Becoming what we hate


The great psychotherapist, Carl Jung wrote: “You always become the thing you fight the most”. And Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister reputedly said, “Even if we lose, we shall win, for our ideals will have penetrated the hearts of our enemies”. Yes, it is true, we can become what we hate. Two grim examples this past week prove this to be so…

1] The thuggish attack by the Deputy President’s security unit on the side of a highway is reminiscent of our Apartheid past. A past that was “never, never, and never again” to be repeated. Brazen bullies in broad daylight kicking and stomping people on the ground. As if they were the ground. Gratuitous violence caught on camera making us wonder how much happens that is never filmed. It was a sickening disregard for the humanity of another. This extreme misuse of position and power was followed by bland and generic condemnations. The Deputy President’s office spoke of the “unfortunate incident”. Bringing to mind Rev William Barber’s words, “Too many people in power were too comfortable with other people’s deaths”. It is not a random case. We witnessed this kind of thuggery when the military and cops were deployed during the COVID-19 lock down. Violence without restraint. Violence without fear of accountability. A law unto themselves. A police force with no sense of service. All this reminds us how deeply broken and brutalised we are as a South African people.

2] The past week we witnessed Apartheid-Israel’s violent occupation become full-scale warfare as they attacked Jenin in the north of the occupied West Bank. Cynically called Operation Home and Garden – which is just sick! The largest onslaught in 20 years. With drone strikes and up to 2 000 ground troops plus the dreaded demolishing bulldozers. Leaving an aftermath of death and destruction.

Apartheid-Israel has become what they hate. They have so internalised being victims that they are unable to see themselves as perpetrators. But perpetrators they are. They do to the Palestinians what others had done to them.

What silences many on this matter of oppression is the fear of being labelled an anti-Semite. We are right to be sensitive about this but not silenced. No nation gets a free pass on oppression. We stand in solidarity with Jews all over the world who say: “Not in my name”. We also stand in solidarity with people everywhere who say: “Not in God’s name”.

As God spoke directly to the people of Israel through the prophets of biblical times, God speaks again through those same prophets: Hear, O Apartheid-Israel, “Your works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in your hands. Your feet run to evil, and you rush to shed innocent blood … the way of peace you do not know and there is no justice in your paths.” [Isaiah 59:7-8].

For persons, systems, and nations it is a recurring challenge to resist becoming what we hate. The world is desperate – literally groaning in pangs of childbirth – for these resisters to be revealed. Jesus, the great resister, not only shows us it is possible he invites us to practice his way. The first step of his way is to pray for those who persecute us. In other words, to pray for those who we are most likely to hate. What does prayer do? Prayer keeps our enemies’ humanity alive to us. All other steps will flow from this step. Only when the humanity of our enemy is alive to us, can we both regard and resist our enemy at the same time. Regard for our enemies’ humanity prevents us from dehumanising them. Resistance of our enemy refuses to allow them to dehumanise us.

In grappling with the same stuff, Paul will later remind his fellow resisters that their struggle is not against flesh and blood … making Ephesians 6:10-20 further reading for our practice.

In grace, Alan

Half ‘n Half?


Is the glass half empty or half full? We all know that this is not really a question. It is a metaphor. It is an enquiry into a person’s perspective. Are they optimistic or pessimistic? This metaphor is applied to myriads of situations from the state of the world or country or economy or business to the state of our physical health and intimate relationships.

Yet there is something quite obvious about a half full or half empty glass of water that the metaphor seems to encourage us to miss. That is, if it is one, it is also the other. It is both. Pick one, any one and the other is there staring back at us. A glass half full is by definition also half empty and vice versa. I wonder if reminding ourselves of this may not deepen and complicate our perspective in mature and enriching ways. This is not to suggest that every situation is balanced equally by opposites. Far from it. Remember this is a metaphor and not real life. Nevertheless, this is a simple invitation for a more blended and less binary way of seeing things.

Most importantly I wonder if keeping this in mind may free us to honour all our feelings associated with any given situation. Freeing us to feel paradoxical feelings. Joy and sadness. Resentment and gratitude. Anger and calm. Faith and doubt. We can be devastated with shock and grief while also celebrating the beauty that is revealed in this new landscape of vulnerability. The one does not deny or undermine the other. They can both be. Because they both are.

I was reminded recently that “numbing is not an exact surgery”. Meaning, to ignore or block or numb a particular feeling causes other feelings to be cauterised in the process. Strangely, feelings very different to the intended numbed feeling are affected. Sometimes the very feeling we want to protect is the primary casualty. For example, to numb all feelings of sadness may end up robbing us of joy.

To honour all our feelings does not mean we must follow them or act on them. It simply means that we feel them. In fact, denying them may cause us to be more determined by them, yet unknowingly so. To respect our feelings we tune into them, as we do to the different members of an orchestra. In the very least acknowledging them, if not always appreciating their presence.

There is a “half-full type of Christianity” that insinuates that believers are meant to be “half-full kind of people”. That “true faith” blocks out doubt. That “joy in the Lord” removes all sadness. In short, the worship of happiness. Often this is encouraged by the overwhelming bias towards happy hymns that are sung on a Sunday compared to songs of protest and lament. Songs that demand justice. Songs with more questions than answers. Songs found in the hymnbook of scripture, like the set psalm for today: “How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?” (Psalm 13)

For this reason, we are reminded every Sunday in our “Benediction of Disturbance”: May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that we may live from deep within our hearts.

With grace, Alan




Today is Local Preacher Sunday in the Methodist Church. Once a year Local Preachers, sometimes known as Lay Preachers, fill every Methodist pulpit throughout the land. The truth is that this is not far from the reality of every other Sunday. It is estimated that Local Preachers conduct around two-thirds of all Methodist worship services each week. This may be surprising for us at CMM for we are used to having ordained clergy present just about every week. Yet throughout the country the number of Methodist churches / worship services far outnumber the clergy available on any given Sunday. In most situations ordained clergy oversee multiple Methodist congregations – sometimes over 20 – especially in rural areas. In these situations, clergy may only connect with a congregation once every 2 or 3 months. Every other Sunday Local Preachers hold sacred space for the people called Methodists to gather in worship. Today it is privilege to have Marion Rhode at CMM. Marion is from the Bellville Circuit. Welcome!


Here is a little Wikipedia history regarding Local preachers in the Methodist tradition:

Local preachers have been a characteristic of Methodism from its beginnings as a revival movement in 18th-century England. John Wesley tried to avoid a schism with the Church of England, and encouraged those who attended his revival meetings to attend their parish churches, but they also attended Methodist preaching services which were held elsewhere and met in “classes” (small cell groups). It quickly became necessary to build “preaching houses” where the Methodist meetings could be held. These began to function as alternative churches, often depending on the attitude of the local Anglican clergy.

One such preaching house was The Foundery, which served as Wesley’s base in London. In about 1740, Wesley was away on business and had left a young man, Thomas Maxfield, in charge of The Foundery. Since no clergymen were available, Maxfield took it upon himself to preach to the congregation. Wesley was annoyed by this and returned to London in order to confront Maxfield. However, his mother, Susanna Wesley, persuaded him to hear Maxfield out, suggesting that he had as much right to preach as Wesley. Wesley was sufficiently impressed by Maxfield’s preaching to see it as God’s work and let the matter drop, with Maxfield becoming one of Methodism’s earliest lay preachers.

Methodism formally broke with the Anglican church as a result of Wesley’s 1784 ordination of ministers to serve in the United States. Before the schism, Wesley had as accredited preachers only a handful of fellow Anglican priests who shared his view of the need to take the gospel to the people where they were. Because of the limited number of ordained ministers he could call on, Wesley appointed local preachers who were not ordained but whom he examined, and whom he felt he could trust to lead worship and preach: though not to minister sacraments.

PREACHER PATRIARCHY: Women local preachers were at some point restricted to addressing women-only meetings. In 1804 even though the Wesleyan Conference was very short of male preachers, it would not sanction the use of women. Some women, such as Sarah Mallett, however, ignored this ban. From 1910 the blanket ban was repealed, and from 1918 on, Wesleyan Methodism recruited and deployed women local preachers on exactly the same basis as men.


Long live the spirits of Thomas Maxfield and Sarah Mallet – long live.

Is preaching your calling? Some people feel sure of their ‘call to preach’ at an early stage, but for others the first steps are very tentative, and it is not unusual to feel ill-equipped. But those exploring this call are not alone – it is a process of discernment that is shared by the Church, including theological and biblical studies as well as practical experience in leading worship and preaching. If you would like to find out more please do speak with me.



Water is life



When I visited the Karoo in January this year it was 40 degrees. I fell in love with a windmill. The clunking sound followed by the swish of water surging up through the pipe. Strangely soothing. The windmill kept the reservoir dam replenished and dog and humans refreshed.

This time the Karoo was cold and wet. Very wet. Staying overnight in Laingsburg, not far from the river with bucketing rain. It was impossible not to remember the devastating floods of 1981 that are traumatised into historical memory. Rain didn’t quite stop play, but it did change the intended destination. Re-routing to Prince Albert. A very wet Prince Albert. Here I fell in love again. This time with “leiwater”. In English “lead water” just doesn’t get it. The Afrikaans sounds as if it is … flowing.

Each property with “leiwater rights” is allocated a turn – once or twice a week. Property owners have the responsibility to open and close their sluice gates accordingly – to let water into a property or to let the water pass onto a neighbour. Sometimes the allocated time is at 1 a.m. in the morning – which can’t be too much fun – but water is life. It doesn’t take a lot to imagine the number of “water wars” over the years, especially because Prince Albert tends to run out or come close to running out of water most Decembers. So, the temptation to run the leiwater a litter longer into one’s property must be devilishly difficult to resist. Furthermore, not taking one’s turn can lead to flooding for the people located at the bottom of town. So, all in all the town survives on sharing. A finely balanced neighbourliness. Which is actually true for all towns but not as easily evident. As they say: Love thy neighbourhood.

Here is a delightful story about leiwater in Prince Albert – perhaps even a parable for the role of the church.

In grace,

Two farmers eye-balled each other over the water furrow running alongside the main street of the tiny Karoo town of Prince Albert. This was the 1960s and water to irrigate their small-holdings was scarce. It hadn’t rained for months and the constant trickle of “leiwater” from a spring in the Swartberg Mountains was all they could rely on to feed their crops.

“You are stealing my water,” accused one, brandishing a spade. “This is my water,” spat the other also raising a spade.

Defiantly the first man tried to close the furrow into his neighbour’s dam.

“Touch that water and I will stop you with this spade.” The second lunged at his neighbour threatening to knock his knees out from underneath him. A crowd was growing to watch the fight but after a few tense minutes the second farmer closed his furrow and allowed his neighbour to have water.

“Now it’s your turn,” he said looking at his watch.

The first farmer glared at him. “Your watch is slow,” he grumbled.

“No, your watch is fast.”

Squinting under the harsh light of the Karoo the two sun-browned old men examined each other’s watches. It was true – one was too fast and the other was too slow. Neither knew for sure when his “leiwater” turn started or ended. At that moment the church clock struck the hour.

“The church clock is never wrong,” said the representative from the town’s Irrigation Board who, relieved that the spades had finally been laid down, spoke up for the first time. “Why don’t you both set your watches by the church clock and then maybe next week you won’t fight.”

Reluctantly the men changed their watches. The following week, when it was once more time for them to take water, they suspiciously studied the church clock as the “leiwater” trickled into one small dam and then the other. For the first time in years both agreed on the other’s time for water.

This story, told by the chairman of Prince Albert’s Kweekvallei Irrigation Board, Sas de Kock, highlights the importance of proper management of water in an environment where regular rainfall in unpredictable.

From that day onwards the “leiwater” turns in Prince Albert have run strictly to the time on the church clock – it’s the only way ownership of this scarce resource in the remote semi-desert village hasn’t ended in murder.



Story from: TheWaterWheel November/December2003