The Nelson Mandela Bay Consultation of Christian Churches played host today ( Thursday, November 28) to a consultation discussing “The theology of voting.” The consultation was held at St Stephens Anglican Church in New Brighton and was addressed by Professor Barney Pityana, who is the former vice challensor of UNISA.
In deciding to host this consultation Archdeacon Zwelidumile Tom felt that the Church has a role to play in stimulating people’s thinking and in deepening democracy. He felt that a theology of voting is not something that is obvious for most Christians.
“If it was obvious, why did some Christians continue to vote for the National Party government? Similarly, why do some black Christians and leaders still feel obliged to support an abusive relationship? — i.e. that of the African National Congress and the majority of black people.”
Bishop Bethlehem Nopece of the Anglican Diocese of Port Elizabeth opened the gathering by saying that Daniel in Babylon defied the king’s decree because of his convictions. He read 1 Peter 2:9-10 and spoke about the fact that as Christians we are ambassadors of Christ and therefore we have a duty to God and to the country. He bemoaned the fact that we are Christians in name only and not in practice.
When Prof Pityane spoke he opted not to read a speech but spoke from his heart. He read from Galatians 5:1 which is a verse that talks about the freedom we have in Christ. He cautioned us not to allow ourselves to be enslaved again. When unpacking the subject of the consultation Pityana said theology is first and foremost not a story about God but about people’s interaction with God.
He spoke about a theologian who has his head in heaven but his feet on earth, which means he engages with the world around him but is guided by God’s word. He stressed that your location in Christ should guide the choices you make, even when choosing who to vote for.
He asked, “As a Christian what goes into your decision when deciding who to vote for.”
Pityana also spoke about social justice. He raised an issue with the levels of poverty in South Africa and put the blame at the door of those who are greedy and are living beyond their means. He said President Jacob Zuma is one person who is living beyond his means because he has access to state resources. The Professor felt that poverty can be eliminated if we deal with the issue of greed.
He said: “Poverty is the worst of crimes. It is not the poor who are criminals but those who make others poor by stealing from them.”
What was clear from listening to delegates in this consultation is that the status quo we have in South Africa cannot be allowed to continue. Professor Pityana said that although the Church cannot dictate concerning people’s choice in the elections a person must be guided by God’s word and not by emotions or sentiment, as has been the case in the past.