that it doesn’t get too cold but I believe we would have a good time, regardless.

  7. The ends cannot justify the means, I agree completely with you. The defacing of public property is never the solution. A meaningful dialogue with the relevant parties could have achieved the same effect, perhaps with a little less drama.

    I cannot comment on EFFs political motives, however we cannot deny what the statue represents. Rhodes in his own words was committed to expanding British imperialism, coloniasm and supremacy. A public statue is erected to honour an individual for embodying principles and values which society feels represents their highest values and aspirations. Hence during British colonialism the statue was fitting. However in contemporary South Africa I do not see how the Rhodes statue is reflective of a non racial and equal society.

    Symbols are powerful, they convey values and ideas. If you came across a house brandishing the old South African flag you will probably stay away from that house. The swastika is a symbol, the white hoods worn by KKK is a symbol – such symbols have no place in public society and promote polarization. You lambast EFF as having a narrow political agenda and that such conversations should not be done at their behest- but then at whose behest?

    Why did political parties during CODESA not remove the statues? I don’t know, however does that mean that all their decisions and perspectives must be followed without question? Perspectives change, old norms are questioned. I feel you have branded the students as angry and as the church we need understand what the source of their anger is. Should their anger not be interpreted against the back drop of a UCT with 1400 academics of which less than 50 are black, with no women professors at all? Should it not be interpreted against the backdrop that despite huge strides the social and economic order is largely divided along racial lines no different to colonial times?

    Anger is never the solution, and if our nation is to achieve the unity it needs, we need to understand where this stems from. The statues seems to be a symptom of a much deeper underlying root as you say. From the crucibles of a divided and polarized history, we must erect the statues of an inclusive, non-racial and equal future. How it’s going to be truly done, as you say we must keep in prayer and hear from God and His agenda we goes beyond our personal and political and racial agendas. God Bless!

    • Thanks Tsholofelo for your helpful contribution. I have no doubt that there are many outstanding issues that we need to address as a country but I am concerned about the process we undertake in addressing them. For me EFF is a party formed by angry people whose rhetoric does not build but destroys. For instance they campaign for the unlawful occupation of state land and they encourage civil disobedience and lawlessness. Surely as Christians we can’t support such actions.
      The conversation on how we deal with SA’s divided past should take place but EFF cannot lead that conversation but ordinary South Africans should. EFF is a raced-based party like Freedom Front Plus and their views are only in pursuit of narrow socialistic interests. I even doubt their commitment to socialism when I look at the lifestyles of their leaders. Wouldn’t it good for a neutral body like the church be the one that leads in addressing all the issues you are raising? After all we are the ones who are the salt and light of this nation.
      Blessings

  8. Let the Church Arise .- This is a call for a MORE vibrant, visible demonstration of Christ’s love in & by the disciples of Jesus Christ. In the midd 90’s, Christians demonstrated their unity in mass walks through Cape Town, changing and challenging the mood in the nation. We need to openly show what we’re for….not only always what we oppose. The Cross is our Unity.

    • Thanks Ps Paul. Indeed we are for something and not just against something. We are for peace and harmony. We are for love and acceptance.

  9. Margaret Ferguson

    I agree re gutter poltics and the EFF versus ANC, Afrika, but it demeans the President’s position; it does not enhance it, I am sure you will agree. The Christian church ‘in the Spirit’ not in the flesh needs come into prayer for the nation at this time as’ opposition’ in politics is important and hence the choosing of a new leader for the DA. That is not a party political point – it is a constitutional democracy point. I contacted the DA today – felt compelled to do so – and I do not support a political party in S Africa – to aska question concerning Mmusi Maimane who appears to have no contenders to his leadership. You may know but I learned that he is a Christian pastor (and has a Masters degree incidentally in Theology). We need as \paul raper says to visibly as Christians show our unity – until the church shows unity, we must not expect it to happen in th natuion – known as social cohesion. It all sts in the church and bidning those things from our past in national terms that have damaged the nation through Satan’s work and prevented ‘unity’ I find I am repeatedly reading Ephesians t4 vv 1 – 16 -‘ Unity in the Body of Christ’ . I believe that is so important for the action of the Christian church for God to move in the nation.