Saturday, January 29, 2011

Whites only? No, the only whites

I had to smile.

"What, if I may ask, are you doing at a Muslim birthday party?", a
congregation member asked when she bumped into us at Zita park. "It's
not a Muslim birthday party, it is little Nawaal's birthday party.",
I corrected her. Yes, Nawaal is Muslim. Will I try and convert her
and her family. Absolutely not. That is another conversation all
together. Nawaal and Matthew are friends at school. It just so
happened that Matthew was the only white child who came to celebrate
her birthday with her. We were the only white parents. It really did
not bug us. We have been the only whites at many different functions
and celebrations. But I could see the older generation were not too
comfortable with us there. We had a wonderful time, chatting to
friends like Lee-Anne, who told us about growing up in Cape Town.
Just then our conversation was abruptly interrupted by a white
hooligan harassing a black child near the swimming pool. He went off
pop, overreacting to this child accidentally bumping into his
precious child on the waterslide. Lee-Anne came to her rescue and
confronted this bully. On her return she told us: "He betta be
careful, I'm from Mitchell's Plain. I'm a township-girl. I'm not
scared of him." The elderly gentleman sitting near us mockingly
suggested that he'll "sommer go fetch my knife from the car". He
really was joking. Then we laughed at how people get stuck in racial

I am grateful that my children have friends from every different
racial group in South Africa. I must add that there are very few
whites among them. Does it bother me? Not in the least. They must
have friends from different cultures. Embracing diversity helps us
see beyond our own boundaries. By them having friends who are from
other cultures and races, they help is make (more) friends across
racial lines as well. We learn from our children.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I like Stanley Hauerwas

I don't like theologians or philosophers because of what they stand for. I like them for the people who they are and who they have become. Who they have become does not refer to their station or their position in the realms of academia, but refers to the place they have grown towards in their own personhood. To simply like theologians or philosophers for what they stand for, is not to like them at all, but to like their ideas. This is pretty superficial, for ideas change, situations change and you will find yourself inevitably disagreeing with everyone from time-to-time.

During the past few weeks I have been savouring Stanley Hauerwas' memoir: "Hannah's child: A theologian's memoir". I say that I have been savouring it, because it is like a piece of Belgian chocolate, to be enjoyed for as long as possible, leaving the person feeling and hoping that it will never end. And so, by reading this phenomenal book, I have grown in my liking of Stanley Hauerwas, who happens to be a theologian, ethicist, philosopher and Christian. There are some natural things that draw me to Hauerwas. First, he did not come from a family of academics, but from a family of bricklayers. Same here, except that I grew up in a mining town where my destiny was to follow in my paternal ancestor's footsteps to descend into the black hole on a daily basis. There is a ruggedness in his character, vocabulary and thinking that makes me feel at home. Secondly, he is a Barthian. Enough said.

His passion for following Jesus is inspiring. His criticism of Christianity and of religious Christians, are at times quite scathing, but for Hauerwas one thing is clear: "Jesus is Lord, and everything else is bull[expletive]". There is an honesty in his character where no presumptuous piety can find a place to linger. For instance, in his book, he recounts his experiences at Augustana:

"They were in a generalized way Lutheran, which meant in some vague way that they thought they were Christian. At least one of the missions in Augustana was to reinforce that vagueness. Or as I learned to put it - our task was to give the parents the impression that by sending their daughters to Augustana they would not lose the virginity they had already lost in high school. I had not been at Augustana long before I was drawn into a controversy about whether the doors of coeds could be shut during the times Augustana males were allowed to visit in the women's dorms. A reporter for the campus newspaper asked me what the new Christian ethicist's views might be about this crucial issue. Drawing on my experience as a Texan, as well as having just come from Yale, I responded: 'Well, I guess it's a good way to avoid getting grass stains.' I was quoted in the weekly edition of the paper. I later came to understand that such an observation was not well received by the administration."

I must confess, I read the above passage above in church while listening to a sermon. How I didn't burst out laughing out loud is a due solely to divine grace. This honesty breaks the power of pretense - very refreshing in a world where Christians are not supposed to be human.

Thank you, father Stanley! Must just put in one moment of bragging: Prof. Hauerwas owns one of Dion and my books! One day, if I get the chance to ask him whether he liked it, I hope he will not respond as Barth did to Brunner (?) by saying: "It has a nice cover".

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Words to remember

Read the following and guess where it comes from...

Seek perfection of character
Be faithful
Respect others
Refrain from violent behaviour

What do you think? Does this sound like something from the Bible, the Qur'an or other religious text?
Yes and no. All of these are written in sacred texts, but they are actually written on the wall of most karate dojo's. My son is going to his first lesson today. Some may cringe at the idea. Tough. I did karate for most of my childhood and so did my mother and my brother. We did not pray to foreign gods, in fact, my teacher was a devout Christian.

These words have stuck with me and helped me in my growth as a Christian. I hope that they will make an impact on Matthew's life before he learns to make a spinning-heel-kick.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New year, new look

Ok, I know. I haven't blogged since October last year. Blame it on
Facebook and Twitter. It takes a bit more effort to blog, but that is
what discipline is all about... a bit of effort.

So, how do you like the blog's new look? I have also changed my
facial features a bit by growing what is known in South Africa as a
"Bokkie". It is basically a mustache and a bit of a beard on the
chin. For your safety, I prefer not to post a photo quite yet.

In any case, I want to take this opportunity to wish all friends,
family and visitors to this blog a blessed 2011. Seeing that we only
have one year to go, according to the Mayan calendar :-) we better
make the most of this one!

God bless


ps. This post is especially for Anne, who keeps asking for a new post
on this blog, and who incidentally makes a wonderful cup of tea.