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KLICE Bulletin 2018

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KLICE Bulletin 2018/4

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Durban Beach, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Photo by Peter Koch. 

KLICE Bulletin 2018/4

Epiphanies
The distinguished South African poet Chris Mann and his wife, artist Julia Skeen, will be with us at KLICE on Monday 24 September from 7pm-9pm at Tyndale House for EPIPHANIES: A DEVOTIONAL SEMINAR, related to Chris’s latest book of poetry, Epiphanies. All are welcome. 
After fifteen years of rural development and poverty alleviation work, Chris Mann moved with his family to Grahamstown. He is Professor Emeritus of Poetry at Rhodes University, convenor of Wordfest South Africa and an Honorary Artist-in-Residence at the cathedral. A playwright, singer-songwriter and Zulu-speaker, his work is influenced by the African belief in the influence of the shades. Awards include the Oliver Schreiner prize for South African poetry and the Newdigate prize for poetry while a Rhodes scholar at Oxford.

Event is free but places are limited.  Please register online for "Epiphanies" at www.eventbrite.co.uk.  

Supporting KLICE

We are excited about the emerging vision for KLICE in the coming years and we value your prayers, engagement, and financial support. A need of ours at present is to increase the number of small donors. If you would like to make a monthly donation to the work of KLICE, however small, do please contact Genevieve Wedgbury, our development officer at klice.development@tyndalehouse.com.  

Gratitude and Difficult Hope

Ethics answers the question “How then should we live?” For Christians “then” is important since in the New Testament this question always follows on from the good news of what God has done for us in Christ. Any true grasp of God’s extraordinary grace will lead to a desire to live a life of the obedience of faith. Ethics leads us into hard thinking about complex and difficult issues, but it also calls us to live for God amidst the challenges of such issues. It is never enough to know what is right; we must also embody right-eousness in our lives. 

In this edition of Sibylline Leaves Pastor Bill DeJong reflects on the virtue of gratitude, the topic of his doctoral thesis. Bill is the pastor of Blessings Church, a dynamic, growing church in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Blessings also partners with us in the Tyndale House Scripture Collective, for which we are very grateful. 

Bill notes that gratitude is not always easy, and Craig, having recently spent time back in his homeland of South Africa, reflects on the “difficult hope” amidst the challenges for South Africans of emerging from the corrupt years of Jacob Zuma’s presidency.

Gratitude for Strange Gifts

Bill DeJong

One of the unsettling injunctions in Scripture is to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess.5:18; cf. Eph.5:20). Though a comprehensive summons only the most naïve Bible interpreters would conclude that it enjoins gratitude for, say, evil or sin or Satan. On the other hand, is it ever possible to be grateful for something tragic or painful?

Christians learn from the psalms of lament (e.g., Pss 13, 14) that to express one’s frustration, perplexity, and pain to God is not faithlessness. These Psalms, however, do more than simply voice pain in faith; they shape it and steer it in fruitful ways. In some cases one can discover how visceral lament over tragedy, voiced in authentic piety, gives way to deep gratitude expressed with no less piety. What is rightly resisted as an enemy can become, at a later time and in a different situation, something rightly welcomed as a friend. This is often the case with a loved one’s death following a lengthy and debilitating illness. We’re reminded of God’s promise to “make the valley of Achor a door of hope” (Hos.2:14).  

It seems then that at least some pain, when formed by lament, can transmute into gratitude. This was case for the theologian Miroslav Volf whose struggle with infertility prompted him and his wife to adopt two boys. Years later, as he was enjoying his two adopted sons, he found himself in a position he once thought unimaginable—namely, being thankful for the infertility that plagued him and his wife for years.  “Since it gave me what I now can’t imagine living without,” Volf writes in Free of Charge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005) “poison was transmuted into a gift, God’s strange gift” (p.32). Gratitude, in certain contexts, is elicited by strange gifts, even those we once regarded as upsetting and unwelcome.

Difficult Hope in South Africa Today

Craig G. Bartholomew
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

One of the greatest novels to emerge from South Africa is Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country. It is a searing work written amidst the horrors of apartheid. It ends as follows: “For it is the dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why that is a secret.” In one sense our emancipation did come in 1994 when Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president of the new South Africa. Apartheid was terribly unjust and unsustainable, and the new South Africa has gone a long way towards restoring the dignity of millions of South Africans. 

Alas, rampant corruption set in early in the new South Africa and became embodied in the presidency of Jacob Zuma (2009-2018). In his important new book, The President’s Keepers: Those Keeping Zuma In Power and Out of Prison, the respected journalist Jacques Pauw writes,  “In his first five years, Zuma had ripped like a tornado through the state’s institutions and wreaked havoc across the land. But the worst was still to come. In his second term, which has two years left as I write this, the windstorm has been upgraded to tsunami status and Zuma is ravaging the Republic.”

Eventually Zuma was forced to resign but only after having done immense and extensive damage to the country.

The list is so long and so shocking that I cannot elaborate here on the unbelievable ways in which corruption spread like a highly toxic disease through all areas of government and life in South Africa.  Zuma's rule is estimated to have cost the South African Economy R1 Trillion (approximately US$83 Billion).[1] Fortunately, we remain blessed by good investigative journalists in South Africa and books like Pauw’s and others like Adriaan Basson and Pieter Du Toit’s Enemy of the People: How Jacob Zuma Stole South Africa and How the People Fought Back are readily available. The subtitle of Basson and Du Toit’s book also provides a glimmer of hope: the parliamentary opposition, individuals and civil groups fought back against the tsunami of corruption, often at great personal cost.

However, the wound is deep and extensive, and it is not clear how South Africa will recover. The New York times recently published an expose of the new deputy president of South Africa, David Mabusa, which is important reading. The authors, Norimitsu Onishi and Selam Gebrekidan, write that Under the A.N.C., Mr. Mandela’s once heralded liberation movement, tens of billions of dollars meant to lift poor black South Africans have been stolen by party leaders. Strong institutions like the tax agency have been hollowed out by party officials bent on shielding their illicit activities.” Meanwhile unemployment is far too high, the poor suffer, crime is rampant, public education is a mess, the challenges enormous. This is a dangerous context which lends itself to scapegoating and to the rise of radical popularists who promise the earth but deliver something even worse.

What should we learn from this? Firstly, it reminds us that politics, economics, justice, and good governance really matter. When they go badly wrong, as they did under Zuma, real people – and especially the poor - suffer. The sacred/secular dualism of far too much Evangelicalism adds to the problem by relegating such areas to second tier or inconsequential status.

Secondly, if Jesus is right that his disciples are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, a natural question to ask is “Where has the church been in all of this?” Unlike the UK, South Africa remains a deeply religious country with most South Africans calling themselves Christians. Christians have played an important role in resisting corruption, but, as in the old South Africa, Evangelicals are not known for their social and political engagement. Clearly, this needs to change.

Thirdly, you may wonder if all this stuff about South Africa is relevant to readers in the UK and elsewhere. It is. We now live in a globalized world so that corruption in a country like South Africa is inevitably connected to firms in the UK and elsewhere. For example, the UK PR firm Bell Pottinger became an active part of poisonous misinformation at the heart of the corruption in South Africa (Basson and Du Toit, chapter 20) during the Zuma years. Through public pressure in the UK as a direct result, Bell Pottinger eventually went into business rescue. If we are genuinely concerned to hunger and thirst for righteousness – which is individual as well as social – then we need to know about countries like South Africa, about how our own governments and businesses are relating to them, and use our influence to push for constructive and critical engagement. In a globalized world international pressure matters, and we have more power than we often realize.

Fourthly, Evangelicals need to recover a doctrine of vocation, which includes the calling to politics and economics, etc., as genuine avenues for full-time service of the LORD Christ. And we need to be proactive in forming future generations of such leaders.

There remains so much that is good in South Africa. Some within government have done and are doing excellent work in laying foundations for a positive future. Daily, one experiences astonishing good will and community among fellow South Africans. However, the rampant corruption means that South Africans still await that emancipation of which Paton spoke so very eloquently.

[1] Lisa Steyn, “Budget 2018 is Zuma’s Costly Legacy,” Mail and Guardian 23 February 2018.

Recent books relating to South Africa:

Adriaan Basson and Pieter Du Toit, Enemy of the People: How Jacob Zuma Stole South Africa and How the people Fought Back (Johannesburg and Cape Town: Jonathan Ball, 2017).
William Beinart, Peter Delius and Michelle Hay, Rights to Land: A Guide to Tenure Upgrading and Restitution in South Africa (Auckland Park: Fanela, 2017). [formal allocation and redistribution of land is one of the hot button issues in South Africa at present]

Martine Gosselink, Maria Holtrop and Robert Ross, eds., Good Hope: South Africa and the Netherlands from 1600 (Amsterdam: Rijks Museum / Vantilt, 2017). [Published to accompany an exhibition this book deals with a topic related to current concerns with decolonization in South Africa]

Ronnie Kasrils, A Simple Man: Kasrils and the Zuma Enigma (Auckland Park: Jacana, 2017).
Jacques Pauw, The President’s Keepers: Those Keeping Zuma in Power and Out of Prison (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 2017).
Johann van Loggenberg, Rogue: The Inside Story of SARS’s Elite Crime-Busting Unit (Johannesburg and Cape Town: Jonathan Ball, 2016). [SARS = South African Revenue Service; this book tells of the coopting of part of the media to destroy the crime-busting unit in SARS]
------------------ Death and Taxes: How SARS Made Hitmen, Drug Dealers and Tax Dodgers Pay Their Dues (Johannesburg and Cape Town: Jonathan Ball, 2018).
Jeremy Seekings and Nicoli Nattrass, Poverty, Politics and Policy in South Africa: Why Has Poverty Persisted After Apartheid (Auckland Park: Jacana, 2016). [a critical question in South Africa is that of economic development which benefits all South Africans and especially the poor]

Where a writer is named, views and opinions expressed in this bulletin are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics or Tyndale House. 

 
 
 

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