Last night at our interracial ‘what-does-it-mean-to-follow-Jesus in South Africa?’ group I sat next to Happzam Mkwayi or Happy, as we know him. We were discussing love. Our friend Thabo Gouwe asked us some challenging questions based on 1 John 4:7-21. After some initial conversations Thabo boiled down love to two words. Choice and Actions. We love when we choose to do so and when we act on it. Then Thabo asked us to discuss two questions.

‘How well do we love God through our choices and actions?’

‘How do we love other people through our choices and actions who are different from us in terms of race and socio-economics?’

During our discussion Happy said that when he sees men in the shebeen (tavern) he notes that they drink “from one bottle of beer, no glasses”. He then noted that when he is in Christian settings he sees “a lot of glasses but no sharing from the bottle”. He said that love is shown through the action of sharing.

This can be called the Theology of Zamalek.

Zamalek (or Black Label) is a well-known beer. In South Africa you can buy a big bottle called a quart (750ml). This big bottle is meant to share. A cold quart of Zamalek will become warm if you attempt to drink the bottle alone. (I know there are the exceptionally thirsty among us who can do it alone, another post will be dedicated to them). A quart is enjoyed most if shared, and if the group is intimate they will do the sharing “without glasses”. In Brazil they have a beer called “Original“ and they told me that it is easy to spot the tourists because they buy the big bottle and don’t share and always end up drinking warm beer. When you share a quart the crisp coldness that makes beer one of the best thirst quenchers is experienced.

A theology of Zamalek acknowledges that as followers of Jesus we live into the realities of a visible togetherness. We live into the excitement of a new family where there is a bottle and ‘no glasses’. We move towards a love that is not just something we sing songs about but is demonstrated in the actual practicalities of our lives, ‘in our eating and drinking’ to quote the apostle Paul. It is an acknowledgment that the hyper individualism of our South African lives is a lie and that the rhythms of the kingdom teaches us again that there is something like Ubuntu, “motho ke motho ka batho” – a person is a person because of [other] persons. A theology of Zamalek confesses the stupidity of drinking a quart on your own. It acknowledges that the warm beer of materialism and unbridled consumption is unable to quench our thirst. A theology of Zamalek realizes that the stupidity of the tourist has to be exchanged for the knowledge of the local.

A theology of Zamalek suggest the radical nature of the Eucharist, but that is for another post. I wonder what you would add as a Theology of Zamalek.