Friday, March 23, 2007

Crime, South Africa and being Christian

How do Christians deal with crime? Today, three perspectives came to the fore as three different Christians gave expression of their faith in different ways.

As I walked into my office this morning, I collected my post as usual. Among the many letters, I received correspondence from a prominent pentecostal church in our province, calling churches to a national day of prayer against crime. The leaflet contained the following heading: "We declare war on crime!". It is easy to be sympathetic to the sentiments conveyed, especially when a third family member was shot during a robbery in less than a year. But think about the words. Using the framework of a violent act to bring an end to violence and acts that cause distress in our society? WWJD?

The second and third perspectives were on the frontpage of today's edition of the Beeld-newspaper (a national Afrikaans newspaper). The first story on the tells of a man who lives in a suburb next to ours. He chased and caught one of the robbers that broke into his home and who stabbed the domestic worker. On catching the thief he asked him: "Do you know Jesus?". He then prayed for him, forgave him, gave him a hug and asked him to help the injured lady, all while telling him about Jesus' love. An awe-inspiring story!

Two columns below, the story is told a minister who was almost robbed of his bike, fought back, clobbering the robber over the head with his bike. The robber came off second best, the minister landed in hospital, and expressed that he feels that he cannot preach a message of reconciliation any longer.

I am moved by all three these approaches. Each of them resonates with some part of me. First, I want to be proactive in contributing towards the healing of our society. A part of me also wants to clobber any would-be thief over the head, hopefully knocking some sense into what seems to be obvious senselessness. But the story of the lay-person praying for the robber is probably the closest we will come to a Jesus-approach: turning the cards so that the "enemy" becomes an instrument of healing.

I'll have to chew on these approaches some more before I can make sense of them in my own life.

Hans Kung and the church.

When I did my Bachelors degree in Theology, we had to study Hans Kung's monumental work "The Church". Looking at the book, it seems very intimidating, but it is one of those books that I enjoyed thoroughly and will not part with.

I read through some sections again this morning and was reminded of the distinction he draws between the church and the Kingdom of God. He speaks so strongly about this difference that I am sure that he would have been excommunicated for this alone. If you don't know Kung's history, go check it out.

He says that there are two temptations in the Christian faith. The first is to equate the church to the Kingdom of God. If this path is chosen, it will lead to disillusionment, anger and resentment, for the church is not complete and should rather be seen as a mode of spiritual travel than a divine institution.

The second is to dissociate the church from the Kingdom of God completely. This path leads to relativism and a total disregard for mystery and revelation. The church is tied to the Kingdom by being a herald.

I keep this in mind as I listen to those whom the church has put in positions of leadership, who sometimes express themselves in ways that make people believe that they are the sole voice of God.

ps. Dion, I'll post a photo of Bertie soon!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Safe and sound

We landed at 2:15am. Compliments to the pilots and staff of Mango airlines. Better safe than sorry!
Furthermore I want to thank the passangers. Of course there were those who grumbled and made scenes, but they were in the minority and chose not to take the second flight. Among those who remained, a bond was created which made me exceptionally proud to be South African. We all had smiles on our faces as we boarded, sharing sharp wit to lighten the moment. Matthew was getting hungry and an Indian man gave him a chocolate. I was loaded with hand-luggage and a stranger offered to push ouma in her wheelchair.
Re a leboga

Close to death

We were supposed to fly from Johannesburg to Durban. At 21:00 we took off and when we got to Durban an hour later, we got caught in a severe thunder storm. It rained so hard that the pilot couldn't see the runway. We made two approaches while the plan was being thrown all over the place, lighting striking close to the plane at short intervals. We had to turn back to Johannesburg. We are now waiting for a flight at 1am Friday morning.
In case we don't make it, let it be known that I changed into clean undies before our second flight. Hope this one goes better.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Meet Bertie

Here he is, my own little Vespa. He was born in 1984, his dad was well endowed and passed on the p150x gene.

Oh, I'm so happy, I could sommer gorrel Sunlight soap!

Bertie is named after my grandfather Hubertus van Goeverden (my Dutch oupa) who passed him down to me. I am very fortunate, because Oupa Goewies wanted to get rid of him. I came along, eyed the bike, and the next minute he was all mine!

Please take note, that Bertie is a he. I've got enough trouble as it is.

Nevertheless, Bertie doesn't want to start. This convinces me that there is a measure of gender-confusion in Bertie's psyche. Please note that I deliberately use the term "gender-confused" as this is, unlike homosexuality, a psychological abnormality (according to my textbook on Psychopathology - Sue, Sue and Sue).
I am in two minds about how to treat this problem. I can either send Bertie for professional help. This may cost a bit, but he will be sorted out in no time. Or, I can understake to practice my skills and take Bertie on as a medium- to longterm project. The costs may be less, but you never know - I might just mess him up some more, ending up sending him to a pro afterall!
Pray for me as I make this vital decision.
And Dion, thanks for drawing my attention to the beauty of Vespa's. Otherwise I would have never eyed it in my Oupa's garage.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Lent and crime. Some abbreviated thoughts.

Little Sheldean Human's body was found last week. Pretoria's walls are filled with messages of love and support. Some offer prayers, while others call for the murderer's execution. It is a traumatic event in the life of this community, this nation.

Something has gone terribly wrong with our society. Everyone seems to live lives of caution, suspicion, anxiety and fear. Communities are fighting back, and this is a positive sign, but where has it all gone wrong?

Perhaps we can learn something from Isaiah. This week the lectionary takes us on a journey through chapter 55:1-9. These have offered food for thought, emphasised the themes in Lent for the salvation of the nation.

Think about the following:

1. "Why do you pay more attention to that which is destructive than to what God gives freely? " (v. 1-2).
Is South Africa not falling into the trap of depending on its own successes, legacy or icons? The walls are getting higher, we don't know our neighbours, churches are feeling the pinch as members prefer to go shopping than worshipping in community. Perhaps Lent can teach us as a nation that we depend far more on God's grace than what we think.

2. "My ways are not your ways" (v.8).
The Lordship of Christ is so easily negotiated. The trap of relativism places us in a position where "you can believe in what keeps you happy, while I'll believe in what makes me happy". Who is created in who's image here?

3. "Call on the Lord while he is near" (v.6)
I don't think that God is offering here a window-opportunity. I understand it to say to the nation of Judah that the longer they dabble in self-generated, self-gratifying actions and not acknowledge the role of their relationship to God and community, the more difficult it will become to return to being God's people. Perhaps we need to hear this during Lent and find ourselves rather in the humble worship of God than the worship of ourselves.

I anticipate that the pragmatists and rationalists will find this concept hard to swallow. The journey of Lent is not about finding solutions, but journeying on a restorative path as we come face-to-face with God and discover our own brokenness.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Conquerers of what?

See this story on congregation members robbed of their money by a scam in the church. Ironically the denomination(?) concerned is "Conquerers through Christ ministries".

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The transfiguration mystery

A young lady in my Bible study asked why it is that Moses seemed to have appeared in bodily form alongside Jesus and Elijah. Moses is recorded to have died and therefore couldn't appear in flesh. (Elijah is recoded as having been taken up into heaven without dying).

I had to scratch my head a bit about this one, but then found this interesting explanation. According to Jewish mythology (also referred to in Jude 1:9), the archangel Michael and the devil fought over Moses' body after his passing. According to myth, God then stopped the feud by resurrecting Moses and taking him to heaven.

Thanks Julia for asking the question.

Interesting, isn't it?