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Why I’m not Happy with the Media’s Take on the Helen Zille and Cape Times debacle

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This week there’s been a huge debacle in the South African media world after Helen Zille, the Democratic Alliance (DA) party federal leader and Western-Cape Premier, publicly announced that the Western Cape government will not renew its subscription to the Cape Times. Her reason for doing so: It’s clear that the Cape Times not only plagiarised another article, but she implies that they may have even made a whole story up, given that they absolutely refused to provide her any details of their sources and confirm the story.

Read her thoughts here. Then compare the Cape Times article and the article it is said to be plagiarised from here.

The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) kicked up a fuss about it, saying that it finds it “appalling that the executive committee of the Western Cape government, led by a former journalist, Ms Helen Zille, interferes at this level in the affairs of provincial department heads, who should have the freedom to choose which news mediums they find useful or not.”

Mediaonline.co.za has a nice summary as well as The Daily Vox. All sorts of commentators have had their say. And, to be quite honest, as a journalist (these days I focus more on my books and ghostwriting, but I still do journalism when the opportunity is right) I can’t say I’m very happy with the way others in my profession have slated Zille and completely ignored the plagiarism issue. This is a serious issue of professionalism and the media is shouting about apparent affronts to “media freedom” and saying zip about the Cape Times publishing something that may not have even happened?

Unfortunately, this is not a case of media freedom but a case of media impropriety. Perhaps SANEF have a point that Zille can’t tell everyone else in her government what they must subscribe to, but is she doing so? They’re welcome to subscribe in their personal capacity, of course, but the government has decided not to subscribe. Would anyone be complaining if the government had a subscription to some other lesser-known publication (or even my blog?) and then decided to cancel it? I’m pretty sure SANEF wouldn’t care. I suspect the real problem is that Zille publicly showed that the Cape Times plagiarised without lodging a complaint with the newspaper and / or SANEF first, and for some reason that’s a problem for an organisation that supports an “open society”.

Also see the irony in this statement from Independent Media’s Lutfia Vayej:

“All the editors in the Independent Media stable are open to engagement with its readers and subscribers. It is a pity that Helen Zille and her officials did not use this opportunity before embarking on their decision, which we believe goes against the promotion of a free press.” (Source: City Press.)

In other words: why didn’t we talk behind closed doors first?

Unfortunately, I’ve been even more disappointed by the way others in my profession have reacted to all this. Verashni Pillay of the Mail & Guardian, who I respect, published Eight times Helen Zille made journalists’ lives hell – an emotional and rather personal response to the debacle that I felt was out of place for the platform. Had she published it at her own blog or blog-like site, I would have had no problem with it, but having it published at the Mail & Guardian is too sensationalist-like for me.

I’ve no doubt that Zille has probably snubbed Pillay and other journalists and treated them (very) badly at times, as I know they have treated her badly at times. But I’m asking: So what? This comes with the territory of being a journalist. Sometimes journalists feel as if they’re meant to be untouchable – everyone else can be scrutinised to the nth degree, but journalists must be left alone because they’re doing their job and are squeeky clean, because they defend the public and ensure we have an open society. Sure, journalists should be treated with respect – I have been treated badly myself. I’d like to see more respect in every profession. But I expect people to be defensive when I’m about to publicly publish their lives. I’ve been watching how some journalists have been responding on Twitter and they’re not looking defensive about society but more about themselves. In fact, some are just looking arrogant and even overly-dramatic, not professional.

I also disagree with Eusebius McKaiser’s analysis who calls the plagiarism issue a “red herring”. No, it’s a critical issue. He asks: “If I am wrong, can anyone sympathetic to this DA decision explain why they did not take the newspaper to the industry watchdog?” I ask: So the plagiarism should have been dealt with behind closed doors? I’m not convinced, given the state of our media in general, that our watchdog is doing its job properly either, to be quite honest.

I expect to hear someone (or two) at the Cape Times got fired. But I suspect we’ll hear nothing of it. Plagiarism is an unpardonable offense in this profession. I’ve had to be part of firing someone once for doing it. There is no excuse for it and the Cape Times, at its level, should pay a fine.

I suppose I need to put in a disclaimer: I don’t support the DA as they’re too liberal for me. I like Mmusi Maimane though.

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Racial Self-Righteousness: The Real Problem

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So much of our discussion on race in South Africa misses the point. We focus on the effects all the time but not the cause. Why is that? Because when we look at the cause we have to look at our own hearts – white, black, coloured, indian, chinese, or whoever else. This is because it’s our own hearts that are the problem.

The brilliant writer G.K. Chesterton once touched on this when he was invited by The Times to write on the topic, “What’s wrong with the world?” His alleged response to the paper was simple: “I am.”

Human nature always deviates towards self-righteousness. We all believe we’re better, more righteous, more clued-up, more something-or-other than someone else. It’s my opinion that much of our modern day activism is really an exercise in self-righteousness. It’s my opinion that much of our discussion on race in South Africa is also just an exercise in self-righteousness.

I’m not advocating the usual response of “move on” that white South Africans frequently assert. I’m not in denial about facts, such as those brought up by Verashni Pillay in her opinion piece Six things white people have that black people don’t. Her  follow-up White work does not negate white privilege kind-of gets to what I think we need to get to: that this is about being human. And if it’s about being human then let’s realise something about ourselves: whether we’re the victim or we’re the perpetrator, we think we’re better than the other person. And that kind of thinking is what creates the cycle of history we see again and again, where victims become new perpetrators.

So let’s not just “move on”, let’s talk about it – for the sake of building our country, not for the sake of puffing ourselves up. Let’s talk about how I think I’m better than you and how you think you’re better than me. Let’s actually realise just how self-righteous this conversation gets from all sides, because then maybe we can start giving this conversation exactly what it needs: some humility and some vision for the future. I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about injustice or facts or the past because we’re afraid of being self-righteous, but I am saying that we need to start realising that we need different answers than those we are currently popularising. From politics to the pulpit to the private and the personal, we’re not thinking about an answer to our self-righteousness but are just perpetuating the same problem.

I believe there’s good news. There’s a way we can die to our self-righteousness and live a new life. But I don’t want to preach here. All I want to say is this: let’s start looking at ourselves more closely and start asking hard questions of ourselves, rather than always looking at someone else (and whole groups of people) and demanding they answer hard questions, or demanding they look past the questions, all the while ignoring our own hearts. For after all, “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” This goes for all, regardless of how inconvenient it may be. For if our discussions and articles and debates are without love, we’re simply resounding gongs and clashing cymbals, and nothing good will result. We must do love, even when it’s painful. Not to be self-righteous, but to actually love.

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Summarising the Discussion on Mark Driscoll

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When it was announced that Mark Driscoll, well-known evangelical pastor at Mars Hill Seattle, has stepped down for six weeks while allegations against him are examined, it resulted in a flurry of opinion, conversation, and finger pointing. I don’t like to say too much about this sort of thing. I don’t know Driscoll, have never been to his church (they just never appealed to me) and live on the other side of the planet anyway. But some of the opinions around this are worth talking about.

If you’re not quite up to speed on who Driscoll is and the background of the allegations, an article at Vox.com summarises it well, although I don’t care for the overall tone of it. However, what’s interesting to note is how Driscoll is called an “evangelical rock star.” That perception is, perhaps, exactly right and, perhaps, exactly the problem with modern Christianity.

So here are, what I found, the more interesting opinion and interests about the matter:

Nate Pyle in his post “The Tweetable-Tale of Two Mars Hill Pastors” speaks about how the evangelical community seems to place more importance on what you believe over what you practice. It’s a fair point and one worth thinking long and hard about. He asks:

“…I can’t help but wonder, are we as a church in danger of conflating right thinking with salvation, thus making it a work by which we are saved? Are actions more forgivable when a person’s theology is right?”

This spawned several public and private conversations on social media. Those outside of the Protestant fold have been questioning just how Protestant churches decide on orthodoxy anyway and why there seems to be a lack of accountability. In particular, there have been questions around why no one said or did anything when Driscoll preached a sermon like this one: God Hates You. (Personally, I think Driscoll was trying to re-preach Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”)

Conversations around how we all seem to put more emphasis on belief over practice also abounded. I think this is a solid point and one worth thinking about.

Jesse Johnson in his post “Driscoll Drama: To those who sold tickets” takes influential evangelicals to task for neglecting to actually deal with obvious  issues from the beginning and willingly exposing their people to Driscoll’s teaching, even though there were issues.

“It strikes me that in the chorus of calls to pray for Driscoll’s repentance, or hope for his hopeful repentance, or whatever other optimistic attitude we are supposed to have for that aforementioned repentance, there is something missing. Namely, the ownership of the problem.”

What I found most interesting was how Johnson felt that the doctrine of sanctification was being ignored and now we’re seeing the result. He says:

“By 2009 it was obvious that the doctrine of sanctification was seriously neglected in the theology that was coming out of Acts 29 and specifically Driscoll’s preaching… While I am always in favor of repentance, and  remain hopeful for it in everyone, the call for it here is exceptionally tone deaf. That’s because to pastors outside the Christian-rock-star echo chamber, the issue has never really been one of “will Driscoll repent?” Rather the issue has always been one of “will Christian leaders recognize how foolish it was to expose their people to Driscoll’s preaching and leadership?”

(Notice Johnson talking about the Christian-rock-star echo chamber.)

Doug Wils’ post “Though There Is a Difference” takes evangelical leaders to task for jumping on the Driscoll band-wagon when it was cool and then jumping off when that became cool.

Jonathan Merritt’s post “Why Christians Shouldn’t Celebrate Mark Driscoll’s Demise” seemed to become a popular post on the subject.

“Part of me wants to pop bottles and strike up the band. I want to rejoice like one person in my twitterfeed who responded to the announcement, “Good riddance, Mark Driscoll”. But as I’ve given it more thought, I cannot celebrate the demise of Mark Driscoll, and I don’t think Christians should either.”

He goes on to quote  Proverbs 24:17: “Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.”  I didn’t like this post for reasons I won’t get into but I include it because it shows how some evangelicals felt embarrassed about Driscoll.

Then finally, Steve Murrell concluded: It’s none of my business.

Do I have any thoughts?

Who cares about my thoughts? But I’ll offer this up for consideration anyway because I think this is the core problem of not only this scandal but many of the others popping up from time to time in the evangelical world: there is a lack of real relationship between leaders. Especially big-name evangelical leaders. You can’t build an accountable and proper relationship using documents and contracts and signed a creedal statement. Unfortunately, in many ways, evangelical organisations do just that.

Dudley Daniel, who used to lead the NCMI team (which my church partners with) used to say “Friendship before function.” Over and again I see the wisdom in this simple little saying. While my own church group has had its fair share of controversy, most of it hasn’t been public, precisely because if friendship comes first accountability can happen properly. Friendship before function means something takes longer to build and perhaps doesn’t gain the kind of prominence other movements / organisations etc. enjoy (or do they enjoy it?) but its roots run deeper, making it effective in the long run.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that Driscoll’s situation (as in many others) may be a case of too much too soon. I don’t really blame him for that; perhaps the general evangelical culture and approach to accountability in ministry and friendship is to blame.

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A Non-Opinion on Israel and Palestine

Smoke rises after an Israeli missile strike hit Gaza City, Thursday, July 3, 2014. Photo by AP.

The big international news these past two weeks has been the eruption of war in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. Opinions abound. Emotions are charged. Suspicion is high.

To be honest, I don’t really have an opinion on the actual conflict. It’s too complex and layered for most of us to actually have a well informed opinion on it that isn’t formed by our prejudice (in my “non-opinion”). To speak on it in any way makes people put you into only one of two camps – either you’re Anti-Semitic or you’re a Zionist. There doesn’t seem to be another viewpoint available!

So why write anything at all? Well, there is an aspect of this conversation I’m interested in and that is the Christian response. Is there even a Christian response? Yes, I think there is a valid one, but the response I deem appropriate isn’t the response I see coming from mainstream Christian circles in South Africa. I ask myself: why is this?

The first response I believe that is legitimate from a Bible and Christian tradition perspective is that we pray for peace, as we do every day, for the whole world – including both Palestine and Israel (not just peace for the one and destruction for the other!). In the (Online) Book of Common Prayer (the Anglican Prayerbook) which I use most days to kick start my prayer times, peace in this world is a common theme. Christians are concerned about peace and we’re called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). Peace is obviously what it means to see the Kingdom on earth.

Interestingly, however, there seem to be a lot of South African Christians who are very charged about praying for peace in Israel but seem, by observation, to pray very little for peace in our own country – and peace is something we really need as discontentment brews in our society. Am I saying what’s happening in South Africa is more important than in the Middle-East? No, but what I am saying is that I’ve seen Christians turn a blind eye to the needs in their own neighbourhoods because they’re so distracted by Israel and what’s going on there – they’re so distracted by it that they forget to live out their Christian faith in their own community.

This distraction is covered well in theologican Michael Eaton’s small book, The Christian, Israel and the Hope of World Revival. In it he says, “There are some who have a quite heretical adulation of Israel.”

I think he is right when I look at how many South African Christians “pray” for peace in Israel in the public sphere. It seems that many believe that our calling to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and our calling to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44) is over-ridden by the blessing to be received by praying and blessing Israel (Genesis 12:3 and other places).

Christian Zionists should be praying for the people of Palestine too, not just for the people of Israel. I’ve seen Christians openly pray that Israel find military success in its campaign and that a military victory for Israel over Palestine would now come to fruit. They support this war because it’s Israel, forgetting our higher Christian calling from Christ to love all – even those of a different religion. You can’t complain about the violence in South Africa and openly endorse violence somewhere else in the world, regardless of who the victims really are. How does that work?

Why is this?

Personally, I blame the very popular negative dispensational pre-millenialism that most Christians (at least Protestant Christians) appear to believe these days. I realise that eschatology (the study of last things) is a touchy subject in most Christian circles, but I’m going there anyway. I also realise that many readers won’t know what dispensational pre-millenialism means, so I’ll provide a summary.

In Revelation 20 it talks of a ‘thousand years’ where Christ will reign with His people on earth. Pre-millenialism is the idea that this will be a physical reigning on earth and a literal thousand years and it will take place after a great tribulation (a time of persecution). The idea is also that most Christians will be raptured (taken up to heaven) before this great tribulation, leaving space for the anti-christ to move in and rule the world. Some Christians may be raptured in the middle of this tribulation.

The ‘dispensational’ part basically teaches that God has dealt with man in different ‘dispensations’ – “a distinctive arrangement or period in history that forms the framework through which God relates to mankind.” (Wikipedia). Dispensationalism has traditionally taught that there is a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church.

Because of dispensational pre-millenialism’s general negative outlook on where the world is going – that the world is getting darker and the anti-christ is coming; and that Christians are called to just hang on faithfully until God raptures us from the world before it completely collapses – it makes sense that many respond as they do to the Israel/Palestine conflict. War against Israel is proof of the world’s darkness and how soon the Battle of Armageddon is around the corner. Each time a nation condemns Israel, it is seen to be getting on the wrong side of the battle of Armageddon. When the ANC’s Jessie Duarte condemned Israel last week in a scathing and inappropriate manner, saying “The African National Congress condemns in the strongest terms the barbaric attacks on the defenseless Palestinian people of Gaza… As we move towards the month of August and are reminded of [t]he atrocities of Nazi Germany, surely we must ask the people of Israel has the term ‘lest we forget’ lost it[s] meaning?” it’s not just what she said that concerned many SA Christians but the fact that this is seen as putting South Africa in harms way and on the wrong side of the war to end all wars. In short, many Christians seem to believe that God will curse a country if it doesn’t support Israel (regardless of what Israel does).

Meanwhile, at Ecumenical News Desmond Tutu is quoted as saying, “Once again, the people of Israel and Palestine are embroiled in a deadly contest of tit-for-tat violence in which there can never be victors, only losers… Like children following a playground dust-up, political and religious leaders fall over each other, not to make peace, but to proclaim: It wasn’t us, they started it.” I agree with him here, but compare Tutu’s comments to the comments of readers at Gateway News and you will see that many South African Christians really believe that Israel is right because, well, it’s Israel. (Tutu also does touch on a two-state solution and it’s here where I wonder if he goes beyond what he should have said.)

Perhaps I’m being too negative about pre-millenialism. But even if it’s right, doctrinally speaking, it needs to be balanced with Christ’s teachings to love our enemies, go into all the world, love all, live at peace with everyone, preach the Gospel, and so on. I wonder if many of the Christians who pray for Israel and support Israel are just looking to receive the promised blessings of the Bible if they do (and avoid what they see as curses if they don’t) but don’t really care about the fact that people are actually dying. It may be unfair to question motives in such a generalised way, but I do wonder.

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South Africa 2014 Elections: Vote nanny state, or corruption, or human theocracy?

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After completing a small voting aid tool to help decide on who to vote for out of interest, I found the results thought-provoking – apparently, the number one party I should vote for is the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP); (2) is Cope, (3) is the IFP and (4) is the DA. I was kind of disappointed, to be honest. I was hoping for some unknown choice to pop up. Oh, and last was the ANC.

In the interests of interest I thought I would put down what’s really going on in my mind as a white (and therefore formerly privileged), Christian, conservative progressive (if there is such a thing) South African who writes for a living and doesn’t like what he sees with Western modern liberalism or modern conservatism (did I leave any box unticked there?). We vote on Wednesday. My opinions are obviously framed by my background which is why I listed them in the first place.

DA is nanny state

There’s no sense in beating around the bush here – we might as well call it for what it is. I have an alarming sense that if the DA had to come into power in this country we would move very quickly into the liberal / conservative polarisation of America. All the West’s problems with identity politics suddenly become our politics. Identity politics about race actually won’t go away – they’ll be exacerbated as other identity politics suddenly compound the problem. Modern liberals are hardly like they used to be in the past – it used to be the liberals who used to talk about freedom for all, but modern liberals only love to talk about freedom for certain select people at the expense of everyone else. Liberals used to be about letting people think whatever they want, but these days liberals are all about controlling what you think. I have a suspicion that the DA will bring in this modern tendency into South Africa and make our country another battleground for the American culture war.

ANC is a complete mess

Firstly, the ANC’s socialist policies aren’t up my alley. But at any rate, I might consider voting for them because they have conservative tendencies, but they are stone last on the list for a reason – the party is a directionless self-serving Frankenstein of a mess. It has become the very thing it claimed to fight.

IFP has had the same leader forever

IFP’s policies seem very good, believe it or not (last time I looked anyway) but the party has had Mangosuthu Buthelezi at its helm for pretty much forever and seems to be owned by the guy. It doesn’t stand for anything it seems to support on paper. The IFP will bring in more cultural politics than we really need right now and it’s layered with a terrible history that I don’t think will disappear until someone else leads it. It’s leaderless and seems to have any real vision.

So then, let’s talk about the ACDP

As in every election, many Christians are discussing the ACDP. Certain churches are putting them forward as the only option. I’m grateful that I’m part of a church which gets on with the mission and doesn’t bring politics into the mix. I don’t think the ACDP should get my vote because of the word “Christian” in there – in fact, that very word can turn my vote away. If I could say one thing about the ACDP and that is that the word “Christian” with regards to politics doesn’t make many people feel very comfortable these days – including many, many Christians. There are reason’s why the ACDP’s support has waned – less Christians think that politics and church should mix in any way.

Having said that the truth is that the ACDP’s policies are not what you expect. They don’t advocate the death penalty, for one. [Oops – I was wrong about this. This seems to have changed from the last election when I looked.] That flies in the face of what many Christians used to think made for godly government. (I don’t place much stock in the death penalty myself.) Where my interest lies is in the issue of land, production and family. These are three concepts I believe must come together – families should be empowered to own their own means of production. Conservatives have always said the family is the core of a nation and I agree with this.

Why the word “family” often carries negative connotations in politics

Generally, what people think when they hear of people talking of “family” in politics is that the issue is around “family values” – ie.  censorship of pornography, or perhaps the loss of gay rights, and that sort of thing. That’s not what I mean when I talk of empowering the family. So I looked to see what the ACDP means when it talks of family and this is what I came up with:

“[The ACDP will] Amend laws and policies that undermine family values, such as access to contraceptives and abortion by children without parental consent; inappropriate sex education in schools; attempts to ban moderate parental chastisement and legalise prostitution; and the legislation of pornography and abortion-on-demand.”

And here is where they lose me. Not because I really want pornography, for example, to be available; or because I believe children shouldn’t smack their children; but because I don’t believe that morality can be very easily legislated for two reasons – (1) No legislation can change the heart and, (2) these values will sort themselves out when the family is empowered; if the family is healthy it doesn’t matter what the law says, a culture of strong family will be sorted out. My other concern is that I get the sneaky feeling that this would become the ACDP’s main driver and everything else would take second place. I don’t want a human theocracy.

Where the ACDP wins for me, at least a little, is in its policies around land, particularly this:

“[The ACDP will] Focus on rural development to address issues that arise from urban migration, by encouraging local economic development and incentives for industries to relocate to rural areas.”

Encouraging local business helps to empower families. Big business simply doesn’t, which flies in the face of modern capitalism, I know, but there it is. I don’t like big business. I believe every individual should be empowered to own their own business – idealistically, every employee is not an employee but a business owner with skills who contracts to a business who needs their skills. This shift in thinking is what I think empowers an individual from the modern-day slavery of big corporates to being able to provide freely – their future is not tied up to the future of some other company but to their own two hands. Government should help that process along. Through that process the family is empowered because what it means is that every provider of every household owns their own means of production. The best way to do that is to make it easy to acquire land. Capitalism doesn’t make it easy to acquire land because a free-market economy (supply and demand) drives up the prices of property and herein lies the rub. If you own your own property you can do something with it – you can run your business. But if you don’t own your own property you are restricted by someone else, yet again. Job creation isn’t really the answer in my mind – what is the answer is empowering people to work for themselves.

Well, that’s my basic economic policy anyway. I’ve gone through every single party on the options for this year’s election and everyone seems to miss it. The ACDP, however, come the closest to perhaps seeing it that way, but my general feeling is they will make “family values” the main issue, which is why I’m just not sure about them.

These are my thoughts. I don’t think any South African has this all clear in their heads. Politics muddies the water – it’s difficult to really know what’s right or wrong. All I know is that our country is at a tipping point this year and we need to have some major change into the political scene or otherwise things will continue to be frustrating for many of us. My hope is not tied into politics, but I would certainly like to live in a country where I can worry less about my needs and my family’s needs and be free to love people openly and honestly in the best way I know how. I don’t think a nanny state will let me do this and I don’t believe our current state, if it goes down the road it is right now, will let me do this either. On Wednesday I’ll vote according to my conscience and the only brain I have. When my ballot goes in I’ll also offer up a prayer – a miracle has happened before in this nation and perhaps a miracle will happen again.

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Syria: The Show Must Go On

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Psalm 2

1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,

3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.

5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,

6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.

8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.

9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.

12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

This is part of a synchroblog on the civil war in Syria set up by Steve Hayes, who wanted to solicit Christian responses to the Syrian civil war. I’ve opened up with Psalm 2 to highlight the fact that throughout all of history, and throughout history to come, the nations will continue to rage and their raging, even when they’re fighting themselves, is ultimately a rage against God and his ways. Ultimately, this show will go on until Jesus returns.

Nations live in peace and live in war, to various degrees. As leaders come and go, policies and models change, every nation will have times in its history where it will rage against God. And sometimes, in that rage, they’ll go to war – with themselves and with others.

Does that all sound harsh? Well, we’re not exactly dealing with an easy subject. But wars are ultimately the result of our deep, human problems, and there’s no denying that.

When we try and ascertain who is right and who is wrong, it’s often difficult to really even know, because the whole thing is just one big mess and no one is really in the right, or the wrong. Sure, it’s been wrong for the Syrian government to act as it has for so many years. But both the innocent and the guilty suffer because of the same underlying problem: rebellion against God.

And so the first part of how a Christian should respond is this: love the innocent and the guilty, because quite honestly, we’re all guilty in some way in the end.

Christian views of the Syrian war and the U.S. involvement

Last week, when all the ho-hum in America was about Obama and his decision to bomb Syria as a warning about chemical warfare (a card I think he played to force Russia’s hand), Christianity Today published an article entitled Three Christian Perspectives on [the] Syrian War. I checked it out but was left scratching my head. I thought: Is this the best the Evangelical Christian world can come up with?

It’s a quick read so head over to the link. But if you don’t have the time, here’s the crux: none of the three views had anything to say at all about the idea of separating Church and State. There’s this underlying belief that the government is supposed to respond in a Christian way. But how on earth can any government respond in a Christian way? Was Jesus’ message of love to your neighbour and abandoned worship to God a message to governments? A blueprint for what rules of law and legislation a government should institute? No, the message was to individuals who make up a group called the Church. This group is God’s called nation within the nations; God’s called-out people within the peoples. We are citizens of another Kingdom regardless of where we are born because, if you recall, we are born again.

We belong to another King and we follow and obey Him relentlessly. In our obedience to Him, we do submit to our authorities (1 Peter 2) and we give to the emperor what is the emperor’s (Luke 20), but we do such things in freedom because we are actually citizens of another Kingdom.

There has never been any other Christian nation besides the Church and there never will be another Christian nation. America is not, and has never, been a Christian nation. No government on this world has ever been a Christian government. South Africa certainly has never been one, which is partly why I get nervous around what some Christian organisations are trying to do about the recent spanking débâcle. Jesus’ intention for the Church is that it would never be a government but be under the government of Jesus, living out his law of love to the world, regardless of who we are and where we’re from.

Christians are called to be pacifists in their personal lives (remember where Jesus said we should turn the other cheek to our enemies?) but no government is ever called to turn the other cheek. Neither is a government ever to rule over its people – a government is meant to protect its people. That’s how we all know it should be, but we all know that all governments are corrupt. In the end, governments are ruled by people, and it’s those people God is interested in and it’s those people who will give an account to God, not to us. God is not interested in democracy, socialism or our just war theories, or any philosophy. He is interested in people. So we should be too.

Christians are to live where they live and be working within the nations, almost like a neutral force, to bring healing to people, and reconciliation between God and people, which will ultimately bear the fruit of reconciliation between people. The Church is not called to be a political peace-keeping movement of any sort.

This is why Christians need to stop trying to “Christianize” cultures through legislation. When we do that, we just become another one of the many forces looking to acquire power and use it for our own means. Even the church largely failed when it was given political power at one stage in Western history. (It is good to note, however, that medieval history is hardly as bad as many of the movies make it out to be. It’s called dramatic effect, folks!)

When we work for justice, which is necessary, we must remember that every system is, in the end, never going to be perfect. It’ll only be perfect when Jesus wraps up all of history in the end and those who trust in Him are made new, while the wicked and sin are dealt with appropriately. Justice can never work as a system, justice only works when someone perfectly just rules. This is the great hope for our faith and ultimately what we’re pointing people to. We are to be involved, but must remember, always, where our first commitments lie. Otherwise we just become part of the problem.

Others writing on this topic

This post is part of a synchroblog (syncronised blog) in which various people write about the same general theme from different points of view, and thus help one to see the bigger picture. Follow the links below to see the other posts. More links may be added later, as more people add their contributions.  If you are participating in the synchroblog, please copy the links below and paste them to the end of our own post.

  1. Fr John D’Alton (Antiochian Orthodox) of Fr John D’Alton on THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR AND RESPONSES TO IT
  2. Richard Fairhead (missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian) of Relational Journey on Who would Jesus bomb?
  3. Steve Hayes (Orthodox Christian) of Khanya on Syrian civil war: no good outcome?
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Why the Spanking Drama is Now Making me Nervous

whale_toy

whale_toy

You may or may not be following the story around Joshua Generation Church (JGC) in Cape Town, who are under investigation by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for teaching that parents should spank their kids. (If not, you can follow the story at Gateway News.)

In the latest development, which you can read here, Errol Naidoo from the Family Policy Institute, Reg Willis from the Christian Lawyers Association and Teresa Conradie, a Christian attorney,will be meeting today to establish a legal entity which they will call the Institute for Public Justice which will, “take on the challenge of defending the church against various challenges.” This makes me nervous.

You might think I should be nervous about the government forcing its ideologies around family and discipline onto me, and I am also nervous about that, but I’m also sceptical of the government succeeding, given that most people in our country – regardless of their beliefs – will probably kick against the government in this. But what makes me more nervous is creating something about “justice” that is going to stand for defending the church. Justice is surely broader than that, and indeed it should be. The church should be doing justice for others, not for itself – defending itself and calling that ‘justice’. Something about this thinking just doesn’t line up at all to how I see justice spoken about in the Scriptures (and lived out in Jesus’ life).

What this is is probably another attempt by the Family Policy Institute to try and Christianize our culture through a rule of state law. The culture won’t and will never change because the government insists it does. That’s why I’m less nervous about the government cracking down on how I should discipline my children because our culture will kick up against that. But I’m more nervous about an “Institute for Public Justice” that is about defending the democratic rights of Christians, of which I am one, because I don’t feel that they are (a) representing the Gospel and Kingdom message and (b) they are honouring the clear scriptural commands to live at peace with everyone.

Naidoo has often said that we are in a “culture war” and I disagree. If the Church wins this culture war, all we end up with are a bunch of religious Christians who claim to be “Christian” because of heritage or skin colour or culture. If the Church looses this war, it’s because people hate it. You don’t have a war without people eventually picking sides. Why is the Church fighting any war? (You can’t justify a culture war on Ephesians 6: 11 – 13.)

I think that, perhaps, Andrew Selley who leads JGC may have the much better idea. Instead of fighting a “culture war” with the SAHRC, he is offering to get the Church behind helping them with genuine cases of abuse. This is a far better representation of Jesus to the world, in my opinion, and I’d be interested in seeing where that goes.

Enter the Cyborg Generation (Story at Do Gaming)

Cyborg, Eyeborg
Cyborg, Eyeborg

Rob 'Eyeborg' Spence, real-life cyborg

Artificial hearts with no pulse that keep people alive; augmented vision; cellphone implants; insects controlled with remote control. Does that sound like sci-fi to you? Well, it isn’t.

I wrote on the topic of Cyborg technology today for Telkom Do Gaming.

The heart is an incredibly difficult organ to reproduce artificially because it’s constantly beating. Any artificial materials that will need to go through the work a heart actually does seem to break down very quickly. So the doctors in question have decided to address the beating problem, looking at creating an artificial heart that does the job but doesn’t beat. Rather, it provides a continuous flow throughout the body. And apparently it works.

Read more at Do Gaming

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The Interesting Responses to the New DASO Poster

DASO

Yesterday the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) revealed its new campaign poster and the response has been amazing to see. The poster is here to the right so you’ll understand the responses.

DASO

DASO's poster, captioned "in our future you wouldn't look twice"

The most disappointing response for me has to come from the Christian Democratic Party, who immediately stated that the poster ‘clearly’ promotes sexual promiscuity. There are a number of issues, as a serious Christian, I take with such a response:

1) The poster, probably quite deliberately, doesn’t show any ring fingers. These two individuals may very well be married, or they might not. But the fact is that it doesn’t ‘clearly’ promote promiscuity. Having a picture of a couple in an intimate embrace drives home the reality of interracial marriage and love – and certainly drives home the point much better than just having them hold hands. The objective was to talk about interracial love.

2) The poster is actually done better than many pictures we’re subjected to from magazine covers every day at the shop. I don’t look at it and feel tempted to look up porn on the Internet. I can’t say the same for magazine covers at the local petrol station, unfortunately.

3) There is nothing wrong with naked people. God made us naked. The sooner we can understand that nakedness doesn’t equal sex (they’re not the same thing) the better we can actually appreciate God’s beautiful creation called the human body. When God created and called it all good I believe He meant it. That kind of thinking also helps to deal with sexual temptation much more easily. I’m getting this idea from the scriptures, not some liberal hippie wacked out lame idea of supposed “free” love. That nonsense is an entirely different story.

It’s a rather typical stand that Christian political parties seem to take – it seems their mind is ALWAYS in the sexual morality arena. The response shows more of what the Christian Democratic Party is thinking than what anyone else is thinking. I never looked at the poster and thought ‘sexual promiscuity’, I’ll be honest. I thought, interracial love. It annoys me when the best Christian politicians can do is play some moral card of sexual morality when the objective of the poster was to talk around the morality of interracial relationships. What does the Christian Democratic Party have to say about interracial marriage? If reports are to be believed (well, we don’t really have much reason to believe the news have reported the whole story) – nothing. I hope that’s not the case.

It’s been interesting watching the responses from all corners. Good old Malema has been tweeting about it a great deal, others have told the DA that they no longer have their vote. I’m thinking, sheesh dude, the DA has always stood for interracial everything – where have you been? It’s crazy seeing how many people (white, black or other race) don’t stand for interracial marriage – as if it’s immoral to marry someone from a different colour.

Today a poster depicting a white and black man in an embrace (to promote the whole gay thing) was released, but not by the DA – it’s a fake poster, obviously created by some people trying to make their own point. I need to add that to clear up any confusion.

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How Objective is the Media: A post on Thought Leader

Newspapers

Mail & Guardian’s Thought Leader has published a post of mine on the Media and objectivity. Thanks Thought Leader!

The media continues to be under the spotlight, not just locally but also in the US where questions about objectivity are moving to the forefront. Perhaps if there is anywhere in the world where these questions must be asked it’s in the US where, in my opinion, so much of the media has become immature, sensationalist and polarising.

But is the media like this because it’s reflecting society, or is American society (especially in the realm of politics) becoming more polarising because it’s reflecting the media? I’m beginning to think the latter is more the case. And what does this mean for SA?

Read the rest of the post at Thought Leader and comment :)

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Atheists, Hawking, Know What You’re Talking About

Space

Space

This week Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned physicist, remarked that there ‘is no heaven’, calling it a ‘fairy story’. Here’s a quick quote from Hawking:

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

I got into a conversation around this topic at The Mail & Guardian and many of the things that came up there I thought deserved a bit of a blog post.

If you look at my points raised under the comments section there to various people, you might be able to follow my train of thought better. But I’ll outline it here quickly.

My first comment was this:

All this shows is Hawking’s ignorance to what Christians mean when they talk about ‘heaven’. I have no idea how a physicist believes he can accurately tell the future of every person on the planet throughout history in one big blanket statement but hey, he’s free to have his own conclusions.

A ‘Lawrence’ appeared to be replying to me (he didn’t post under the ‘reply’ section but it seemed directed at my comment) by asking what Christians mean by heaven. He raised the point that a mate gave him a DVD that had “details of heaven and hell. It (Hell) was a bad children’s story of pain and monsters and endless attack by flesh eating creatures.”

Here’s the first point I want to bring across. See, in this case both the Christian (the one who gave the DVD) and the non-Christian don’t seem to know much, if anything, about what the Bible says about Heaven and Hell. And neither does Hawking. If Hawking wants to critique the Christian view of heaven he better know what the Christian view of heaven actually is. (In all fairness he is critiquing the idea in general it seems, but being a Brit I assume in his mind he is thinking a Christian heaven most of all). All the atheists agreeing with him ought to know the Christian idea of heaven as well. Otherwise, what exactly are they critiquing?

My impression is that they are critiquing their own assumptions about the Christian view and teaching of heaven and then saying, “well, that’s ridiculous.” Now that kind of reasoning is wrong on many levels. Surely I should know what someone, or a group of people, think about something before I actually have an opinion on what they think?

When Christians give bad DVD’s about monsters and flesh-eating creatures to non-Christians it shows an equal amount of ignorance from the Christian. In other words, it’s not helping. Rather ditch the DVD, do some study, and answer the non-Christian’s questions seriously IF that non-Christian actually does care.

There are perfectly suitable answers to questions like why God commanded stoning in the Old Testament, why he says eye-for-an-eye at one point and turn-the-other-cheek and another, and all the so-called contradictions. The issue is that most atheists I’ve encountered don’t care for the answers at all, they’re either just wanting to argue or they’ve decided up-front that they just dislike the whole idea. Ninety percent of the time it seems they’re not critiquing the ‘actual’ idea, just their impression of the idea based on sensational documentaries, books, news reports, pastors and what they heard as a kid from people who got their theology from the same sensationalist sources.

So, my main point here is: Atheists, please know what you’re talking about. If you want to critique my theology that’ s OK but I think it’s only respectful to know what my theology IS. Don’t assume you know what Christian theology actually teaches on issues. My experience shows that 99 percent of atheists / agnostics I have encountered have no idea what Christian theology actually teaches on the issues they have with the Bible etc.

Christians, please don’t rely on pop-theology which, much like pop-psychology, is just a mix of ideas from many different sources and one big contradictory mess. Read the Bible for yourself on issues. As an example, “Left Behind” is NOT a great commentary on the book of Revelations. Study the Bible yourself to see or rather admit you don’t know and engage on a relational level (which is where we should all engage).

Now for the next biggie.

Evolution is not important!

Inevitably evolution came up in the conversations at the Mail & Guardian. A guy called Shaun made the point that “science is at odds with religion.” I disputed this point. He continued by asking “How can you expect science to take Christianity as having credibility when within the religion there is not consensus on what certain texts mean?” and once again I disputed the point.

My dispute here is that Science does not care for religion or God or what the meaning of life is. This is another misconception that both Christians and Atheists /  Agnostics tend to have.

Science is concerned with observation.
Theology is concerned with knowing God and living our lives.
Philosophy is concerned about how we live, how we think, existence, all the confusing questions, and putting science and theology together.

To make it simpler, I like to say that theology deals with the heart and philosophy the mind. Science deals with experimentation and observation. This is why Science cannot be ‘at odds’ with religion, it does not agree or disagree with religion. Science as a discipline only deals with looking at things and conducting experiments to understand how those things are made up. It has nothing to say about anything outside of that. Think I’m talking nonsense? Do some research on the topic.

When Stephen Hawking talks about ‘why we are here’ he is dealing in the realm of Philosophy, not Science. He may use his scientific knowledge to bring his own philosophical answers, but he is not talking Science he is talking Philosophy.

Say evolution is 100 percent true. That would mean we evolved from animals, right? Or we are a kind of animal? What does that mean then for how we should live our lives? That question is answered by philosophy, not Science.

If only atheists and Christians could get this right we would be able to talk much more clearly to each other. Hawking’s answers to ‘why we are here’ are based on his interpretation of the Scientific data he knows. But Hawking is neither a philosopher nor a theologian, he is a physicist, and so if he wants to talk about theology (heaven) and philosophy (why we are here) it’s only right that he kits up on what’s going on in those two disciplines, or he admits that he is only a physicist and people ought to keep that in mind when he brings out his philosophy. In my opinion he is doing neither of these right at the moment.

Evolution is a scientific theory. For this reason it neither proves nor disproves God. You cannot say that because I know the make-up of a cell-phone the cell-phone didn’t need someone to make it, and call that a Scientific fact. Likewise you cannot say someone DID need to make the cell-phone and call that a Scientific fact. The Science is the make-up of the cellphone, and that’s it. A Scientific fact is that the cell-phone has an LCD screen. Philosophy is the ‘therefore someone didn’t / did make it.’ And if you’re talking about God you’re going to get into theology as well.

Theology and philosophy are concerned with meaning. Science is not concerned with meaning only the how.

I expect atheists to count me a certain courtesy when they want to talk philosophy and theology for a number of reasons. One, I bet I know more about theology than they do. Don’t assume you know Christian theology just because you read a Dan Brown novel or because Richard Dawkins said this or that about Christian belief. Either admit you don’t know or do some more study.

Two, at least six times out of ten I (personally) tend to know more about philosophy, not that this is my strongest area of expertise (I’m still learning). I find that neither atheists nor Christians tend to know much about philosophy, and I think that’s ok. Most of us actually just want to live our lives and take care of our families and enjoy our lives. Our approach to that is made up of the general philosophy of our culture, our personal philosophy, our take on theology (if we have one), etc. Most people have no clue who Immanuel Kant was and that’s OK.

In the same instance I expect Christians to show a certain courtesy to atheists when the conversation goes into Science. Especially if the atheist knows about Science (I do tend to find many that come off the back of Richard Dawkins’ latest tend to know less about Science than they pretend to). Please don’t jump into a conversation about evolution and scream, “The eye! The eye! How could evolution form something as complex as the eye!?” because chances are you have no idea what you are talking about. Unless you know what you’re talking about don’t engage on that level.

The better level to engage at, at least in my experience (and other than just being a normal person who loves others authentically) is show an atheist / agnostic / whatever how evolution doesn’t actually matter when it comes to whether someone can believe in God or not. The Bible is concerned with revealing God to us and how we must live in response to that revelation. Genesis 1 and 2 are NOT providing the physics formula for the make-up of the universe. And this is not a cop-out, long before Darwin came along many Christian theologians did not take Genesis 1 and 2 literally. The science / religion / evolution debate is actually more hot air than anything else. Alister McGrath I think has done some great work in showing this.

Christianity does not have to fit in with Science because these are two different things. Christianity is about who I believe God is and how I live my life. Science is about how the chair I’m sitting on right now works and is put together. Quantum mechanics might provide me a stronger reason to believe in God (as indeed it does) but my belief in God is based on other factors outside of Science that I believe are equally as important, such as experience, relationships, mystery, narrative, and other concepts which are all too much to go into here. And this, which is philosophy, is the best place to engage a skeptic, I think, because his approach to finding truth I feel is deeply flawed.

Christians ought not to feel intimidated when someone brings out scientific theories on evolution and the universe and asks what the Christian has to say about that, because none of those things disprove God any more than they prove Him. Christians have no obligation to find the answers to those scientific questions either because Science is a completely different discipline. If you like Science then I say go ahead, but pick your battles otherwise you’ll just tire yourself out. The world of Science is always changing because the discipline itself is all about discovering more and more. This is part of what makes it so interesting and exciting. Nothing in Science is conclusive, and it never should be. The praise Science deserves is for its remarkable ability to stay open and venture into the great beyond. The minute Science ‘closes’ a matter is the minute that Science is no longer Science but now an ideology and then it is an entirely different creature altogether.

Read the Mail & Guardian story for the background to this post.

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Integration is Wrong

african integration wrong

african integration wrong
Please check out the artist’s website who made this cool pic.

I’m having a very interesting conversation at a Facebook group called African Holocaust.

African Holocaust is dedicated to the progressive study of Global African history and culture. Restoring Africans as agents of their world and fostering economic, intellectual, development and a new African paradigm.

Also see the African Holocaust website for more.

I find the group very interesting and it helps to give me perspective on a more Pan-African worldview. I find a lot of what they say extreme but don’t always engage. But recently the owner of the Facebook page said this:

Integration is not what we are preaching, but we do preach co-existence and tolerance. Integration desensitizes you to the reality which too often pops back up. Integration is what the Jews thought they had in Germany until hatred caught them off-guard. Integration is a slave in waiting. You do not have to become your neighbour to be a good neighbour.

I found this interesting and commented, especially after another commenter (humble tari) posted

humble tafari
Africa for Africans, Europe for europeans, Asia for Asians

Here’s how the conversation went down after that.

African Holocaust
you remember the first thing the French told the Arab Muslims French citizens when they got mouthy? THIS IS FRANCE! Remember what Gordon Brown said “THIS IS ENGLAND” basically England is built on the values of English people. So yes you have a French or British passport. But you are only a tolerated guest.

Ryan Strydom (this is me)
‎@humble tafari. Lol, Africa for Africans… Europe for Europeans… Wow, that’s called APARTHEID.

@African Holocaust, there is such a thing as paranoia. Integration helps a country to become a nation, otherwise it is fragmented. Where do y…ou draw the line? Should the Zulu and Xhosa not integrate? They’re both African by your definition of African. Even this facebook page of yours is highly integrated, with each influencing the other in worldview.

African Holocaust
‎@Ryan that is not integration. Co-existence you are on this f.b page you co-exist with us, you are not integrated with us. When Humble says Africa for the Africans, I think you need to understand what that means. Each race has a Motherland… and our racial home is Africa, where our cultures and values are normal and the dominant cultural standard.

Yes you might think it is a fine line but we do not become you and you do not become us. You stay you and we stay us. I will not call my children Ryan and you will not call your children Molefi. We might go to the same school we might visit each others house. But I will respect you as a White person in Africa. And you will respect as an African in Africa. You will also recognize my claim to the land and the majority culture. Just like in France French is the dominant culture, French is the language, French is the food. Thats how i understand Africa for Africans. Not we get to Africa and everything is still White. Then we get to Europe and it is also white – So where is our home?

Stephen Abiola
celebration of diversity,multiculturalism, melting pot of colours….sounds good , its just that the people controlling the melting pot, the diversity and multicultural societies are not themselves part of it…..They just monitor and control it…..food for thought….

African Holocaust
a multicultural monoculture. as stated on our site “there is no diversity if all of our values are pointing North”
http://www.africanholocaust.net/news_ah/agencyandafrica.htm

Yanano Dylan
isnt it multi culture comes to existence when you respect other people’s cultures,what do the jews have to say about their intolerance and siege to the palestinians

Ryan Strydom
‎@AH — I understand your point but perhaps a difference here between us is that I might just call my son Molefi and know white couples that have done just that. Why? Because, well, their son was born in Africa so why not give their son an …African name?

You could think of it from my perspective. I was born here, I was raised here. I don’t fit into Britain, I don’t fit into America, and I don’t fit into Australia. I know this because I have visited at least one of those countries and know others that have even had to stay in all three.

So, I begin to ask the same questions as you — where is my home? I’m not Western enough for Westerners or African enough for Africans. And I think I would have every right to feel a little upset when someone insists I must go to Europe just because I look like the Europeans, if I want to call any place home.

I don’t think I’m an anomaly here.

I envision a South Africa with one culture — a South African one. In truth, culture can’t be defined that easily anyway. Britain has culture and sub-culture, America has culture and sub-culture, and within sub-cultures there are smaller sub-cultures. So I don’t envision an Africa with one culture, which is impossible, but I should hope that each country develops its culture.

Since the same kind of blood pumps through both of our veins I see no reason why integration should ever be a problem. I co-exist with the fish in the sea; I integrate, engage, love and respect human beings.

From my perspective, there’s more than just co-existing going on in this FB forum, otherwise there could be no actual engagement. We would all just shout our opinions but never work together, never understand each other, never become brothers but always hold everything and everyone at arms length. But the question is what for? The past is important but it’s the future that we and our children have to live in.

I don’t believe God’s vision for this world was ever one of co-existence but one of unity between God and man and man and man, and unity does not come except through integration, surely?

Choice Felton
Intergration is not A good thing and AmeriKKKa has gotten soft and lame over the years

African Holocaust
Sure Ryan Most African-Americans dont fit into African life either. Doest change the fact that the home of Chinese is China, and we would not expect (as we do in SA) to see every single last piece of business in china owned by Whites. But I…n South Africa we see Whites owning everything, the culture is White. The language is a white language. Thats is not integration or co-existence that is domination.

Did you also marry a Zulu girl ? Because we find with all of this melting in South Africa Indians stick to their own. Whites stick to their own. In other words integration is a myth. People co-exist and I hope we are not just talking semantics.

I know many whites and it is definitely not normal for them to take on anything African. They hold dual nationality. and blend perfectly into Europe when they decide to flee. Sure Whites can call Africa home, just like we call UK home.But the home of our race as a people is AFRICA. It is where we should hear our languages, eat our food, run free on our land and make policies which reflect our African way of life. Define our own definitions of self (unlike what whites try to do in SA), Define our cultural destiny (unlike SA)

Culture exist on many levels (AS YOU SAID). But we are specifically talking about an African culture which is different from a nationalistic culture e.g. “We are all South Africans” (no such thing in any tangible sense apart from a flag and an anthem) because in South Africa for 100% Indians are Indians, Whites are Whites and there is no confusion, they do not even have the same accent (like in America or UK or Caribbean). So SA is a bad example for discussing a blanket non-racial culture. Unlike Swahili culture where everyone Indian, Arab, African speak Swahili.

African Holocaust
and Ryan, White couples calling their children Molefi, WOW, that is one in a billion. Black people calling their children Ryan, 1 in 10. Thats the problem with integration – Africans being disadvantaged always lose.

Ajmal Haneef
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).

Choice Felton
Ryan 0 AfricaN HolocausT 20 ILL DRINK TO THAT

Choice Felton
Who or what is allah, Dont you know all 3 major Religions come out of the VATICAN or was created by Ryans ancestors. judaism, christianity an islam are all one and the same

African Holocaust
Religion and integration: Ryans ancestors saw a good thing and claimed it. Maybe we should do the same. We do not throw out any aspect of our history. The same way Rome claims both their so-called Pagan history and their Christian history. …We claim Kemet, We claim Islam, we claim Judaism so Allah is very relevant to us here http://www.islamandafrica.com/
http://www.africankingdoms.com/ (our history in both Islam and Christianity)
We do not throw any aspect of our history out on the say so of White agendas (paying Black agents). Not one single religion ever came out of Europe. But Integration caused the Vatican complex.

Choice Felton
What did they claim, as I was told the storys that make up the bible use to be Afrikan Myths and fairy tales. we didnt have religion in afrika Europeans gave that 1 and only thing to the world.

African Holocaust ‎
@ Choice we too often give too much credit to Europe. We invented mainstream religion in the Nile Valley. Hell and Heaven – Nile Vallley, Judgment – Nile Valley. Check out the work
http://www.themotherland.info/

Choice Felton
Under whos reign, How long ago was the nile valley conquered by Euroopeans Greece. who took the land from Asian Persians / Hindu Religion comes out of europe or Asia did not get its start in Afrika we were Spiritual not religious. Greece and romans Came into Afrika Saw all we had and could do and Called US GODS we had no concept of god.

Ryan Strydom
‎@Choice

Christianity came out of the ancient near east and spread through the Roman empire and Africa (Ethiopia was a
central point for early Christianity) like wildfire.

…St Augustine, one of the major figures in the early church (around 300 – 400 AD) was an African man. He was born in North Africa and while we don’t know exactly what colour he was, there is a very big possibility that he was a black man. And yet he founded a huge amount of the Catholic church’s doctrine which it still holds to today. That ought to say something.

The Roman empire was a very integrated culture and the ‘religion’ (I use that word loosely) of Christianity was taken up by people of all races. Christianity is not a European thing at all. And its vision is to see every tribe, every tongue, every nation come under the Lordship of its King, Jesus Christ, and enjoy the grace and freedom that He brings.

To say that all three of the major religions come from the Vatican means to say you don’t really know the history of those religions at all. And don’t you have a religion in Africa? What about honouring the ancestors? Do you not see this as a religion?

@ AH – there are multiple issues I would bring up here. In essence I understand your point, but I don’t see how living in the past alone builds a way into the future. I don’t say the past is not important, but there is also a future. And we also can’t pick and choose the past we would prefer to make our point. As I said, we have a global history of integration that spans back very, very far into the past. Should this not be considered?

God gave Earth to man, he didn’t divide it up into pieces for all the different men that exist and tell which ones should live where. The whole place was given to man to nurture and take care of. Together. Do you think God’s vision for man is integration or co-existence? And why? (Assuming you believe in some form of God? And if you don’t, I would ask why not.)

I’ll post more here as the conversation continues.

I’m interested in hearing more opinions around this. I know it’s a bit of a read but it’s interesting.

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Justice vs Culture: Which is First?

Johannesburg

Johannesburg

It seems obvious that South Africa has significant challenges when it comes to justice in the country, with our justice system often showing itself susceptible to the corruption that seems to rear its ugly head everywhere.

But one thing people are never good at all over the world, South African or not, is seeing the plank in their own eye. While people like to talk about justice for all, equality, compassion and fairness etc., they very often don’t show these same attributes in their personal lives. And often, culture is used as an excuse to overlook an opportunity to practice justice.

This thought of how culture rules over justice in our country in many ways came to me when I was talking to friends about something deeply ingrained in our South African culture. The mere mention of it stirs up emotions amongst many of our people. And it’s a very good example of proving my point. I’m talking about the labolla.

While I realise this topic is highly controversial, there is the reality of saying that the (present) culture of labolla has had negative consequences on the institution of marriage in South Africa, especially within the youth. People can’t afford the unreasonable bride-prices they need to pay and so they just don’t get married. Sure, they live with each other, and have kids, but marriage is just not possible.

I personally know many cases where people have been untreated unfairly because of the (so-called) cultural demands of labolla. Marriage is a good thing that helps to build family in any nation, and ultimately family is the core of a nation, but because many are using the labolla as an occasion to take advantage of others we’re seeing a degradation of the institution of marriage in our country. And so we’re seeing a degradation of family. Effectively, some are playing the ‘culture card’ as an occasion to be unjust to another. Is culture so important that, even if it is unjust, it should still be practiced? Surely there comes a point when culture, regardless of what it is, should take a back seat to the greater issue of justice.

Perhaps it’s true that the labolla is meant to cultivate family ties in unique ways, but it’s also true that it’s often used as a means to control others. I think one of our biggest problems in South Africa is that culture has become such a ‘holy cow’ that it is elevated above the things that should guide it – things such as justice, compassion, mercy, and love. These are just some universal principles that are to guide ANY culture, regardless of the age or background of that culture.

Every culture has points that seem to support these universal principles and other points which miss them completely. Those points that miss the mark ought to be jettisoned. It stands to reason. If not, then pro-apartheid South Africans can simply say that apartheid is a part of their culture. None of us will accept that. So should we accept injustice in other areas of our cultures when they show up?

I’m also using labolla to show how many of us in South Africa don’t live with justice in mind, but are quick to criticise our leaders for not living justly, or leading justly. Corruption needs to be addressed at its core in the mind, as well as practically. What is it that guides others to use labolla as an occasion to take advantage of another? Why is it that South Africa seems to have this problem with money; that it rules us whether we are rich or poor? Everything seems to revolve around money.

The problem isn’t capitalism. Socialists have historically shown their equal obsession with money in the past. Think of Ghana and everything that happened there, for instance.

Things start at home. When we talk about the corruption in our government, we better make sure we’re not corrupt in our business dealings and in our family relationships or any other areas of our lives. We better not use culture as a way to take advantage of others, either. The evidence shows that, as a whole, money not only rules our leadership in an unhealthy way but rules the way the ordinary man on the street lives, regardless of whether they are rich and poor. When the poor take advantage of the poor through something like labolla we have to ask questions about the general worldview of our country, and we have to ask questions about ourselves and how we live our lives.

We should look at our own planks in our eyes before we criticise others. South Africa needs to decide what is more important: Culture or Justice; my needs or Justice. The decision will help us all know how to build our nation’s future.

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Discovery Health and Principles – Way to Go Discovery


(Picture courtesy of the Wall Street Journal)

This post might be seen to be a little overboard with regards to its content, but bear with me if you please.

Last week a friend of mine received an email from Discovery Mail Vitality advertising some soccer products people can buy from them to celebrate the 2010 FIFA World Cup being in South Africa.

SA Flag Side Mirror CoverOne of these products includes these SA flag mirror covers that go over the car side-view mirrors. Most of us here in SA have seen these being sold by street sellers or some of the local shops.

Here’s my rant: why the heck are Discovery Health, a health insurance company, depriving street-sellers, who have at last found something that is selling like crazy (and have an opportunity to actually make some decent money for a change) of their customers by selling the same products?

Discovery’s principle in doing this baffles me.

It’s not like they are providing me a value-add by selling me soccer stuff. What the heck does an SA flag mirror cover have to do with health insurance? NOTHING. Why’s Discovery selling them? TO MAKE MONEY, not because they probably give a hoot about the soccer or the country. What are they effectively doing? Depriving the street seller of some market share. They are effectively depriving poor people of a market opportunity.

I believe in free market, but also in integrity. I think that even something like this puts a company’s integrity under question. If they wanted to celebrate soccer fever then they could have run a competition or sent out free fan-packs to certain clients or given out tickets to poor people or something. But no, rather they sought to oust the man in the street by taking a big market share from them and selling the exact same product at a more expensive price. Way to go Discovery. Nice way to love our country.

/Rant

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South Africa: Being Optimistic, Negative or Realistic?

Over at Sipho Hlongwane’s blog he makes quite a positive statement about South Africa succeeding.

Responses to his post are, well, negative largely. I commented on this and said:

Wow, the amount of negative comments was unexpected.

We need strong leaders. Where are they? Are they the people who are commenting here negatively? Somehow, I think they aren’t. I’ve never seen a conspiracy theorist become a wonderful leader. All I see conspiracy theorists do is complain, they never make a difference. For them, it’s all fated to go down the toilet anyway.

Nice article Sipho. Keep them coming.

Guy, another reader, responded to me by saying:

@ryan peter: the comments aren’t necessarily negative. they’re realistic. the writer is just offering hope, which in itself is nice and fuzzy, but in the context of south africa today and in light of the argument here presented, it is a commodity fast depleting. those that hold onto it in the face of all that is going on are either saints or stupid. and i’m not one to believe in saints.

i agree. let’s get up and do something for the good. but what? how? where? with whom? will it have any effect? will anyone join me? will anyone oppose me? will anyone threaten me to be quiet? these are not small questions to answer, ryan. and it is absolutely of no use to tell us to be optimistic and offer no reasons why or how.

Here was my reponse thus far:

@guy

Some are negative, some are realistic, but you ask where or how you can do something for the good?

There are PLENTY of organisations doing good things into this country. Heck, even your local church is probably doing SOMETHING for the community.

Every little bit counts. Changing the mindset of people involves not only writing articles such as this or being involved politically, but getting to people at a grass-roots level, so that the grass-roots level of society would stop voting for useless leaders and would never support a tyrant etc. etc.

There’s a lot going on at grass-roots and one needs to just actually change the mind-set at this level. I’m not one for blindless optimism, but I am one for saying, “look, telling people to get out of the country is no solution. Telling people to get involved with this or that organisation or their church — there’s a solution!”

I’m just tired of people sitting in their leather couches watching sport on TV and drinking their beer complaining about the country. Why not spend those hours they watch TV getting involved DOING something.

Let’s be doers, not complainers. We’ve all got skills, are we just using them to make money or are we also using them for others? Many of the negative people just want to make money and fill their own pockets, but nothing more. So they’ll complain and complain and complain…

Why am I posting this here?

Because I’m passionate about this point. There are plenty of ways people can get involved to do something. Every little bit counts.

In Matthew 13 Jesus talks about how the Kingdom is a mustard seed, something tiny, and then grows to become a huge tree that even the birds can come find rest in. Every small thing counts. Every little thing.

But I’m sorry, sitting on your couch complaining that someone must do something may be all fair and well, provided you do something yourself, otherwise it’s meaningless babble in my opinion.

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The South African Press vs the ANC Youth League? #SpeakZA !

The freedom and independence of the press is a powerful and needed thing in any country.

Background to this post

I’m digressing a little from my usual ramblings and rantings on my faith and spirituality to talk about the freedom of speech, or more specifically the freedom of the press. (Not that this isn’t a spiritual topic either, but that could be for another post.)

This is in conjunction with bloggers and journalists all over South Africa who are protesting and talking about tactics employed by the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) against the media.

Here’s the background from blogger Sipho Hlongwane:

Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of ANC Youth League Spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political journalists with the secretary-general of the ANC, against Shivambu. This complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain journalists, purporting to expose the money-laundering practices of Dumisane Lubisi, a journalist at City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.

Nyiko Floyd Shivambu, pic from http://clivesimpkins.blogs.com/
(Nyiko Floyd Shivambu, picture from CliveSimpkins’ blog)

In response, Hlongwane launched a blog protest called #SpeakZA which has also developed into a conversation at Twitter.

The conversation at Twitter is fascinating and I could probably hang out there all day and watch the different opinions come in.

So here’s what I think

Julius Malema, pic courtesy of ANCYouthleague.org

Firstly, I don’t think this is an issue so much with the ANCYL wanting to expose a journalist as much as the reason why it is wanting to do that. I mean, is it really that concerned about how a journalist is living and how they’re paying their taxes? Two wrongs don’t make a right. If Julius Malema (pictured to the right, courtesy of ANCYouthleague.org), its president, has been getting business in shady ways that isn’t proved to be OK because (or ‘if’, rather) the journalist who helped uncover that is avoiding paying his taxes.

Besides, if you want to be in a leadership position you ought to realise that part of the job is to be scrutinised by the media. Get over it. It comes with the territory.

What the ANCYL is basically saying is, “Keep quiet about us or we will talk about you as well.” Last time I checked, that’s a type of blackmail. Sure, no money is being exchanged (we would hope) but this is still a sort of blackmail.

The ANCYL is trying to teach the media a lesson, and from this perspective it looks like it’s trying to show the media who’s boss rather than truly have the interests of the country at heart. It surely doesn’t have my interests at heart, and the thousands of others talking at the #SpeakZA Twitter feed and the various blogs associated with it.

From an entirely different perspective, though, I feel a great deal of the South African media is too sensationalist. We need more hard core investigative journalism. This whole saga may produce a positive effect on the media where it realises that it needs to publish facts not just speculation, and it needs to expose rather than sensationalise. It also needs to praise, something we seldom see. After all, bad news sells better, doesn’t it?

Now here is another perspective I’ve picked up at #SpeakZA, one which interests me a great deal. Lisolam Melody talks about how she feels that the South African media pushes a white/western agenda, and says things like “The SA press’s representation of Africans is clearly rooted in the ‘Dark Continent’ metaphor and it unabashedly profits from racist stereotypes.”

Interesting perspective. I would encourage anyone to visit that post and read it. I’m not sure if I agree wholeheartedly, but I’ve also become aware of my own Western paradigms in the last few years and how Western I actually am (and how Western doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘right’).

Something of my awakening to my own paradigms I wrote in an article published by The Times in October last year, where I argue (and still do) that many of the Western mindsets exist in ways we don’t see in the very people who argue for African ways rather than Western ways.

For instance, I would argue that Julius Malema’s recent exorbitantly priced birthday party is a thoroughly anti-African and pro-Western way of doing things. The African Way is, traditionally, more community focused. Is Malema more community focused? Or is he out to build himself a career, and pandering to his current audience to get him there?

Corruption isn’t an African tradition. Of course, corruption will exist anywhere where people are in some sort of power. It’s a thoroughly human problem, not a government issue. But individualism is a Western idea, and as far as I’m concerned many of our African leaders promote individualism through their lifestyle and through an attitude that says, “I’m here to get what I can get.”

Blogroll

Here’s the blogroll so far. I’ll try and keep it up to date!

http://thoughtleader.co.za/siphohlongwane

http://rwrant.co.za

http://vocfm.co.za/blogs/shafiqmorton/

http://blogs.news24.com/needpoint

http://capetowngirl.co.za

http://thoughtleader.co.za/sentletsediakanyo

http://thoughtleader.co.za/davidjsmith

http://letterdash.com/one-eye-only

http://boyuninterrupted.blogspot.com

http://amandasevasti.com

http://blog.empyrean.co.za/

http://letterdash.com/brencro

http://6000.co.za

http://chrisroper.co.za

http://pieftw.com

http://hamishpillay.wordpress.com

http://memoirs4kimya.blogspot.com

http://thoughtleader.co.za/azadessa

http://watkykjy.co.za

http://fredhatman.co.za

http://thelifeanddeathchronicles.blogspot.com/

http://blogs.timeslive.co.za/common-dialogue/

http://www.clivesimpkins.blogs.com/

http://mashadutoit.wordpress.com

http://nicharalambous.com

http://sarocks.co.za

http://blogs.timeslive.co.za/stompies/

http://helenmoffett.book.co.za/blog/

http://01universe.blogspot.com

http://groundwork.worpress.com

http://iwrotethisforyou.me

http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za

http://attentiontodetail.wordpress.com

http://blogs.women24.com/editor

http://www.missmillib.blogspot.com

http://snowgoose.co.za

http://dreamfoundry.co.za

http://www.vanoodle.blogspot.com

http://www.exmi.co.za/.co.za

http://cat-dubai.blogspot.com

http://alistairfairweather.com

http://www.zanedickens.com

http://www.nickhuntdavis.com

http://guysa.blogspot.com

http://book.co.za

http://baldy.co.za

http://blogs.african-writing.com/zukiswa

http://www.mielie.wordpress.com

http://blogs.timeslive.co.za/gatherer/

http://thoughtleader.co.za/sarahbritten

http://stii.co.za

http://blogs.news24.com/FSB_AP

http://twistedkoeksuster.blogspot.com

http://whensmokegetsinyoureyes.blogspot.com/

http://trinklebean.wordpress.com

http://commentry.wordpress.com/

http://matthewbuckland.com

http://blogs.news24.com/colour-me-fran

http://gormendizer.co.za

http://khadijapatel.co.za

>http://ravingfans.co.za

http://helenmoffett.book.co.za/blog/

http://angelo2711.posterous.com/