04 April 2009

The ANC and Desmond Tutu

Tony Jackman echoes the thoughts of many when he says Thought Leader -- Tony Jackman: Who turned JZ into Mr Min?:
Hearing the ANC attack Desmond Tutu rings with bewildering irony for any of us who lived through the eighties and the so many occasions when the same voice who now criticises this government lambasted the National Party and then premier PW Botha when they were in government.

He attacked them here and abroad. He attacked them when newspapers in this country could not report his words, his words nevertheless being reported abroad so that we could hear his ringing condemnation of apartheid and its atrocities despite the best efforts of the Nats to quieten us and block our ears and minds to the truth.

The ANC now dares to round on this great man of peace, one of the world’s greatest 20th century voices for what is right and against what is wrong.

But it should come as no surprise. Speaking the truth to power is never popular with the powerful, whether the powerful be PW Botha's National Party or Jacob Zuma's ANC.

Recently some people have been blogging about David Bosch and his book Transforming Mission (see here and here). There are a couple of things Bosch (1991:429f) had to say that are worth reading in the light of what we are seeing now

The problem seems to be that Christians tend to sacralize "the sociological forces of history that are dominant at at any particular time, regarding them as inexorable works of providence and even of redemption" (Knapp 1977:151)... Albert Nolan writes in similar vein about the struggle of the South African people against an oppressive system: "The power of the people that is manifested in the struggle is indeed the power of God... What the system is up against now is not 'flesh and blood' but the almighty power of God."

The situation is further compounded when exponents of contextualization claim a special or privileged knowledge about God's will and declare those who do not agree with them as suffering from "false consciousness". Their own clairvoyance, on the other hand, equips them with the ability to know exactly not only what God's will is, but also what will happen in the future. With reference to South Africa, for instance, Nolan (1988:144; cf 184) avers "that we can be quite sure that our future will not be oppressive and alienating". The one thing that south African's need not fear "is the kind of take-over whereby another group of people simply replaces the present rulers and maintainst the same type of system... That possibility is gone forever."

It seems that Albert Nolan (a Dominican priest) had forgotten what a Roman Catholic liberal historian had said a century or more before: All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Or, as the Psalmist says, "Put not your trust in princes, nor in any child of man, for there is no help in them."

Or, as Will D. Campbell and James Y. Holloway said in their book Up top our steeples in politics: What is wrong with us that can be solved by politics is not all that is wrong with us.

Nolan's comment shows why Orthodox theologians have had reservations about Western liberation theologies -- the reverse typology that they apply to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They see this as a type pointing to a greater liberation in our time, rather than the partial liberation from oppression that we see in the world as being an imperfect reflection of the liberation won by the death and resurrection of Christ (for more on this see Orthodoxy and liberation theology).


Cobus said...

In "Mission in Creative Tension" William Nicol did an interesting comparison between Bosch and Nolan. Although opting for Nolan, he later said that maybe Bosch was right (got the references somewhere in my dissertation).

Husbands Anonymous said...

My favourite local church leader once expressed what I have adopted as a great viewpoint: (For me)- We should be reformed in theology, but liberal in application- ie to ensure that our theology is consistent, but that our application always remains both challenging to others, and can keep up with the challenges of the world. And I don't mean world as in a separate entity to the church- but the environment in which we all live. I don't necessarily follow all of Tutu's theological statements, buyt I am thrilled that he is still speaking out against injustice.


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