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So I am forced into a holiday for a couple of days. Public servants are striking and that means that if I go to work I could be beaten up, even though I work at a private school that has nothing to do with the strike. There are threats of violence. There are tense confrontations. There are postponed cricket matches… and other more serious problems related to the education system.

Meanwhile, for the last two days, the local hospital has been virtually deserted. In spite of promises that the strike would not cause effects that constitute a direct threat to life, my mother in law and wife were on their own for most of the day trying to help a young pregnant woman through a difficult birth. I thank God that a local doctor was able to get into the hospital to perform an emergency c-section. If not, this strike may have cost the woman and her baby their young lives. From what I’ve heard, they would have formed a small part of a big statistic.

Casualties of war.

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government (except for all the others!)

We all respect the democratic rights of the workers to demostrate and strike when they feel they are being abused by their employees. This is democracy, and like any form of government, it isn’t perfect. People are dieing.

I believe in a Kingdom. Not one made up of harp-playing, cloud-squatting, “nice people”. I believe in a Kingdom which compels people to show their faith in practical ways in serving their communities. The love of Christ compels us.

I criticise the church a lot in this blog, and with good reason. We get it wrong so often. But today, in my little town, if it had not been for the church of Jesus Christ, many people would have gone hungry, or gotten infection, or died without much-needed medication, or (at very least) felt unloved and unwanted and abandoned by a society in which ubuntu seems to be a moral ethic that gets switched on and off at will.

As I walked into the maternity ward this morning, I came across a teenage boy who couldn’t figure out what the large silver thing on wheels was in front of him (it was a food trolley) and whether he should clean it or not. He had spent the last two days helping out at the hospital. He did so even though he didn’t know anybody there, he had no expertise (obviously), received no reward, and was in very real danger of violence erupting if the strikers arrived unexpectedly. Why did he and many others like him do it?

The love of Christ compels them.

Lord Jesus, help us to be more like this and less like the idiots we so often are.

It’s Good Friday, and I have been thinking about heroes.

We pick strange heroes.

How many films about the 2nd World War have you seen? I’ve seen a bunch. I loved Saving Private Ryan with Tom Hanks and that other sniper-guy who quotes from the imprecatory psalms while he’s lining up a target. Almost universally, the ‘heroes’ are British or American privates, and yet all the stats show that it was the Soviets who contributed the dead. More than half of all the Allied dead and more than twice all the Axis deaths. But they are not our heroes… because they were Soviets.

Ulysses S. Grant, celebrated general of the industrial north in their war against the pro-slavery south and later American president, once said that “within two hundred years, when America [sic] has gotten out of protectionism all that it can offer, we too will adopt free trade”. That should be the year 2075. We’ll have to wait and see whether or not the US will follow this schedule, but either way, it must be acknowledged that my hero, Mr Grant was not so much anti-slavery as he was pro-outsourcing.

I live in a little town called Piet Retief, in the Gert Sibande District of Mpumalanga. Up until yesterday I had no idea who Gert Sibande was. I think that very few white people my age do. He was known as the ‘Lion of the East’ and was instrumental in mobilizing awareness and action against the exploitation of farm workers (working essentially as slaves) living around Bethal in the 1950s. He was tried for treason in 1956 and testified passionately on behalf of the workers. Eventually he had to flee to Swaziland. I live in a district named in his honour and I didn’t even know who he was.

But I knew about President Grant – the outsourcing emancipator. We pick strange heroes.

Do you remember the Ghostbusters? I mean the song?

“When there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”

Lord, please forgive me my pessimism when I say that there’s definitely something strange in my neighbourhood… A few things actually…

I just spent the last two hours reading political journalist’s bloggs. Plenty strutting, wishful-thinking, mud-slinging, and moral-highgrounding. Makes me want to “cry the beloved country”*

Here come two confessions that require some vulnerability (please be gentle):

1) I have never voted. Yes… I know. I was not in the country for the previous general elections, but even if I was, I fear my dissillusionment with SA politics and an over-riding feeling of powerlessness, combined with a good dose of hereditary ethnic guilt would have kept me from the poles anyway.

2) Having had the afore-mentioned preventative factors neutralized by a souffle diet of government corruption, ineffective AIDS policy, and the alarmingly cavallier attitude of the ANC towards the irrisponsible comments of its Youth League president and the crisis in Zim, I plan to vote in the general elections next year.

But for whom?

All the options present ideological or pragmatic difficulties:

If I vote for the ANC, I feel that I would be propogating the “something wrong” in my neighbourhood.

If I vote DA, I would be voting for a party that the vast majority of South Africans (unfairly or not) view as a “white party” that doesn’t represent them. I’m worrying that my vote might do nothing but slightly strengthen a political party which discribes itself as an opposition party. The problem is that a slightly more powerful “white” party might only serve to strengthen the fear still evident in the average South African that to vote for anyone but the ANC is to invite oppression back into South Africa.

If I vote for the ACDP, (which seems at first to be an appealing option for a Christian in a country with dissolving moral fibre), am I not encouraging a Church-run state? Absolute power corrupts absolutely. We’re fooling ourselves if we think Christians are above corruption. If a Christian party falls from grace, who will the unsaved run to? Not the Church. Besides, I read on their official website that they support the death penalty. I do not. You may. The ACDP can hardly say that they represent Christian morals and policy when denominations and individuals in the Church are not even agreed as to what that means.

If I vote for COPE, I’m voting for ex-ANC leaders who, had things gone their way, would now be campaigning for the majority party and singing along with Zuma about his metaphorical machiene-gun. How can I believe promises of a non-racial empowerment scheme, a president elected by the people and not the party, or a crack down on corruption, when the promises come from these men? Perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they left the ANC because they dissagreed with policy and not because they were annoyed that they were losing power within the party. Perhaps not.

“Who you gonna call?” I know who I’ll be calling over the next few months. This is a time for prayer. We all need the Lord to help us to decide how to vote.

*(Please forgive me if this seems like a rather irreverent allusion – you have to remember that I was born in 1982 and went to a multi-cultural convent school for my early education. I was never educated in the original tears).

About Me

Ecstatically married to Leane. Studying Theology and Teaching. Working as a worship leader, teacher, coach, guitar teacher. Living in the Mighty City of Mkondo in the sunny province of Mpumalanga, in the blessed country of South Africa.

Favourite Thoughts – Outbox

Religion is to be defended - not by putting to death - but by dying. Not by cruelty, but by patient endurance. - Lactantius (c.304-313).
What is essential Christianity? From first to last it is scandal, the divine scandal. Every time someone risks scandal of high order there is joy in heaven. - Soren Keirkegaard.
Where there are two Christians, there are three opinions... [Actually a Jewish saying, but at least as true for Christians]

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