The Purple Shall Govern

Picture from the Exhibition

 

Friends,

There is a hidden treasure right on our doorstep and yet many do not know of it. This treasure is as inspiring as it is challenging. I am referring to the exhibition entitled: Truth to Power by the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. You will find it at The Old Granary Building – two blocks down from the District Six Museum on Buitenkant Street. The Old Granary itself is an artform to behold – and no less so since it has been transformed to house the Tutu Peace Centre.

“The Truth to Power exhibition is a comprehensive showcase of the life and legacy of the late Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu. It aims to foster the values of Desmond and Leah Tutu among the youth, and to inspire a new generation of leaders who will build peace and justice in South Africa and the world.

The exhibition is divided into six themes which chart Tutu’s life within the context of the painful history of South Africa under Apartheid, where the Archbishop remains the gold thread of hope, outspokenness, faith and healing. It includes his ongoing activism in the democratic South Africa and sets the challenge to all of us to take on his baton of courageous leadership and unwavering values.”

The Six Themes of the Exhibition

Theme 1.               Apartheid Education: The Most Evil Act of All.
Theme 2.               The Struggle in the Church: Fighting a False Gospel.
Theme 3.               Faith in Action: The Campaign for Sanctions.
Theme 4.               Protest and Peace Making: In the Streets and Stadiums.
Theme 5.               Unfinished Business: Tutu, Truth and Reconciliation.
Theme 6.               TU + TU = Freedom.

The Purple Shall Govern

Included in the exhibition is a photo-reminder of the Apartheid police spraying protesters with a water canon of purple dye –
effectively tagging all protesters present (as well spraying the Central Methodist Mission on 2 September 1989). This gave rise to the ingenious graffiti “The Purple Shall Govern”.

I highly recommend taking the time to visit this exhibition. It is not only an important reminder of our recent history, but a beautiful witness of a good and faithful life. Both this important reminder and beautiful witness invite us to surrender our lives into the service of justice and mercy.

With grace,
Alan

Faith and Finance

Friends,

Last week my colleagues and I gathered for our Spring Seminar in Paarl. The theme was: Faith and Finance: Towards a Christ-like Theology of Money. It took the form of 15 TEDx-like presentations, followed by group discussions. Motivated by at least two reasons: 1) In the Gospels Jesus speaks more about money matters than just about any other topic, yet very often the only time ‘the church’ speaks about money is when it needs/wants money – as opposed to helping people live justly and mercifully with money, as was the focus of Jesus’ teaching. 2) We live in the most unequal country in all the world and a country where corruption – the theft of astronomical amounts of money is endemic – by people, it must be said, who are not strangers to the pews within our churches. No doubt 1) and 2) are somehow related.

The seminar was both an enlightening and a startling experience to hear how diverse our theology of money is – and this from a group of 50 odd clergy from within the same denomination. One of the troubling unquestioned assumptions that underpinned many presentations was that giving to God = giving to church. This is a dangerous equation – whether implicitly or explicitly stated. It is simplistic and potentially a very manipulative teaching that has more to do with the sustainability of a religious institution (and pastor’s income) than the practice of Jesus’ justice and mercy. We certainly have work to do as the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to develop a Christ-shaped theology of economics for justice and mercy to be more fully known within the church and society at large.

Little wonder then that John Wesley – the founder of the Methodist Movement – emphasised money matters as Jesus did. It was a consistent theme of his preaching and personal practice. Sadly, when it came to money and Methodists, Wesley was concerned. The conundrum for Wesley was: “… the Methodists in every place grow diligent and frugal; consequently, they increase in goods. Hence, they proportionately increase in pride, in anger, in the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life. So, although the form of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away.”

It was with this conundrum in mind that Wesley lamented: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.” (Aug. 4, 1786).

Wesley further lamented that even his sermon on “The Use of Money” that he had preached (and re-preached) had been ignored, if not totally misinterpreted. The sermon included the following catchy points: “Gain all you can, save all you can and give all you can”.

Not one to mince his words, Wesley later wrote: “Of the three rules which are laid down … you may find many that observe the first rule, namely, ‘Gain all you can.’ You may find a few that observe the second, ‘Save all you can.’ But how many have you found that observe the third rule, ‘Give all you can’? Have you reason to believe that 500 of these are to be found among 50,000 Methodists? And yet nothing can be more plain than that all who observe the first rules without the third will be twofold more the children of hell than ever they were before.”

Remembering that to give to God is not to be equated to giving to Church, we must therefore not reduce “Give all you can” – to what we contribute to the Sunday offertory. Rather, to give to God is to give in such a way that the poor will hear good news. This means the focus of all our generosity is to bend the structures of society towards justice while at the same time mercifully caring for those wounded and marginalised within society. There are many avenues that invite our contributions to do justice and love mercifully within society at large. I believe one of the most Godly avenues of ‘give all you can’ is education – starting with pre-school education all the way through to university. Education gives life! Education really is a gift that keeps on giving – for generations! Here is a prayer we can pray: “Jesus, give me opportunities to give towards a person’s education. Amen.”

With grace,
Alan

P.S. In today’s sermon we will reflect on one of the many parables Jesus shared about economics. We will see how this parable alone was enough to get Jesus killed by the authorities. We will see how Luke’s Gospel (and I would argue – the entire Bible) is best understood as an economic textbook rather than a religious book.

Daniel Erlander

 

                 

Friends,

Dan Erlander, the artist-author of MANNA and MERCY: A brief history of God’s unfolding promise to mend the entire universe, died last Sunday. I join many whose hearts are filled with grief and gratitude for his life-giving living.

I remember the first time I came across MANNA and MERCY. It was a ring-bound copy that my dad had been given in the early-to-mid 90s. I read it in one go and thought it was sheer brilliance and so I started using it in retreats from 1996. It was hands down the best thing I had ever read and I am convinced that it’s Jesus’ favourite version of the bible J. I am convicted and disturbed and inspired every time I open MANNA and MERCY – which is often!

All of Dan’s work reveals his astounding ability to draw the big picture of God’s dream for the universe small enough for us to digest. With clarifying and humorous simplicity Dan would hold the radical challenge of Jesus’ liberating ways before us – so simply drawn and described that none of us can ever use the excuse that we do not understand what Jesus is on about. Unlike much of what passes as “Christianity” today, Dan resisted the temptation to dilute Jesus’ message of ‘justice and mercy for all’ to make it more palatable for our individualistically indoctrinated lives and consumer driven society (and church) to swallow. Dan truly trusted that the so-called “hard sayings of Jesus” – the one’s we usually wish-to-God Jesus never said – about loving money too much and loving enemies too little – was not only good news but also the only way of living life that would save Life on planet earth.

In MANNA and MERCY we are called to face our “BIG DEAL” tendencies and our addiction to building our piles of stuff into bigger and Bigger piles of stuff. Basically, what the world calls success – the scriptures call suicide. In the space of just two simple drawings, Dan showed how the “Big DEALing” tendencies of our heart systematically shaped society and therefore Salvation demanded both confession on our knees and resistance on the streets to transform the hierarchical structures of privilege and power for a few into a banquet of fairness for all. Privilege and power that Dan showed was baptised by a type of religion that was in the pocket of the king and the supportive shadow of the military. True to his carrot (religion) and stick (military) analysis of what underpins oppressive power, Dan published BY FAITH ALONE – A LUTHERAN LOOKS AT THE BOMB in 1983, exposing the clear contradiction between the gospel and the “system called the arms race” and in which Dan humbly invites the reader: “As an American, I am part of a people who have been seduced into idolatry – we believe in the power of violence … and that is our darkness. Lord have mercy.”

As Dan calls us to break partnership with the BOMB (and all systems of violence in the world), he invites us to be YHWH’s Partner People. Fancy that – God decides to need us to bring healing and liberation in this world. What could be more humbling and affirming than this? What greater responsibility and privilege could there possibly be in this life?

And now I have really good news for you. Instead of a long sermon from me this morning, I will be reading a few short stories from another work of art by Dan – called: Tales of a Pointless People. Do I hear an Amen?

With gratitude for Dan – friend and teacher,
Alan

Evangelism

Friends,

There are two diagrams below. The first diagram depicts probably the most common Christian understanding of evangelism. The idea being that Christians must encourage every person who is not a Christian to become a Christian. Here is a quote that sums up this typical understanding:

Evangelism means preaching, announcing, or otherwise communicating the gospel. It’s delivering the message that Jesus Christ is not only the Son of God but also gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins. In doing so, He ensured eternal life for anyone who believes. Accepting that good news and then telling others about it, so they know too, is the definition of evangelism.

Other language that goes with this understanding is that once you accept the truth about who Jesus is – then you are “saved” and the reward is “eternal life”. Within this understanding, “eternal life” is understood as life after death and spent in “heaven”. The flip side of this is as devastating as this is lavishing: If you do not believe the message that Jesus is the only Son of God and that he gave his life as a sacrifice for us then we are not “saved” but instead face “eternal damnation” in “hell” as punishment. Even though the people who promote this view say they do so “out of love”, the motivating fear that underpins it, casts out the love for those who are on the receiving end. Furthermore, it is not surprising that this perversely violent belief has led to so much trauma and abuse of so many, for it is a small step from supporting exclusion and violence in the next life to enacting it in this life. How this patently anti-Christ understanding manages to persist in the name of Christ is really frightening. I mean can you really hear Jesus – who teaches us to love our enemies – say amen to placing people in an everlasting holocaust?

I don’t think Jesus is too concerned about the religion, if any, that we subscribe to. I say this because for most of us the random geography of our birth overwhelmingly influenced our choice. Besides, I can’t find it anywhere in the gospels where Jesus enquires about someone’s religion. Jesus certainly doesn’t line up all the blind and lame and say – okay all those who believe in me as your personal Lord and Saviour be healed – and to the rest – sorry for you.

I am also convinced that Jesus is not really concerned whether we believe in him or not, for the simple reason that Jesus is not an egotist. Jesus never asked to be worshipped. He asked that we follow his way of life. A way of life that brings life. A life-giving way of living. In other words, far more important to Jesus is whether we believe in what he believed in. He believed in justice, mercy, humility, equality, gentleness and generosity. Jesus invites us to have faith that when we live these values out in the world, life in all its fullness will come to us and through us.

This is where the second diagram of “evangelism” comes in. Instead of trying to get people of other religions or of no religion to believe in ‘our’ religion (diagram 1), we are to work towards a different kind of conversion within the world. This conversion is from the ways of death to the ways of life. The ways of death include: injustice, vengeance, pride, inequality, violence and greed.

Here is the thing, all religions and those who profess none – have examples of both living according to the ways of death and examples of living according to the ways of life. History teaches us that none have a mono-poly on either. Apartheid history is an example of some within the Christian religion choosing a way of death – a way of injustice and violence, etc. At the same time there were other Christians, but also others of every other religion and those of no religion who chose to resist Apartheid and follow a different way – a life-giving way of justice and mercy, etc. To this I am convinced Jesus would say: Amen.

With grace,
Alan

P.S. Today Ruth Leverton is attempting to run her 20th Comrades Marathon.

This is a serious accomplishment.

What is more, Ruth will be turning 70 in four weeks’ time.

This is next level serious accomplishment!

I encourage you to please generously support Ruth’s BackaBuddy page: Dignity for Zandise.

 

“Armed with Coffee and Blankets …”

 

Friends,

Sometimes a single news story (Times Live 2022 08 10) lays bare the profound contrasts of our society. The type of contrasts that cause us to swing between hope and despair on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis in this country. I came across such a story this past week. A news story that exposes both the brutality and the beauty, the fear and courage, the desperation and inspiration of people within our society.

I invite you to read the story as you would read scripture: After reading it once through I invite you to read it again – this time pausing prayerfully to lovingly hold in your heart each person mentioned in the “text” – starting with Khayelitsha Site B residents…Eskom employees …Babalwa Mabuya and her five friends…gangsters…Somalian shopkeepers…ward councillor…acting general manager…community leaders…business forums…government…unemployed youth.

I further invite you to carry this story into your week. Prayerfully return to it on a daily basis. Asking what this “text” is inviting me to be and do in the world?

With grace,
Alan

“Our Ocean is Sacred, You Can’t Mine Heaven”

The Crocheted Coral Reef

 

Friends,
Last week we witnessed how Paul subversively impregnated his Colossians narrative with echoes from the past liberation movements of God, by using well known words and phrases aimed at jolting his audience’s memory. Artists have done this through the ages. Here is the example from the band Bright Blue and their song: Weeping (1987). If you listen to the recording you will hear the then banned ANC national anthem being played – an echoing melody line around 1:32 seconds into the song, subversively stating that there will only be peace when everyone is free… until then the fear, the fire and guns remain. This song escaped that paranoid censorship laws of the Apartheid regime and actually became No. 1 on Radio 5, an SABC station.

I knew a man who lived in fear
It was huge, it was angry, it was drawing near
Behind his house, a secret place
Was the shadow of the demon he could never face
He built a wall of steel and flame
And men with guns, to keep it tame
Then standing back, he made it plain
That the nightmare would never ever rise again
But the fear and the fire and the guns remain

It doesn’t matter now
It’s over anyhow
He tells the world that it’s sleeping
But as the night came ’round
I heard its lonely sound
It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping
It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping

And then one day the neighbours came
They were curious to know about the smoke and flame
They stood around outside the wall
But of course there was nothing to be heard at all

“My friends, ” he said, “We’ve reached our goal”
“The threat is under firm control”
“As long as peace and order reign”
“I’ll be damned if I can see a reason to explain”
“Why the fear and the fire and the guns remain”

The 28th July was Earth Overshoot Day – which marks the date in a year when humanity has used all the ecological resources that the earth regenerates during that entire year. Rose-Anne will be sharing more about this during today’s service. In this light please check out the exhibition at our space on the corner of Church and Burg Streets, which will take place between 4 August and 30 September.

Our Ocean is Sacred, You Can’t Mine Heaven:

A public storytelling and radical ‘an-archive’ on intangible ocean heritage, exhibits at the Zero Gallery, Cape Town in collaboration with EITZ.

 “Our ocean is sacred, you can’t mine heaven” was a recent slogan seen on placards held by protestors against seismic surveys and ocean oil and gas exploration along the South African west and east coast.

Recent High Court judgments weighing in favour of small-scale fishers and communities over massive Oil and Gas companies, have sparked greater traction and public interest (and advocacy) against the rush for minerals and oil and gas in the sea, and has, in its own way, created a new public conversation around ocean heritages, cultures, and livelihoods that are deeply entangled and related to the Ocean.

This collaboratively curated exhibition is funded by EITZ, the One Ocean Hub’s Deep Fund and the National Arts Festival 2022. One Ocean Hub’s South African Country Director Dr. Dylan McGarry and senior researcher at the Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC) at the University currently known at Rhodes, has lead a team of cultural practitioners alongside Dr. Boudina McConnachie at the International Library of African Music (ILAM) to develop a multi-genre audio-visual storytelling project, which shares some of the rich cultural artefacts resurfacing (and in some cases emerging) as reflections of South African ocean culture. McGarry explains: “Some of the artwork in the exhibition were used as evidence alongside the rich affidavits and testimonies of Small Scale Fishers and customary rights holders in the court interdicts, thereby expanding the arguments against oil and gas exploration to go beyond positivist scientific debate, into socio-cultural discourse – this lead to new legal precedents, where judges recognised the Ocean as sacred to South Africans, with specific reference to the Ocean as the sacred realm of the ancestors”.

The Crocheted Coral Reef

One of the stand-out pieces was the “The crocheted coral reef” installation created by the Woodstock Art Reef Project. This crochet coral reef took 12 years to create, and is an ongoing and expanding installation that is lovingly made by hundreds of citizens across South Africa. It is one of many satellite crochet coral reefs that adorn and warm up spaces around the world. The cosy reef coral holds powerful symbolism and figuration of solidarity in times of climate change. While coral bleaching due to ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures threatens the future of many ocean ecosystems, there are ecological citizens gathering around the world in solidarity.

Press Release: Our Ocean Is Sacred, You Can’t Mine Heaven

Expose the Empire

 

Friends,

We are in the middle of a three week reflection on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Last week we noted that every word of Paul subversively called the authority of the Roman Empire into question. At every corner Paul contested the empire’s narrative of reality. For Paul, the empire was a great pretender that needed to be exposed: The empire promised life but it delivered nothing but death. The Roman Empire, like all empires before and after, relied on military violence, heavy taxation (to pay for the military and create a landless underclass), the myth of divine favour (religion as good news for the rich), and a strict segregation of society into an oppressive hierarchy (a strategy of divide and conquer that was on endless repeat).

Paul penned his letter from a Roman jail. Yes, he was in detention without trial. This fact alone should prevent anybody ever reading this letter with a-political eyes. Paul was sitting in the belly of the beast when he wrote this letter. To ignore this context is to render his letter meaningless.

There are many well-known letters, books and diaries that have been written from within a prison cell or soon thereafter. To name three SA political prison memoirs: Hell-Hole Robben Island: Reminiscences of a Political Prisoner by Moses Dlamini; One Hundred and Seventeen Days: An Account of Confinement and Interrogation by Ruth First; There and Back: Robben Island 1964 – 1979 by Eddie Daniels.

Paul Gready, helps us tremendously in understanding the context of Prison-writer-Paul in his studies over many years regarding Writing as Resistance (Political Prison Writing in the Apartheid Era).

“The word is a weapon that both inflicts pain and secures power. Prisoners are relentlessly rewritten within the official ‘power of writing’, from interrogation and the making of a statement, through legislation and the political trial, to the regulations governing imprisonment. Within this process the prisoner’s sense of self and world is undermined, pain is made visible and objectified in writing and converted into state power. Language becomes subject to the dominant characteristics of the state: the lawlessness of absolute power renders the word a lie. However, the ‘power of writing’ is a contested arena. Prisoners write to restore a sense of self and world, to reclaim the ‘truth’ from the apartheid lie, to seek empowerment in an oppositional ‘power of writing’ by writing against the official text of imprisonment.” (P Gready: Journal for Southern African Studies, 1993, Vol 19(3) p 489-523)

Another SA political prison memoir is, The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs. Sachs was arrested on 1 October 1963, under Apartheid South Africa’s notorious Ninety Days Law. He was held without trial for 168 days and kept in solitary confinement. He recalls in the preface of his book, that as soon as he was released:

“…I wrote it all by hand, rapidly, in secret, and relied on friends to have it typed. The police were everywhere; we had to be careful, the typists as well as myself. This was the time when Nelson Mandela and others, including two friends of mine, were on trial for their lives. Our movement was being crushed. It was a bitter period, and writing was more than a release for me. It was the only joyous activity I could manage, an intimate form of clandestine resistance.”

I remember when I read Sachs’ book I could not stop thinking of him in solitary confinement and this context impregnated every word with arresting meaning. This is how we are called to read Colossians.

With grace,
Alan

 

Dividing Walls

 
The Plaque reads: “This is an original segment of the former East German Communist Regime on 13 August 1961 to stem the flood of people fleeing from East Germany to freedom in the west, and to isolate the western sectors of Berlin.
 
The wall soon became a sad symbol, not only of the artificial separation of Berliners but also of the political divisions of Germany and Europe as a whole. A symbol of the suppression of freedom and violation of human rights. Its fall on 9 November 1989 was the climax of the peaceful revolution of the East German people and opened the road to freedom in Eastern Europe as well.
 
During its existence the wall underwent several “improvements”. This segment is part of the last configuration. The massive base was intended to foil breakthrough attempts by vehicles, whereas on top and not represented here – slippery tubes and barbed wire were to thwart attempts to climb across.
 
The eastern part was painted white so that border guards could better spot – and shoot at – refugees. The final deterrent, a so called “death strip” was plastered mines, booby traps, trip wires and was patrolled by marksmen with watch dogs.
 
On the western side graffiti artists took it on as a challenge to express their protests and revulsion, or simply to “beautify” it.
 
588 people died trying to overcome the wall.”

Friends,

Almost every day I walk past a segment of wall that is no longer a wall. It is a reminder of a wall. It is a reminder of the breakdown of a wall. It is an original segment of the Berlin Wall. Its dividing death-span lasted from 13 August 1961 to 9 November 1989.

Sadly, since then many more dividing walls have been built. “It is a worldwide phenomenon in which the cement has been mixed and the concrete laid without most of us even noticing. Thousands of miles of walls and fences have gone up around the world in the twenty-first century. At least sixty-five countries, more than a third of the world’s nation states, have built barriers along their borders; half of those erected since the Second World War sprang up between 2000 and now.”[DIVIDED – Why We’re Living In An Age of Walls, by Tim Marshall].

This is not surprising when we witness on a daily basis “A key controversy in every major election campaign of our time—in the United States, United Kingdom, continental Europe, Asia, and Africa—is that of strangers at the frontier, whether they go by the name of migrant, immigrant, refugee, alien, or invader. Who is in and who is out? Who belongs to the nation and who does not? Who deserves shelter and who does not? Who should stay and who should go? Back to where they came from—if there is anything left for them? Who decides the answer to these questions? And according to what criteria, interests, and intentions?” [Radical Hospitality. From Thought To Action, by Richard Kearney and Melissa Fitzpatrick].

According to Kearney and Fitzpatrick:

“The crisis is acute, and it is set to worsen exponentially as the climate situation grows more alarming and despotic leaders on every continent increasingly endanger their own peoples. Never has the stranger been more in need of hosts to provide shelter, sustenance, and dignity. And never have the doors of welcome seemed more shut.” (p.2)

They propose that a new understanding or interpretation “of hospitality is needed in our age of mounting hostility.” (p.3) They call one such form or experiment of hospitality “narrative hospitality”. They explored this in “The Guestbook Project” that was founded in 2009. They write:

“It began as an interdisciplinary seminar focusing on the theme of “Hosting the Stranger: Between Hostility and Hospitality.” The project was intellectually inspired by the fact that, in most Indo-European languages, the word for “guest” and “enemy” is the same—for example, hostis in Latin is the common root of both “hostility” and “hospitality.” So too for xenos in Greek (xenophobia and xenophilia), Gast in Old German (friendly guest or ghastly enemy), and so on. The aim of Guestbook was to explore how enmity could be translated into empathy by acts of narrative exchange, transforming cycles of violence into radically imaginative moments of welcoming the stranger.” (p.25-26)

Here is the powerful story that motivated Kearney to start the Guestbook:

“In the 1980s, at the height of “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland, I was invited as a young professor of philosophy to come to Derry, a city divided by war, to moderate a workshop between republican and loyalist prisoners. During the workshop, one of the IRA [Irish Republican Army] prisoners told of how one night he was asleep in his bed when a loyalist gang broke into the house, bound, gagged and blindfolded him, threw him into the boot of a car, and drove him to a barn outside Derry. Strapped to a chair and about to be shot, he asked if he could smoke a last cigarette. His captor consented and offered him one. And as he smoked the cigarette—very slowly—he told the story of how he had become involved in republican violence: how his grandfather had been brutally murdered by the British police force, how his father had been incarcerated and tortured, how his mother had become an alcoholic and suffered a nervous breakdown, how his brother had been knee-capped and maimed for the rest of his life… And he went on until he finished his cigarette. Then he waited for the gun to go off. But it didn’t. There was no sound. No movement. He waited for five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes—Nothing. Eventually, he managed to free himself and looked around. There was nobody there; the barn was empty. He walked home. When the IRA prisoner finished sharing this in the workshop I was chairing, another man, a Loyalist paramilitary prisoner, stood up at the back of the hall and said, “I was the assassin who gave you that cigarette. And I would have shot you. But I couldn’t shoot you because, when I heard your story, I realized it was my story.” (p.26-27)

Who knew that listening to another’s story can breakdown walls?

With grace,
Alan

Commission of Inquiry in State Capture

Friends,

This past week Chief Justice Zondo handed over the final report (Part VI) of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture to President Ramaphosa. A monumental achievement to bring thousands of hours of testimony together into a document that pin-points many involved in large scale corruption with the hope of holding them to account as well as reveal the corrupt mechanisms employed with the hope that it will be more difficult to do so in the future. Commissions of Inquiry seldom bring instant gratification. They do however provide an important public record that says to denialism, this far and no further. They provide a mirror for society to see itself more truthfully. And to the extent that the report is acted upon, and not simply read, they provide a purchase point from which systemic change may be levered.

Commenting on the State Capture report Stephen Grootes in Daily Maverick writes:

As a result, this mammoth document is likely to also be looked to as a blueprint for our future, a bible for a new South African state. And as it was the case when the Christian Bible was put together in the 5th century Alexandria, one of the most contentious issues will be which of Zondo’s recommendations will be followed and which will not.

There are important reasons to be cynical. It is a certainty almost everywhere that politicians are loath to accept changes to the system that got them into their positions. This is why large-scale change often has to be forced on them through elections, or revolutions.

There is also the disappointing history of the National Development Plan. It too was a blueprint for our future and it had wide public and political support. Despite being passed by acclamation at the ANC’s 2012 Mangaung Conference, most of it was ignored.

It is entirely possible the same fate could befall the Zondo Commission Report.

We should know the truth of these words better than most, because we know how the Bible has been used throughout history. The Bible is a mixed bag. It includes the most radical principles of justice, equality and liberation ever imagined as well as texts that are terribly oppressive, ethnocentric and patriarchal. Yes, not everything that is biblical is Christ-like. Yet, sadly we have too often shown more energy in using these unjust texts to support systems of exclusive privilege and power in society. We obsess about matters sexual of which Jesus says very little, while we all but ignore matters of war, of which Jesus says a great deal. On an analysis of Church history you would swear that Jesus is anti sex and pro war … resulting in too many people shameful of sex and too many proud of war. We “strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matt. 23:24)

So as we consider the many responses to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, we are invited to consider how we selectively use and misuse the Bible.

Now, just as most of us will read summaries of the Zondo report rather than wade through all 5 500+ pages, may I suggest we re-read the Sermon on the Mount (just in case you’re not up to wading through all 66 books of the Bible). You will find the Sermon on the Mount in three succinct chapters: Matthew 5-7. If you have never read it before, a gift awaits you. Notably Jesus ends off with these words, which also holds true for the Zondo Commission report: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise person who built their house on rock…” Matt. 7:24. If we don’t want our country to be washed away by corruption we better act on this Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. And if we don’t want more Commissions of Inquiry we better act on the Sermon on the Mount.

With grace,
Alan

Here is the link to the The Nathan Commission of Inquiry – seeing the Commission into State Capture through the lens of David’s rape of Bathsheba.

 —

COVID Update

The Wearing of Masks is no longer mandatory—herewith communication from Bishop Yvette Moses:

Today an official announcement was made by Government authorities and formally Gazetted in which Covid-19 Regulations have changed with immediate effect. The wearing of masks is no longer mandatory and there are no longer any limitation on numbers in any gathering.

It was further stated that should people, for whatever reason, choose to wear masks, this should not be discouraged. The fact is that Covid-19 is not over – we are simply learning to live with this reality. We are also in the middle of winter, which is cold and flu season. Many of us continue to live with long-Covid and compromised immune systems, as well as the reality of poverty and its impact on living conditions which often leads to poor health and access to healthcare.

It is wise to encourage voluntary mask wearing by those who are vulnerable, have flu or other respiratory conditions, or who may be compromised in any way. No discrimination should be shown towards any who choose to wear masks or any who choose not to do so. We continue to encourage vaccination against Covid-19 and flu, as this remains the most effective way to protect against more serious flu and serious Covid-19 infection and hospitalisation.

As Methodists people we are guided by our Rule of Life – Do no harm, Do good, and attending upon the ordinances of God – as we seek to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)