Our responsibilities as Christian voters

Graeme Preston.
Graeme Preston.

By Graeme Preston — Attorney and Elder at The Storehouse, New Covenant Church

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As May 7,  2014 approaches many South African’s are gearing up to cast their vote, some have spent hours agonising over this decision, others may simply decide based on how they feel on the day.

So how should Christians vote, if indeed they should? Is there any biblical and or moral obligation on Christians to vote in a certain way? As Christians we all desire a better Country and feel a Godly obligation to make it so. As an attorney and a Christian I wish to give some insight into our responsibilities as Christians and hopefully “clear the air” in some respects.

As I have discussed matters with fellow Christians I have observed a fundamental lack of understanding in respect of how our country is governed, resulting in decisions based on incorrect assumptions. It is impossible to make an informed decision unless you understand the following concepts on a basic level:

Constitution

South Africa is governed by the Constitution, a document that we can indeed be proud of and whose primary aim is to prevent an Apartheid type situation from ever happening again. This document has protected the interests of all South Africans for the last 20 years. It sets a broad outline of how our Country is to be governed and how all laws are to be judged. Anything in contradiction to this document can be invalidated through the Courts. Amongst other things this document contains a Bill of Rights that guarantees certain freedoms that we enjoy such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Whilst you may be aware that a 2/3rds majority is required to pass certain amendment bills you may not be aware that 75% majority is required to amend the basic values of the Constitution.

Limitation of rights

On a daily basis we see a collision of rights and freedoms. It is impossible for rights or freedoms to exist without limits. The Bill of Rights has a limitation Clause that allows for rights to be limited in certain circumstances. For example when a person commits a crime such as murder, is convicted and sentenced to jail; this person loses a number of freedoms. This limitation of freedoms is justifiable because it is in the best interests of the Country as a whole. Another classic example is the abolishment of the death penalty which was found to be in contravention of the right to life. Even in the circumstances of a convicted murderer, it is not justifiable to limit their right to life to an extent that it is completely abolished. At times the conflict of these rights results in the creation of laws that we as Christians disagree with. One must always remember that the Constitution sets strict guidelines on how rights/freedoms are to be limited, for instance rights must be limited in the least restrictive means possible. Any fear that Religious rights will be completely abolished is unwarranted in terms of the limitation provisions of the Constitution.

Judiciary, Legislature, Executive

South Africa is governed by three branches; the Judiciary (Courts), the Legislature (Parliament) and the Executive (Government). Broadly speaking, parliament makes the laws (in accordance with the Constitution), The Courts interpret the laws and the Executive enforces these laws. Parliament is no longer sovereign, this means that Parliament cannot simply enact any laws that it wishes. All laws must be Constitutionally valid as the Constitution is legally supreme.

Our courts therefore have the power to indirectly make law as they create precedents when they make rulings. These rulings are binding on lower courts. The highest court for non-constitutional matters is the Supreme Court of Appeal and the highest court for constitutional matters is the Constitutional Court. If any law is in Conflict with the Constitution, we have a remedy in the Constitutional Court which has the power to invalidate that law.

An incorrect understanding of the above principles has lead to confusion in the following areas:

Freedom of religion

In Christian circles there has been much debate and emphasis placed on the issue of freedom of religion. There seems to be a misunderstanding that this freedom is limited to the Christian faith. The very worst thing for any country would be to have an unlimited, unfettered right to religious freedom. One can only imagine the consequences. We have already seen a number of satanic murders in our Country. An unlimited freedom of religion would mean that one could justify murder simply if it was justifiable based on religious beliefs. Those that fight for religious freedom will admit that this right must be limited; the debate revolves around the extent of this limitation. We must however bear in mind that promoting religious freedom promotes the freedom of all religions including religions directly opposed to Christianity. Another misunderstanding revolves around the notion that we can lose this freedom. The fact is that this right is already enshrined in the Constitution. This right can only be limited in accordance with the strict requirements as set out in the Constitution.

The whole picture

There have been a number of real life examples that Christians have been confronted with in recent months. These examples include instances where Christians have been accused of discrimination, of breaking certain by-laws and acting in a manner that is contrary to the Constitution. For example; discriminating against homosexual couples and or harassing abortion clinics etc. One must remember that our Constitution was birthed out of a place of great discrimination in our Country and it specifically guards against any further discrimination. This is not a bad thing, imagine being unable to make certain purchases or visit certain areas simply because you are a Christian, or to have our Church’s boycotted and harassed? Jesus set the example in the manner in which he dealt with unbelievers. He did not compromise his beliefs but he engaged non-believers in a manner that upset the religious people of the day. Christians who discriminate, break the law or harass non-believers fall foul of the Constitution. What if a “white supremacist” stated that it was his religious right to uphold apartheid based laws. Religious rights must, for this reason, be limited. It is not possible to differentiate between religions or their limitation as all limitations must be applied in terms of the law of general application (s36 of the Constitution).

Having said this it is becoming increasingly unpopular to stand as a Christian on certain topics such as homosexuality etc. This is, in part, as a result of the manner in which “Christians” have treated non-believers in the past. Non-believers have been shamed, harassed, beaten, ostracised and hated by people professing to uphold Christian standards. Now that society is changing this hatred is being re-directed from where it came. Fighting to enforce a right as Christians to continue to discriminate against these people groups does little to change the underlying issue. This cultural/societal turning against Christians will not be solved by legislation that further alienates us from these groups but by learning to interact with these groups of people as Jesus would have done. Unfortunately the Church is known more for what it stands against than that which it stands for. Social “persecution” would be far less if people saw a united Church rising up to bring about real change. The Church needs to lead by example and show the Nation how powerful and effective the love of Christ can be at ground level. If people saw a Church that heals the sick, feeds the hungry, binds up the broken hearted and loves fiercely, they may wish to join us instead of persecuting us. It is unclear what “rights” Christians are trying to protect when they refuse to embrace sinners, if the Church embraced this philosophy our Churches would be empty. Jesus embraced sinners and addressed their sin, we cannot only embrace and not address the sin nor can we only address the sin and not embrace the sinner. An attitude that, “no sin shall not cross my door” sounds very Christian but ultimately means that you will be sleeping outside as we all fall short of the Glory of God. In some of the examples stated above I would argue that discriminating against non-believers is not a Christian religious right at all as I cannot find precedent for it in the Bible. The Bible is very clear on issues such as homosexuality and abortion, it is also very clear on how we should deal with “sinners”. As Christians our primary focus should be introducing the world to Jesus, let’s leave our rights and social comforts in His hands and get on with it.

Christian laws

For some reason Christians find it particularly difficult to understand the separation between the secular laws that govern secular Countries and the Christian laws that are written on our hearts. I have witnessed a burden being placed on Christians that a vote for a non-Christian party is basically tantamount to murder or at the very least a failure of your responsibility as a Christian.

I think that this is an extremely unfair and incorrect burden to place on Christians. It seems to stem from a misunderstanding that a Christian party will abolish all ungodly laws (i.e. abortion) and replace them with Godly ones. This argument fails on many levels. Firstly one cannot legislate Christian morality; if so we can expect laws that regulate gossip, coveting, adultery, speaking in tongues without an interpretation etc. It would in itself be pointless and would simply be a regression to the “Law” and negate Christ having died on the cross. Secondly there is no Christian party that has the power to enact any law that is in conflict with the Constitution unless it gathers enough votes to change the Constitution. Further to this we have seen Christian parties form coalitions with the very parties whose policies they oppose, meaning that a vote for this party results in an adoption of the same values that you opposed in the first place.

An application to invalidate abortion on Constitutional grounds has already failed. It is by no means a foregone conclusion that an elected Christian party will be able to abolish abortion. This is why the manifesto of some Christian parties states that they aim to limit abortion as much as possible but not to abolish it. I hate abortion, as should every Christian, the issue however is whether it is right to say that a vote for a non-Christian party equals approval of abortion. I also hate adultery and all other sin but I do not see any Christian parties proposing to enact laws to outlaw these activities. Does that mean that if you vote for a Christian party that you condone adultery and all other sin? Of course not! The same can be said for abortion and voting for a non-Christian party. How many Christians claim to oppose abortion but have never reached out to help a pregnant mother in crisis? It is so easy to vote and think that you have “fought” against abortion. Given the legal and social realities it is absurd to think that the fight against abortion will be won by a mark on a piece of paper. Perhaps we like to think this because it’s easier than having to give up our time, comforts, finances and love to reach the people who need it. If this sounds like a challenge, that’s because it is. First prize is a capable government that opposes abortion working with committed Christians to eradicate the problem, I will however settle for a capable government and committed Christians. Factors such as education, poverty, violence all play a role in overcoming abortion.

Many Christians would agree that in 1994 the best thing for South Africa was electing Nelson Mandela as president. A vote for the ANC in 1994 was a vote for the best interests of all South Africans. Using the logic and misconceptions I have mentioned above, no Christian should have voted for the ANC in 1994 and Mandela should not have been, according to Christians, voted in as President. As you can see the logic is flawed.

Apathy

As a Christian I have continuously heard the call to “wake up” in a political sense. To stop being apathetic and fight for my religious freedom. This call has created an “us” versus “them” mentality which finds its basis in a fear that we are on the verge of losing our freedom. I find terms such as “Gay Mafia” to be unhelpful, I do not doubt that there is a form of social persecution levelled at Christians who oppose homosexuality but I cannot imagine Jesus saying, “Oh no here comes the Gay Mafia – every body run and hide!” These are not nameless faceless enemies; they are people that God loves in desperate need of his redemptive power. In my humble opinion the definition of Christian apathy is taking a few hours out of your day on 7 May 2014 to vote and then to consider that you have fulfilled your Christian obligation. God has one plan for this world and that is the Church, there is no plan B. This world will change on the basis of a priesthood of all believers partnering with God to change one individual at a time. This will happen in times of freedom or persecution. Try as I may I cannot find an emphasis on politics in the Bible. If you have devoted more time to Christian politics in the last month than Christ then I would argue that your perspective needs adjustment. A look through history quickly reveals that Christianity as a movement suffered most when the State and the Church were one.

Danger of the red herring

It may seem that I am anti-Christian political parties. This is not necessarily true; I believe that it is important to have a Christian voice in parliament. My greatest concern is that the Church spends countless man hours, finances, resources etc. chasing after a cause that does not further the mandate that we have been given in the Bible. My concern is that the Church becomes distracted by furthering a political cause and not living in the great commandment and the great commission. I am convinced that politics will not change the hearts of the men and women we are called to meet, perhaps it may make our lives more comfortable but the Kingdom of God will advance by forceful men who take hold of it regardless of politics. The God that I serve will not allow politics to stand in the way of reaching those that he loves. I simply cannot see and reconcile the end goal of Christian politics with the Bible. Christianity and politics are founded on fundamentality opposing principles. When you get into the ring with a dirty fighter it is not long before you have to adjust your tactics to survive. It is indeed sad to see that Christian parties more often than not resort to the same tactics that all political parties are required to resort to, to survive. My other concern is that political burdens are being placed on Christians that are unfair and incorrect. This is being accomplished through instilling a fear of losing our freedom and a misrepresentation of basic legal principles. A popular slogan at the moment is, “vote your values”. This is in itself slightly misleading as the values have already been established and set out in the Constitution. Certain of these values conflict with Christian values and it is therefore impossible to truly “vote your values” as all parties are bound to the same broad values.

How then should we vote? 

1.         Through wisdom, not fear or frenzy

As Christians we need to vote out of a place of Wisdom taking into consideration all of the relevant facts and not out of a place of fear or frenzy. God is still in control, He still has a plan, He will not leave us nor forsake us. When you vote I would encourage you to ask the following questions; What is in the best interests of South Africa? Which leaders possess the experience, capacity and ability to lead a nation? Who will govern us well? How will poverty, education, crime, economics etc. influenced by my vote.

2.         Faith not presumption

We need to hear the voice of God clearly. As a Christian I have felt opposition for doubting that a Christian political party will win a majority vote in this election. It has been implied that I lack faith, in truth I have simply not felt God tell me that this is his priority or His plan and I refuse to act out of a place of presumption and not faith. You may indeed feel that God’s plan for South Africa is to rally the Church politically, I however do not. I am not saying that I am correct. I am simply saying that we need to act on faith not presumption and be certain on where God is placing an emphasis. In my opinion this emphasis is and always will be the Church.

Conclusion

So should Christians vote? Yes, I think they should. They should take an interest in their country and pray for their leaders. They should outwork social justice in their places of influence, they should be involved in educating the uneducated, feeding the homeless, healing the sick, caring for the needy, financing redevelopment and being at the forefront of social change. The Church should rise up as one with power and authority and start solving the problems that our nation faces. When we do this politicians will look to us for help, not the other way around. There is much need for Godly advice and counsel on a political level and Christians should have a voice that is heard. We will however “get on with the job” and lead by example whether this voice is heard or not.

Is there a Biblical obligation to vote for a Christian party? No, vote out of a place of wisdom and faith and vote as you feel led, free from any sense of undue obligation.

More importantly we as Christians need to unify our efforts in accomplishing the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. There is no plan B!

15 Comments

  1. Well worth reading. Opens your eyes to a different perspective from a legal point. Reminds us not be narrow minded, but to seek God’s purpose and answer for ourselves, instead of going by others opinions

  2. Very nice article Graeme, I fully support displaying the powerful and effective love of Christ on ground level as I believe that we are not meant to save society but to save people from the negative and God forsaken aspects of society.

  3. Dear Sir-the comments postulated by the Brother are noted but Not accurate. The comments that a Christian should Not vote for a Christian party is absolutely-unbiblical. Christians are obliged Not to endorse pagans who make laws contrary to Scripture. The DA & ANC for example are anti Christ as they endorse homosexuality; abortion; sexual freedom. Therefore…this Brother sadly is postulating an un Biblical stance. Amen. Vote with your conscience-Vote for Truth Not error.

  4. Exellent balanced article,Thx,Derek

  5. Most thought-provoking and worth noting by every voter. It seems that Samuel Kennedy has not understood Graeme’s argument, and I encourage him to re-read it, with an open mind free of pre-conceived ideas. Thus is a complicated issue.

  6. Anyone who thinks the ACDP will govern because of their vote,is dreaming. Voting for the ACDP is not about who will govern, but who will check the governors and so far they’ve done a very good job, batting far above their weight. Put simply, if you don’t vote for the ACDP this time, it will die. Secular parliamentarians are governed by their party to speak in party ways – hopefully, a Christian parliamentarian will speak to uphold the Lord’s ways. South Africa needs Christian checks and balances. Many times the ACDP has been the only voice speaking out and has effected needed changes in legislation.

  7. Every law is based on someone’s moral and ethical system, whether a dictator, monarch or the majority political party. That’s just the nature of law. So the real issue is whose morality is going to be legislated? Self-referential statements, are self-refuting, such as “All statements are false.” If that statement is true, then it is false. Likewise the statement: one cannot legislate morality is to legislate a morality. Or as in the article, “one cannot legislate Christian morality (genetic fallacy).” Historical the likes of Nicholas Wolterstorff have argued that human rights are birthed out of the biblical worldview. So should we then dismiss it as well just because it’s Christian? So when the likes of Michael Cassidy and Angus Buchan come out in favour of the value based voting, should we say that the Graeme is out of his depth?

  8. Morne' Oosthuizen

    Attacking the ACDP?? You have missed the whole point! Voting for the ACDP means you still get to choose what you believe, and how to raise your children. That is the point. Voting for the ANC or DP gives the government the power to tell you what you can and cannot believe! Once you give that right away, you will never get it back….I pray God opens your eyes and you all see the bigger picture!

  9. Will the ACDP impose Christianity on all people?: http://youtu.be/lQu3-Fn6NwE

  10. N L Badenhorst (Adv)

    Dear Graeme,I am afraid that your article, while intended to clear up “incorrect understanding” and “confusion” as you put it, unfortunately displays a lack of understanding regarding the present-day application of some of the legal principles to which you refer and only serves to blur the real issues. In the circumstances, I am compelled to clear up the further confusion that your article has caused.
    You are entirely correct in stating that the Constitution includes religious rights as human rights, that the Constitution can only be changed by a 75% majority and that the laws made by Parliament must be constitutionally valid. Unfortunately, that oversimplifies the situation and ignores the stark reality of what is practically happening in South Africa (and internationally, in other countries where religious freedom is constitutionally protected) at present.
    On your own version, once again correctly so, religious rights must be “balanced” against other rights. A lay person only has to follow international and local news to see what this means: it is blatantly obvious that the courts and human rights forums, when faced with a conflict of rights, are increasingly favouring liberal rights at the expense of religious rights (particularly where Christianity is the religion involved). As a legal practitioner, you have the benefit of access to legal libraries and I urge you to, for yourself but also for the benefit of those who draw comfort from your title as an attorney, thoroughly research recent cases in which Christian rights have been “balanced” against other rights – as the constitutional law experts involved in FOR SA, the IPJ and other organisations working to protect freedom of religion in South Africa, have done and constantly monitor. You might be surprised to find that, even thought the Constitution promises freedom of religion, in reality religion is not so “free” after all.
    In South Africa, in the month of April 2014 alone, four cases have been brought against Christians by members of the LGBTI community. In two of these cases, the Human Rights Commission (who was established as a body to protect and promote all human rights guaranteed by the Constitution, including the right to freedom of religion) has unashamedly sided with the LGBTIs – either by instituting the case as plaintiff against the Christian defendant, or by offering to act as legal representative for the plaintiff against the Christian defendant. In a number of other cases recently, the Human Rights Commission has blantantly preferred LGBTI rights over religious rights, and found against Christians.
    As a legal practitioner you, better than anyone else, know that in litigious matters there is a winner and a loser. And sadly, on the evidence (locally and internationally), Christians are losing every round right now. Any claims to the contrary (by yourself or others), are misguided and misguiding.
    Finally, in so far as the constitutionality of laws is concerned, the same applies. While the ideal is that all laws proposed and/or passed are constitutional, the reality is that laws are proposed by government (and sometimes, even passed by Parliament) that do not in every respect pass constitutional muster. Unless these laws are challenged (either before they are passed by Parliament, or by affected persons in a court of law once the laws have been passed), they will remain constitutionally bad. Again, as an attorney, you would know that while national legislation provides that the Constitutional Court has to confirm orders of constitutional invalidity of Parliamentary or provincial legislation, the converse does not apply, i.e. the Constitutional Court does not confirm that every piece of Parliamentary or provincial legislation is constitutionally valid. So again, while you are entirely correct that (in principle) all laws have to be constitutionally valid, the reality is that unless these laws are challenged by Christian leaders in government or Parliament (or, at great expense, by Christians in courts of law), they will remain unconstitutional and those whose rights are being violated as a result of these “bad” laws, will continue to suffer the brunt thereof.
    Against this background, I ask you to please reconsider your professional and/or public opinion on this matter. While I would have preferred to discuss the matter with you over the telephone, you will understand that your public opinion necessitates a public response, so as to undo the harm that may have been done as a result thereof. If, after confirming the facts, you still come to the same considered conclusions, please engage the constitutional lawyers of FOR SA, IPJ etc in a constructive discussion surrounding the issues. As Christians, we have the same end goal in mind – to honour God, and bring glory to His name – and if we cannot work together, best we honour the work that God has given each part of the body in good conscience to do rather than criticise, cast doubt and so create division.

  11. Dear Graham, I have felt the need to lovingly bring correction to some of the well meaning, but misunderstood and factually incorrect parts of your article.I am sorry to have to do this, but I am concerned that your blog will create confusion in the already muddied waters of the situations you try to address, and so I write to bring clarity. My hope is that the Christian church can stand together in this very pressing hour and my concern is that your blog has not helped this cause.

    I realise that you hoped to bring a proper perspective, but I fear that you have without realising it, distorted the facts and thereby created an incorrect opinion which will only serve to confuse Gods people and create divisions in the body of Christ. My perpetual fear is always, how to pick up the pieces, once this thought has been adopted within the wider church.

    It is quite possible that readers will make sense of the reasonableness of your reasoning without heeding and checking the facts to ensure that the building blocks upon which reasoning builds are in fact correct. If we do not ascertain our foundational points of departure as correct, we will obviously therefore arrive at a faulty conclusion. This is the reason why we have so many different opinions on matters.

    I thus post this in an attempt to bring clarity and so help you and others to make proper judgement.

    the following points made in your blog are a concern to me:

    1) We cannot lose our freedom of religion because it is enshrined in our SA Constitution.

    My reply…
    You show a overly-simplistic view of the situation and the law with no consideration. I do wonder if you are writing within the field of expertise as lawyer. have you ever stood before the constitutional court and grappled with these issues before? You must have noted how religious freedom as the courts around the world are ruling against religious freedom, and other Human rights.
    To say that we could not lose our Freedom of Religion , because it is enshrined in our Constitution, again shows great naivety and a massive oversimplification of the balancing of rights.
    By way of example-
    Had we not intervened Recently before government you could have gone to jail for five years had you preached from Ephesians 5 that the husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. Surely that would have been a loss of our freedom? To not be able to preach and practise the Bible in respect to our families?

    On the spanking issue alone, I remind you that our Church has a Human Rights Case opened against us with no evidence of abuse, only that we taught spanking as a valid biblical parenting tool from a pulpit. Even if we win our case with the HRC the SA Government is planning in June to introduce a Bill, which will criminalise all spanking with dire consequences for those who follow their belief where different.

    Considering that our Constitution is the most liberal in the world, there is a real possibility that I, along with any other pastor who preaches, or parent that practises moderate chastisement training (yourself included) could go to jail. Remember, a case has been opened up against our Church in that we believe that the bible teaches spanking. Worse, there is the real possibility that we could have our daughter removed from us because of this. Before you think Im exaggerating consider how the law is being applied already where spanking is outlawed in Sweden and even where it is not yet outlawed, Brazil.

    By way of example, in Sweden (where corporal punishment by parents, is illegal), a Swedish district court has sentenced a Christian couple to 9 months each in prison and fined them the equivalent of US $10,650 after they admitted to spanking three of their four children as a normal part of their parenting methods.The children have been remanded to state-sponsored foster care, and it is “extremely unlikely” that the children will ever be returned to their family home. This all, despite the fact that there is no indication of abuse by the parents in the released documents, with the court noting that the parents “had a loving and caring relationship with their children.” (For article, see http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/swedish-parents-jailed-for-spanking-children-seized).

    Further, in Brazil, an Evangelical Brazilian pastor was accused of “torture” because he spanks his child. Despite a lack of any physical evidence submitted to the judge, the pastor was placed in preventative detention, in a prison cell so crowded that he was forced to stand during the day, and had to sleep crouched on the floor, which was covered in cardboard. Months passed without a resolution. No doctor’s report documenting physical harm was ever presented, nor any bodily examination confirming injury – proofs that are required by law. Some time later, the pastor had reportedly begun to weep and faint within his cell.  When he was taken to a nearby hospital and diagnosed with mental illness, the Judge refused to believe it, claiming the pastor was “faking it,” and ordered him handcuffed to the hospital bed. Two years later, when the Amazonas Human Rights Commission President arrived to examine the pastor and investigate the case, the Judge suddenly announced that he had already passed sentence in February, although the file was reportedly nowhere to be found and the verdict had never been announced.  The judge said he had found the pastor guilty and sentenced him to six and a half years of prison. (For article, http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/brazilian-pastor-condemned-to-prison-for-spanking-children-loses-mind).

    2)That the Human rights cases that have been opened against christians in SA are right and good because the christians discriminated against homosexuals and harassed abortion clinics. You also claimed that these christians had not reflected Christ in their actions because they had discriminated against non believers and not embraced the sinner.

    While I obviously agree that we christians must embrace sinners, my concern is that you have failed to distinguish between a christian embracing the sinner to reveal Christ’s love, and being compelled by the law to help the sinner to sin by being forced to contribute in doing something which helps the sinner to sin before God. You have oversimplified the matter in your understanding of discrimination. We are in contact with the people in a present Human rights Case that has been opened against Christians and have heard their story’s. Have you?, or are you prejudging without proper facts at your disposal, or inadvertently slandering without speaking to the brother that is being damaged to get your facts correct?
    Let me make things clear, in each case the christian couple did not condemn or hate and tried to show the Love of Christ. Their challenge was not one of judgement, or condemnation of the sinner, but rather, can they help the sinner to sin, with good conscience!

    To illustrate: murders happen all the time and as Christians we must show love to murderers, knowing that we ourselves have murdered(albeit with our tongues). The challenge comes when the murderer asks us to supply the knife, from our kitchen, so that they can take it and use it to murder. Can we?, knowing what they will do with this knife? Here christians face a quandary, I must love the sinner, but cannot help him to sin. This is the situation that wedding venues and guesthouse owners face while they must show the love of Christ to all men. Can they participate in the sin, by providing the means to sin. Can they organise a wedding for a man to marry a man? Should they provide the bed-upon which a man can have unnatural sexual relations with another and sin against God. I answer, No, not if their conscience condemns them! What of two pastor friends of mine, one of which has been found guilty already, who believe that Jesus can lovingly accept all sinners (practising homosexuals included) and heal them of their sinful lifestyle if they turn to Him for mercy. They are now in violation of the SA law for this belief. how can you call this UnChristlike discrimination?I contend that this is terrible and labels good Christians as Bigoted, while in fact these two have both given their lives to lovingly help those in a homosexual lifestyle.

    3)That christians have no duty to speak out and vote against those who practise abortion and murder babies, because to do so would be tantamount to legislating christian morality.
    I answer with a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer — ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’

    4) You have also created a serious misunderstanding by claiming that “christian parties… that form coalitions results in an adoption of the same values that you opposed in the first place.”
    My reply:
    This is factually incorrect and fails to take into consideration how our multiparty democracy actually works. In Coalitions, parties can remain steadfast in their convictions and uphold a coalition, while standing in opposition to those principles they disagree with and can thus actually stop “bad” laws-while uniting together with any party that contends in Parliament for the good.

    5) That by voting for a party that votes for abortion-the voter is not condoning abortion.
    my reply: If I knowingly give the gun to my neighbour after he has asked me to help him murder his child, then I contend that I am as guilty as my neighbour is and that the blood of that child is on my own hands as I did not try stop the murder, but knowingly enabled it.Likewise to enabler the abortionier by voting for him is to be guilty of abortion, as I have provided the power for him to kill.

    The one glaring thing that I agree with you on is that we christians must keep preaching the gospel as our main priority and not get caught up too much in politics. It is for this very reason that I started FORSA, to enable the church to keep preaching the gospel in peace as God desired, while we vote to allow christians in politics and those defending our christian freedoms to keep us unfettered in this task. The latter part of this statement is something which I fear you have unfortunately not understood.

    Graeme, we must be careful as leaders in Gods household to ensure that we always communicate our facts properly, as if we create confusion in Christ’s body, or worse, division because of what we have said- The Lord has warned us, we will give an account!
    We have a mutual enemy and it is not each other. May we strive within the areas that God has called us and stand together in these pressing dangerous moments in our nation, as Gods One Church.
    We must Remember Our Lord who taught us that a house divided will not stand. My question is why write or do something which will divide us now, when the body of Christ is already reeling under so much onslaught. What benefit does your article bring to Christ’s church?

    Surely you should realise that We (FORSA) , The IPJ , Errol Naidoo or Cause for Justice are much more in touch with actual scenarios and Bills pertaining to religious persecution in SA than yourself, so I welcome you to contact me, or any of our attorneys, advocates and Judges who can help you to understand these matters better, before you blog in future.

    Love in Christ
    Andrew Selley(Fellow elder & Founder of Freedom of Religion South Africa)

  12. Tendai Chitsike (Pastor, His People's Church, Grahamstown)

    The article makes some good points. First and foremost, it puts the necessary emphasis on the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. It also highlights the legal nuances of our South African constitutional framework. It rightly discourages Christians from creating an ‘us and them’ mentality which can end up undermining our primacy cause for existence. Furthermore, it discourages Christians from voting on the basis of fear and becoming unnecessarily alarmist. However, it does not appear to show just cognisance of the times in which we live. The author can only be unaware of the type of legislation which has been and is being tabled in South Africa at the moment – some of which has been prevented only through the work of MP’s of the ‘Christian parties’. Taking the recently proposed Women’s Empowerment Bill as an example, the author’s church and the rest of us would at this moment find itself forced to ensure that 50% of its leadership was female if Christian action groups and ACDP MP’s hadn’t mobilized Christian bodies to oppose this measure as unconstitutional. One’s theology of women in ministry would quickly become redundant as the government would be deciding it for you!

    This also brings us to the issue of the constitution that is meant to provide checks and balances so that no one is ever unduly denied their rights. However, time and again, the issue has not just been the presence of a constitutional right, but the interpretation of those rights, and the subjective view of which rights should outweigh others. Our current abortion legislation is an example. The right to have or not have an abortion is not in the constitution, but the rights to life, dignity and others are. Using the very same constitution, one could make a case for or against abortion, and it will ultimately depend on the value systems of individuals in parliament and the courts. So the issue is not just that we have a constitution that balances rights so perfectly. There are also lawmakers and law interpreters whose value systems and worldview influence the interpretation of the constitution. South Africa is not unique in having such freedoms that are constitutionally enshrined. Several European nations such as Germany also declare that their laws embrace the freedom of religion and yet they have interpreted their laws to exclude parents from educating their children at home, even on religious grounds. So the issue is not just having a constitution, but also the interpretation of the constitution and the weighing up of values, which comes down to a particular value system or worldview that the lawmakers of the day ascribe to.

    I labour the point not merely for an academic debate on constitutional law, or even that having such people in civil government will make our lives easier, but for the very same issue that you want at the forefront: the great commission and the great commandment. The overall assumption here is that politics is largely dirty and can waste a lot of our money, time and energy (which it can do), and so let’s just stick to our business as the church. Yet I believe that Scripture, history and the contemporary world reveal that the two are somewhat linked and can both tie in to each other. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 declares: 1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
    Paul’s primary concern, as is yours, is for the church to live a godly, holy life and for the gospel to ring out to all men. Based on this burden, he urges Timothy and the church to pray for kings and all in authority, with the inference being that somehow (in the midst of the paradox of God’s sovereignty and our freewill), the civil government can have a positive or negative impact on the church to live how it should, and for the gospel to go out to all men. He did not simply say, pray to God for the church and the gospel, but to pray for kings and all in authority, because somehow, he understood the role they can play, even with God’s sovereignty.

    One only has to look at modern Europe to see very quickly that if Christians ignore politics they will soon find their freedom and ability to live out the Great Commission and Great Commandment severely curtailed! Let’s emphasise the Great Commandment and Great Commission as of primary importance, absoloutely. But let’s not encourage ill-informed Christian complacency or undue alarmism over issues that threaten our very effectiveness in living these out! The European Church has in many ways lost its chance to influence the legislative framework in which it lives. In South Africa we still have a chance.

    Furthermore, there is a concern that as Christians we can create a ‘them and us’ scenario that will alienate us from the people we are trying to reach. However, while that may happen, I beleive there is also the potential for the opposite to happen, i.e. that Christains in politics, through their actions and the issues they raise can be bridgebuilders in society, where they speak out not only on so-called “Christian” issues, but issues that concern the other interest groups. During apartehid, Tutu challenged Christians and others to step into the political issues of his day and not be neutral, arguing:

    “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

    Following the dismantling of apartheid, Tutu headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which essentially brought the Christian ethos of forgiveness and reconcilaition into the public sphere. At the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president of a new South Africa, Tutu took the eucharist in Afrikaans, a very significant gesture given our past. The point is this: As Christians, we can and should influence the political realm (and every other) for the benefit of all. As a result of Tutu’s reconciliation efforts inspired from a Christian ethos, the whole country is the better for it. William wilberforce declared: “So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the [slave] trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.” His life was committed to ending slavery, because of his Christian beliefs and conscience which stood in stark contrast to the materialistic interests of his fellow MP’s. importantly, this was for a cause that was not for some Christian elite, but for millions of voiceless slaves living thousands of miles away. The result would benefit people regardless of religion etc, and it was a cause that only someone with a Christian conscience was willing to fight, and only someone in parliament who was able to fight. Charles Colson speaks about the role of Christians can play to the benefit of all, alluding to Romans 13, when he writes: Colson As private citizens, Christians are free to advocate their Christian view in any and every form…But Christians elected to public office acquire a different set of responsibilities. Now they hold the power of the sword, which God has placed with government to preserve order and maintain justice. Now they act not for themselves but for all whom they serve. For this reason they cannot use their office to evangelistically “Christianise” their culture. Their duty is to ensure justice and religious liberty for all citizens of all beliefs…If Christians today understood this distinction between the role of the private Christian citizen and the Christian in government, they might sound less like medieval crusaders. If secularists understood correctly nature of Christian public duty they would not fear, but welcome responsible Christian political involvement.
    The abortion issue can similarly be seen as being for the benefit of all South Africans. The issue raised here was that was required to overturn the current legislation was an overwhelming majority which is completely unlikely. However, the legislation is not static. Further attempts are being made to compel nursing staff to assist in performing abortions, and governments are being encouraged to make more money available for abortions. With a compassionate conscience, Christian parliamentarians can still make a difference to stemming the tide. Christians must also be alerted to the fact that they could be voting for parties that not only want to maintain current abortion legislation, but aggressively increase its scope, and all this with tax-payers money. Is this wise stewardship? Will we not be called to account for our role in this? To be sure, voting for a party that is anti-abortion must not be the end of our involvement with society, but neither should it be brushed aside. I thus beleive it is vital that we vote with our conscience as well. Lastly, I would have no qualms with selecting a party that was not a “Christian” party, so long as it stood for values that were truly for the benefit of all and maintained the values of freedoms of religion, not just in a constitutional sense, but in a sense that would allow the Great commission and Commandment its rightful place. Are politicians often corrupt, even Christian ones? sadly yes. However, so is the legal profession and the church, and yet, God has a righteous and godly role for all of these. Do we look to man and man made structures as our hope? Absolutely not. Nevertheless, the role of the authorities does have an impact, and if men and women of conscience can be involved, it can be of great service to the entire nation.