The difference between the emergent conversation in the US and the South African conversation falls along the huge fault-line of apartheid. I find myself in an environment where the church has to grapple with its complicity in institutionalizing the dehumanizing of millions. If we continue the conversation using the US/Europe as our model, then we will simply drift into irrelevance. The deconstruction lying ahead of the South African church has to engage all of its entanglements with an apartheid philosophy and theology.
As I struggle with this post apartheid South Africa I’m trying to engage with different and diverse people – in real life and in historical record. The latest books I’ve read were Biko’s “I write what I like” and Xolela Mangcu’s “To the brink: The state of democracy in South Africa.”
Today I want to focus a bit on Biko’s book. First of all I want to say that I think this book should be required reading for every person who benefitted from apartheid, especially people like me who were born in the seventies and eighties. We are the generation that can too easily absolve ourselves from the atrocities of apartheid while we bathe in the benefits of it.
Biko’s book deserves a full treatment and maybe I’ll post some more on it. At the end of the book Biko’s “basic ideas about God, the Church and Christ” are printed. I’m not going to quote it in full but wanted to highlight some of his thoughts. These ideas were written by this remarkable man in 1974.
In these thoughts I find strong evidence that Biko might have been one of the first Emergent thinkers in South Africa. When he writes on God’s nature, he focuses his attention to the church and writes these following words:
“Most of the time one is born into or within a particular religion and denomination and very little individual thinking is done to consider the fundamental relationship between man and God. I was likewise born into the Anglican church. At a certain stage in my life I considered strongly the question of why I was not Catholic, or a Methodist, etc. Besides rationalizing the established fact of my being an Anglican I found very little reason for my being Anglican other than the fact that my parents worshipped in that context. I have since become extremely critical of denominationalism. Beyond this I’ve also grown to question in fact that very need for worship in an organised way. In other words do organised churches necessarily have a divine origin or should one view them as man created institutions probably in the same category as soccer clubs?
The existence of a multiplicity of denominations convinces me of the uselessness of organised worship in investigating man’s duty to God. Churches have tended to complicate religion and theology and to make it a matter to be understood only by specialists. Churches have tended to drive away the common man by immersing themselves in bureaucracy and institutionalisation. Where does the truth lie …? In my view the truth lies in my ability to incorporate my vertical relationship with God into the horizontal relationships with my fellow men; in my ability to pursue my ultimate purpose on earth which is to do good. P.237-238 “I write what I Like”
Here I see themes of:
– addressing the clergy/laity divide
– how the structures kill the purpose
– and how orthodoxy should flow into orthopraxy