welcome to the warehouse!
The Warehouse was established in 2003 through the parish of St John's, and exists to serve the South African church network in its response to poverty, injustice and division. We work with local churches in all communities, helping them to implement sound, effective and practical acts and renewed attitudes, to see transformation in our communities.
I write this letter largely to the Christian community, since it is from within the Church that my own worldview was first formed. Yet much of what I have said here is relevant within all faiths, though not equally true.
THE SOUTH AFRICAN CHURCH IS BLIND IN BOTH EYES
The notion of “blindness” was used in ancient times by theologians and teachers to describe a spiritual condition which plagues people of faith when they lose their capacity for accurate perception and stumble along in darkness. In scripture those possessed by this evil are treated either by washing the clay from their eyes, recovering their sight by seeing the light itself or being admonished to remedy their spiritual ineptitude as a patient who administers a balm. In the end, the ability to see things as they truly are, in the light of day, is the cure.
The South African church suffers from two forms of blindness that threatens our peace and worse, our freedom.
According to Pew research, the vast majority of South Africans, somewhat 85% of the population, believe in God and most of them practice their faith regularly. Place alongside this fact the reality that, were it not for social grants received from government monthly, 17 million citizens, that’s 31% of the nation, would be living in abject poverty. Faith is widespread in South Africa, alongside extreme social exclusion - these are incompatible and we have to face this ethical crisis as a moral issue now. But the Church, the majority, is walking blind in both eyes.
To provide context; the media reported in 2015 that ten of the most expensive private homes in South Africa were priced at between R70 million and R200 million each. ABSA estimated in 2015 that the average nominal value in the “middle-segment” of homes is between R830 000 and R1,8 million depending on the size of the home. So, while one-in-three South Africans would starve were it not for government support and often do go hungry, some are earning between R27 000 and R6 000 000 per month! - the disposable income required to finance homes in the range mentioned. It is therefore unsurprising that South Africa’s average wage sits at around R17 500 per month, cold comfort when 25% of job seekers are unemployed.
The point is, South Africa is a country deeply scarred by fundamentally unjust and unsustainable socio-economic arrangements. This is not a matter of governance and economics alone; it is a matter of conscience. If you are a person of faith and your income falls in the broad range mentioned above, this letter is addressed to you.
YOUR FAITH HAS BEARING ON THE WELLBEING OF THE NATION
If your pastor or priest is teaching you about prayer and devotion, good, these are the lifeblood of faith. However, if you have not heard a sermon about the state of our nation, you may have been undernourished without knowing better. Importantly though, this is not about church leaders, this is about church members. We sing in our Churches about love and truth and righteousness and peace, often without realising that the measure of these is not that which is shared between friends but by that which is exchanged between strangers in the street, even enemies, such as the good Samaritan and his patient revealed.
INJUSTICE IS THE ENEMY OF PEACE
We have enjoyed tremendous freedom of religion in South Africa over the last two decades. Democracy has not only brought about voting rights, it has also provided broad freedom of speech, of assembly and thereby provided space for our beliefs to thrive. So what have the faith communities done with this grand liberty? What wounds have we bound up?
A great many South Africans spent their Thursday evening this week glued to their television screens for the State of the Nation Address (SONA) by the President. The business elites no doubt listened for signals in the President’s speech on how he intends to stave off further ratings agency downgrades which would dry up foreign direct investment and prevent us from borrowing the money we need for long-term development projects. I’m sure they hoped to hear of a plan of how to push GDP growth above 1% and create jobs. Many millions who watched SONA were merely attracted to the anticipated drama of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) provoking the President, calling for “Zupta” to fall, a reference to President Zuma and his controversial friends, the Gupta family.
In some ways the National Assembly in session, or Parliament, is a microcosm of South Africa and plays out like a predictable scene in a play. The African National Congress (ANC) are the new powerful elites, in that position due to their liberation legacy but increasingly disconnected from the people they claim to serve. The official opposition, a patchwork of mostly white affluence that largely makes up the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) parliamentarians, seems lost on how to translate efficient governance in the Western Cape into an attractive brand for the millions of largely black voters who express loyalty along the lines of identity and not policy. The EFF is the noisy and undisciplined youth in the South African family, who comes across angry and irrational. Be warned, out of the mouth of babes… the longstanding issues of injustice in this nation will be brought to the centre of the national agenda.
This year their voices were thrown out of parliament. Yet, the cause they represent will not be thrown out of South Africa’s public discourse for decades unless addressed at the root, a truth that threatens our social stability and could tear apart the social fabric of this nation.
YOU ARE ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR NEIGHBOUR’S CARE
The basic notion of spiritual sight is that one is somehow enlightened to the reality of the divine. To some this speaks of a capacity for spiritual connectedness and consciousness, a harmonious coexistence with the powers of the ancestors or of gods. To the Christian faith, this points to a simple familiarity with God through the human face of Jesus Christ. In all these cases, especially in the latter with which I am familiar, spiritual sight is the capacity to perceive the dual reality of the infinite Divine and one’s finite neighbour in union, and to live from this premise. At the core of this message of enlightenment then, there is necessarily a bond between one’s relationship “vertically” with God and “horizontally” with people. Your faith is seen, by your works - toward others, one teacher explained.
This is the crux of the matter. If we say we perceive God but we do not see the 17 000 million citizens who do not have homes and jobs and hope, we are either denying the witness of our first love or blindly convinced of sight we do not possess. I do not say this judgementally, since I would not be able to write this was it not for the many privileges I enjoy. I say this with great care and concern - the South African Church is blind in both eyes. May God help us regain our sight and serve the cause of justice in this nation. Our own peace depends on it.
Marius Oosthuizen is a theologian, strategist and entrepreneur. As a faculty member at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), he teaches leadership, strategy and ethics and heads up the Future of Business in SA project.
Bitter Sweet History
One fact we can never run away from when reflecting on the advent of the gospel in Africa is that of the brutal and invasive packaging in which it came. The history of the church in this continent holds the classic reference of the term bitter-sweet. It was bitter because of the imperialistic approach used by early missionaries that destroyed the host culture, institutions and worldviews all in the name of enlightening the Dark Continent whilst at the same time lifting the flag of the queen, king and all that lot. Yet, it was sweet because in the shallowness of the imperial worldview emerged the liberating seeds of the kingdom message driven by Africans, which took all sorts of forms in an incarnational manner.
Breaking the colonial worldview and monopoly of theology in Africa
One of the most effective strategies of western colonisation was to charitably ‘educate’ Africans in western methods so that they were forced to function within a predetermined western paradigm and format. This enabled the colonialists to take undisputed control and monopolise the rules of the game. This same effect, whether intentionally or unintentionally, applied to the church and its theology. Though black Africans were educated to understand the substance of Scripture, the monopoly of who holds the true understanding of its interpretation and application was still reserved for the white male scholarly elite.
More indigenous attempts to theologise were and still are treated with suspicion and are measured according to western standards. Africa is overrun with western theological material with many of its advocates thinking that copy and paste will work within the continent. Very little attempt is made to inquire and learn from already existing local leaders and trying to adapt their learnings into meaningful studies.
Voice for the Voiceless?
Sometimes I become confused when people in the academia lament the lack of authentically African theological input. A friend once said in commenting on the well-known term in development circles which allude to the “poor being voiceless.” His comment was that there is no such thing as the voiceless, but that the poor are either ignored or unheard. I believe this analysis also applies in theology in Africa. We have to be honest in acknowledging that both the demand and supply chain in theological information are controlled largely by the western orientated individuals or organisations, from theological institutions that shape knowledge to publishers who compile and dispense information. They hold the sifting funnel and get to pick and choose whose voice is heard above the others.
A question once emerged at a forum hosted by The Warehouse on inter-dependency that struck to the core of the preference towards western rather than local theological influences. A pastor asked why it is that black leaders are the ones who always have to attend workshops and the likes run by white churches or organisations, but the white church never bothers to attend anything run by black initiatives in townships. A follow up question then became, “Why would the majority of white leaders prefer to buy a book written by Bill Hybels instead of engaging a local leader in Khayelitsha who has been in ministry for the past 40 years?”
Preference and value of all things western
These questions highlight the matter of “preference” and “value”. We then come face to face with the fact that in a less romanticised Christian perspective, even believers always follow their preference guided by what or who they value the most. Perhaps this is why we are not seeing authentically African thinking on the horizon - because both the compilation and distribution of theological knowledge is still very much colonial driven. Therefore, which information is more important is decided in a matter of preference and value. Written is seen as superior to oral, and if it is written by a white male, then its worth engaging, but if its a black author, it is often treated with caution for ‘heresy’.
Not many of Africa’s leading theological influencers are inclined to write for various reasons - chief amongst those being the oral culture in Africa, rather than written culture. Even those who have sought to write find it very expensive with the local publishers and distributors preferring more well-known western authors.
African Theology’s contextual reflection
Someone once said that perhaps black African pastors are so busy on the frontlines of ministry that they don’t get the chance to get to writing. Perhaps this too is a factor given the demands and economy of ministry. However, we can never be correct to insist theology that is authentically African and reflects the African experience is in deficit. We should rather reflect on how to decolonise the atmosphere surrounding hearing those voices that are seemingly unheard or ignored.
I recognise that people define themselves in many ways but for this article the term “People of Colour” includes Black, Coloured, Indian as all these people experience racial oppression by the systems in our country. However I affirm the individual, uniqueness of each human being and recognize we are not defined by our skin colour.
Let’s get vocal…
If you are like me, then your heart has been crushed by all the racist attitudes, thoughts and opinions that have been expressed in our country recently. I’m grateful for voices of those who have boldly declared their commitment to changing the atmosphere and social vibe in our country by speaking out whenever any act of racism is witnessed. Calling out racist speech and actions is so vital, but we don’t have to wait for someone to show us their racism before we start taking action. This post is to share some ideas of how we can proactively use our voice to question the outcomes of racist thinking. We can challenge things that seem so normal to us in our South African context, but are actually racist in nature and are often also maintaining the inequalities in our land. How we use our wealth and resources is a crucial question, and being proactive in the land discussion is also important, but I will not be focusing on these in this post. Not all of these are my original thoughts, but I’ve gathered ideas from various conversations online and off. I’m not proposing that everyone should be doing all of these things. But I hope that as you read through these ideas and questions, something will strike a chord with you. One last note, this post is aimed at white people who understand and embrace the notion of “white privilege” and are thinking through how to be an ally to people of colour in the fight against racism, and are looking for ways to participate in the dismantling of white power and privilege.
Let’s Influence our Workplaces
What is the culture of my workplace? Is “whiteness” the standard and are “white ways” of doing things the norm? Have we embraced different cultural practices to ensure that our workplace is inclusive and all people of colour feel as comfortable, and as “at home” as I do as a white person? If I don’t know, maybe I can have a chat with a colleague of colour and ask about his or her experience. Am I actively being vocal about the need for transformation in my work place or is it left up to the staff of colour to voice this? Am I silent on this issue, thus unintentionally reinforcing the message that all white people are against transformation? Am I speaking out about potential exploitation that might be happening in my workplace? Do I know if all staff are paid a living wage and are their working conditions good? Will I raise my voice to shine a light on these issues, rather than wait until the low-paid staff strike?
Let’s Influence our Children’s Schools
Am I asking questions about educators and how we can have more educators of colour on staff body? Are there any admission criteria that end up excluding or, at least, making access more difficult for children of colour? Am I speaking out about these practices and policies that result in artificially reducing the number of children of colour who have access to the school? How is the school providing support to children from disadvantaged backgrounds to mitigate the many challenges of poverty that they may face so that they can participate as equals within the school? Am I encouraging the school to explore fun ways to celebrate the diversity of our country through art, music and language? What is the language policy in the school and are African languages offered and encouraged? Am I challenging the school to best prepare the learners to engage with a diverse nation, rather than a small minority of the same language and culture? What kind of books are the children required to read or are read to them? What kind of books are in the library? Do these books have main characters that reflect the diverse people and cultures of our country? Am I aware of what is and is not included in the history syllabus and does it accurately portray the struggle against slavery, colonisation and apartheid so our children will grow up not making the mistakes of the past?
Let’s Influence our Alma Mater
How am I supporting the students from my alma mater? Can I be vocal about transformation in the institution and support call for more professors of colour, and curriculums that honour the diversity of our nation and continent? Can I be contributing financially to support students who are restricted by financial difficulties?
Let’s Influence our Local Communities
Do I know the local councillor’s name and contact details? Am I challenging the municipality for any bylaws or procedures that further divide our city according to race and that end up discriminating against people of colour? Am I petitioning the municipal government regarding unequal access to services in my city, rather than just letting those who receive poor/no service delivery do the protesting on their own? Am I speaking out at Community Policing Forums and Neighbourhood Watch meetings/facebook page/whatsapp groups when racist comments are made and when racial profiling is used to spread fear and distrust of people of colour?
Let’s Influence our Churches
Is our church mainly filled with people who have the same skin colour as us, and is this starting to make us feel uncomfortable? Are we seeing people of colour represented in the leadership in our churches? Does the vibe and church culture reflect the wonderful diversity of our country? Are the teachings of the church addressing the crisis of racism? In particular, are the white people of the congregation encouraged to engage in discussions about race and listen to experiences of people of colour; and then strengthened and supported to work through their residual racist thinking and actions?
Let’s Influence our Family and Friends
Can I start sharing with my friends and family about my struggles with racist attitudes, my hopes for equality, and my thoughts about the dismantling of white privilege? Can I start these conversations, and not just wait for someone to say something racist first before I engage? Perhaps I can write a letter or email to share with my friends what my thinking is. Or invite them around to a meal or out for a cup of coffee in order to intentional talk about this. We need to take our facebook activism off the screen and do some face-to-face connection around this topic. This list is hardly exhaustive; it’s just a start. I would love to hear from you what your ideas are regarding using our voice to proactively challenge racism.
Some last thoughts…
I end by reminding myself that as we determine to raise our voices, let’s do so from a place of first having listened well to the people of colour in the situation where we choose to engage. Let’s be vocal in partnership with people of colour, and if possible be led by people of colour. Let us not, in our enthusiasm to make things right, rush in as saviours, using our loud voices, and in so doing further silence the very people we wish to help. Let us be willing to work out solutions together, not impose what we think needs to be done. And let us not give up as soon as the going gets tough.
These calls to be vocal and to question the way we do life are actions we can all do. It does not require wealth or resources. However it will require choosing to engage rather than waiting for someone else to do so first. It will require courage and sacrifice. It’s easier to keep quiet and just go with the flow. I know, my heart pounds at the thought of speaking out. But what is the cost if we don’t? What will history say of us, what will our children say of us one day, if we choose the easy road of silence today?
By Jacqui Tooke
The Warehouse coordinates the RESPOND churches collaboration that manages the church response to large scale disaster incidents across the City of Cape Town. On the morning of 29 November a fire destroyed between 800 and 1000 homes in Masiphumelele affecting around 4,000 people. As a result the RESPOND network of churches has been activated and have been liaising with the primary responders since early this morning. The response is being coordinated by MercyNet operating alongside Living Hope in the Fish Hoek valley.
Since significant support is being received from local partners it has been agreed that the best use of our resources will be to target a specific set of items that will help over the next few days. We are seeking to get 1000 family crisis packs delivered to the site within the next few days. These packs can be directly collated by individuals, families and churches or a donation of R250 per pack can be made and The Warehouse (http://www.warehouse.org.za) will take responsibility for purchasing and collating the kits. Kits can be delivered to your church or to The Warehouse.
Donations towards the Masi fire response can be made here https://www.givengain.com/cause/1976/campaigns/17003
If you want to make up a kit yourself the contents are as follows:
• 4 plates and 4 bowls
• 4 plastic bowls/plates
• 4 knives, 4 forks, 4 spoons
• 4 Plastic cups
• 2 Dishtowel
• 4 toothbrushes and 1 toothpaste
• Towel - large
• 4 face-cloths
• 2 Toilet rolls
• Sanitary pads
• 1 Basin/bucket
The kit should be packed into the bucket as shown in the photo. Volunteers will be needed at The Warehouse over the next few days to get kits ready for distribution. Please feel free to come along - 12 Plantation Road, Wetton.
There was a fire in Masiphumelele last night that burnt down between 800 to 1000 homes affecting a few thousand people. The Cape Town RESPOND churches network will responding and we’ll be helping coordinate that.
We’ll post more information on helpful ways in which you can assist. Right now you can be praying for the community leadership, for disaster management and for other role players as they work to establish what is needed. Our assistance is best provided once they have established what is going on.
Please let us know if you’re willing to co-ordinate your church community responding.
*The picture is not from this fire incident
A great interview with Caroline Powell on Cape Pulpit—7 minutes that help explain what we do, our heart for the church and how sharing one’s times, treasures and talents is part of God’s heart for every believer.
One day I will look back on 2015 and say to myself that was the year we had our minds blown and perspectives shifted as we studied the book Money, Possessions and Eternity. Some may suggest I live a fairly boring life but it is rather that the experience has been so life changing that it will no doubt form part of the highlights package of 2015!
The journey began when friends of ours invited my wife and I to join them as they re-read Money Possessions and Eternity, which had profoundly shaped a great deal of their thinking about money and generosity. We agreed to meet over 10 weeks. Each week we would prepare by reading two to three chapters of the book in order to discuss the issues that particularly challenged or inspired us. The benefit of reading, praying and studying the book together meant we could not only hold each other accountable to what God was saying to us personally, but also that we could share stories of our journey with money and generosity.
Money is often a topic which we shy away from, it is something which we keep a secret and often do not discuss. But money is important as the book reminds us in the first chapter - the author, Randy Alcorn, points out that 2,350 verses in the bible speak on the topic of money (more than any other topic in the bible by a long way). This showed us that God does not shy away from the topic and our fruitful and transformative discussions reminded us that we, as the church, need to continually engage with the topic of money.
As the name suggests Money, Possessions and Eternity is about money – but more than that, it is about power, control, it is about faith, it is about pride and greed, it is about the danger of materialism as well as our attitudes and mind sets which we have been fed by the prevailing culture of our time, often without even knowing it. Randy Alcorn reminds us that money is just a valuable piece of paper. So when we started unpacking our motivations and attitudes towards this piece of paper, only then, did we start having the real, honest and challenging conversations needed, for us to be changed through the process.
Randy Alcorn has written a gem which is not only littered with quotations and scriptures but is also filled with personal stories and practical advice which makes the book easy to follow and very applicable. But be warned the book is also incredibly challenging, and can leave you at times a little uncomfortable. After all how do we sugar coat Jesus allowing the rich young ruler to walk away from salvation because he could not give everything away, or how do we hear the call not to store up for ourselves treasure on this earth but rather in Heaven? With chapters like; Tithing: the training wheels for giving, The dangers of materialism, Giving: Reciprocating God’s Grace, Helping the Poor and Reaching the Lost, you will be left feeling sufficiently challenged to at least look at your own life and start asking some pretty honest questions.
Randy Alcorn is not scared of attempting to answer some of those really difficult questions which include things like; should we give everything away, should we as Christians have insurance, go into debt, save our money and have retirement plans? What does storing up our treasure in Heaven actually mean? Who does our money belong to and what are we leaving behind?
There were times when, my wife and I, whilst reading through the book needed to put it down and discuss what was written and what God was saying to us. One particular moment was after having read this quotation by CS Lewis, “I do not believe we can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
What we have realised through this journey is that we need to allow the questions to guide us and that we cannot walk this journey alone. The questions are important in lifting the lid on the things we would prefer to hide and the relationships are vital in helping us stay on course.
My only regret is that I had not read this book sooner.
Mark van Deventer
Trustee and friend of The Warehouse
There has been a lot written lately about privilege, power structures and wealth, but I am not sure (maybe I have missed it) whether there has been much on social media for Christians specifically and how and why we can approach the topic of restitution through the lens of our faith. There are, of course, the broad sweeping narratives through the bible of God’s heart for justice and the poor, the laws in Deuteronomy which protect against unshackled accumulation of wealth and perpetual poverty, and the entire New Testament which ushers us in to a new Kingdom and a new way of being – no dividing walls of hostility, no difference between slave and free, a body where, if one part hurts, the whole part hurts.
But, for an active way to start engaging, I thought it would be helpful to put together some thoughts which have come through various conversations at the Warehouse. These reflections on, and practical guidelines around, Zacchaeus’ story have helped me, and so I offer them to you. Have a read quickly if you have forgotten the story: Luke 19: 1-10.
1. Nurture a courageous curiosity for who Jesus is
Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector (not the person who would actually collect the taxes from people, but the one who would collect from the collectors) – a very important man in the system which ruled the land at that time. He had clearly heard something about this Jesus and the bible says “he wanted to see who Jesus was”…the rest is made famous by the Sunday School song. But, before you gloss over that familiar strain, think about how counter-cultural that move must have been: he didn’t demand to get to the front of the crowd (perhaps he was a bit scared of some well-timed elbowing), he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed up a tree! Clearly, his status and reputation were not as important to him as his urgency to see this Jesus. I wonder how counter-cultural our curiosity actually is: how eager are we to see, to know, to experience Jesus that we would be willing to look plain silly to do this. Are we running ahead of the crowd, or are we in the middle of the jostle, OK with just seeing the tip of His head as He walks past, and perhaps hearing what He is saying and doing via a broken-telephone of passed-down reports?
2. Acknowledge and accept the identity Jesus calls out in you
There are (at least) two points around Jesus using Zacchaeus’ name:
Firstly: The meaning of the name Zacchaeus is “pure, clean, innocent” – not a terribly good description for those who knew him and what he had been party to. BUT, if we are Jesus-seekers and followers, this is perhaps the most important starting point we could ever have when examining our possessions, power and privilege, where we have perhaps benefited from unjust systems, and working to rectify this: we start from a point of innocence, of purity, of having been made righteous through Jesus. We need to accept what Jesus says about us and our relationship to Him and our relationship with God through Him. This is a starting point of freedom and joyful abandonment, not one of guilt, fear and shame. Our actions need to be in response to this, first and foremost. Secondly: Zacchaeus was called by his individual name – not as part of a crowd, not “the chief tax collector of Jericho”. Where do we need to acknowledge that we, as individuals, are being addressed – not just as a part of a general narrative or in our roles in a greater system of injustice, but as individuals who seek to be responsive to Jesus calling us out by name?
3. Know the deeper meaning of Jesus inviting Himself to eat with you in your house
This relates somewhat to the point above. In Jesus’ time, to eat with people meant full acceptance of them – it meant community, knitted-in-ness and equality. That’s why people were so upset that He ate with tax-collectors and prostitutes: because He wasn’t eating with them in order to “win them over” – His act was one which said they were already won, they were already acceptable to Him. Zacchaeus was accepted by, and precious to, Jesus before he had done anything to make right. Again: we need to know this deeply before we engage with generosity & restitution – if we act out of guilt or coercion, rather than the joy of belonging to Jesus and being citizens of His Kingdom (on earth as it is in Heaven), then our actions will only lead to more hurt and injustice. KNOW you are accepted, loved, that you belong.
4. Accept the invitation for Jesus to come right in to your home
Allow Him to come in to the deepest parts of your sanctuary. Allow Him to give you new eyes for looking at your life, your choices, your priorities and your actions.
5. Be humble enough to listen to the mutterings of the crowd
Can you imagine the commotion as the crowd heard this and passed the news down through the jostle? It must have been difficult for Zacchaeus, in this time of affirmation, to hear it. A white, Afrikaans, male friend who is passionate about restitution told me, “I have to love the person enough to listen to their perceptions of white people, even if it is really difficult to hear”. A LOT has been written about those of us in places of power and privilege learning to listen to the anger, to the pain, to the daily struggles of people who have endured generations of systemic and personal oppression – without getting angry, defensive or fragile in the face of it, or telling people that their way of expressing their pain is not in keeping with what we think protest or expression can look like. Zacchaeus must have been deeply humbled by Jesus’ act of acceptance: he didn’t lash out at the crowd, and nor did he hold back on his actions because it would be “giving in” – he was all in with a radical commitment to allowing Jesus to transform every part of his life.
6. Acknowledge the multiplying nature of (your) privilege
I remember reading the story of Zacchaeus when I was younger and wondering how on earth he was able to pay back four times the amount of money he had stolen! I wondered where he got the extra money from. This is before I understood the multiplying nature of wealth and privilege. Again, there has been a lot written about it, so I won’t go in to that here, but it is so important – after continuing to develop courageous curiosity for finding out more about Jesus, accepting that we have already been made righteous, already been fully accepted, being humble enough to listen to others’ perceptions of us, and accepting Jesus’ invitation into the fullness of our lives – that we grow in our consciousness of where our privilege, power and wealth comes from and that we get to grips that we had much BECAUSE other people didn’t. (I know – it is hard to think hear that, but think of South Africa’s education system alone: I was able to go to a school with all sorts of incredible advantages BECAUSE the money was not being distributed fairly to all other children of my age – my school would not have had the state budget allocation it did if all people of South Africa had been treated fairly).
I want to point out that Zacchaeus didn’t actually personally collect any taxes – he was not responsible for physically taking money from the poorest of the poor while looking them straight in the eyes. But he knew he was part of system which did this. And acknowledged that he had been part of the theft. He also gave away half his wealth — even the wealth he had gained “legitimately” (not stolen), he realised was far more than others had, and that this needed to be remedied.
7. Act: Just. Do. It
(relationally, humbly, with love, with Holy Spirit-breathed creativity, from a place of true identity and acceptance…but just do it!)
Now: Imagine with me what the world would look like if all of us, operating in our true identity and acceptance in and through Christ, would allow our lives to be transformed in this way! Imagine what a witness the global church would be to the transforming power of Jesus – power to transform our hearts, our relationships, our systems and structures. People would look and see that truly Jesus came to seek and save all that has been lost, and put their hope in Him.
By Wendy Lewin
From 17 to 20 August, an international group of about 200 people will gather at the University of Johannesburg to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1985 Kairos document. Since the launch of that document, several other Kairos documents were launched across the world, the latest two being the Palestine and Swaziland Kairos documents.
The Greek word “Kairos” means “God’s moment” or a “moment of truth”. It is a special time and is the opposite of ordinary “chronos” time. It is used several times in the New Testament in texts such as Luke 19:44, Mark 1: 14 – 15, etc.
While many people think of the Kairos document as a “challenge to society”, the Kairos document was actually sub-titled “a challenge to the churches”. It challenged the Church to ask itself whether it is a sign of hope, an Easter sign of resurrection (which it should be as the risen body of Christ), in a particular time and place for all God’s people. It also then analysed the church as divided amongst itself and not being united by the Spirit of Truth and Love.
These questions and analyses made some people very uncomfortable, but to this extent it was thoroughly prophetic, if prophecy is understood in its original Biblical sense as “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable”. It is said that former President PW Botha had a copy of the Kairos document on his desk and would challenge any church leader who went to meet with him. For Kairos theologians, Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. And if Caesar is particularly oppressive and not a servant of all God’s people (as we analysed the apartheid system to be in the 1980s), then it cannot be obeyed by Christians. This is why the Kairos document called on the churches to engage in non-violent civil disobedience against apartheid.
Kairos theology is particularly potent when some people of faith use the Bible and the name of God as justification for their oppression and evil, as happened in Germany and in South Africa and as is happening today in Palestine and Israel. There are many situations of injustice and oppression in the world, but as Christians we take special notice when our Bible and our God is misused in situations of oppression, and when the Church is either silent or wants to be “neutral”. These two stances of the Church only benefits the oppressor and not the oppressed.
The first step in Kairos theology is to “discern the signs of the times” and to ask whether this moment we are living in is a moment when God is speaking to us in a special way. This is some of the work of discernment those gathered at the Kairos conference will begin to do, but whatever is discerned there would need to be tested with a wider group.
The week before the Kairos conference has been declared as a week of prayer, fasting and discernment and everyone is invited to join in this week of prayer. The question for discernment during that week is: Is there today an equivalent to the 1985 “Kairos-moment”, in which God is challenging us?
Kairos theology is generally not done by individuals but is typically done in small groups across the country, who then discern together whether this is a “Kairos moment” we face, either in South Africa or globally.
Please pray with us and please keep the Kairos conference in August in your prayers.
by Edwin Arrison, Kairos SA General Secretary
For further reading, please see
Most of the Kairos documents at http://ujamaa.ukzn.ac.za/Libraries/manuals/The_Kairos_Documents.sflb.ashx
A 2012 Kairos SA letter to the ANC: https://kairossouthernafrica.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/kairos-logo/
The Palestine Kairos document: http://www.kairospalestine.ps
Kairos SA response to the Palestine Kairos document: http://www.voltairenet.org/article164794.html
As we consider our beloved country, the words of Paul to the Galatians come to mind: You were doing so well. Who stopped you from being influenced by the truth? Gal 5:7 (God’s Word Translation).
While we never stop celebrating the fact that apartheid is gone and we are living in a democratic South Africa with much that we give thanks for, we cannot deny that there is much of grave concern. Mounting frustration with slow service delivery, increasingly violent protests, unrelenting poverty and unemployment, continued inequality, crime, substance abuse, domestic violence, school dropouts and teenage pregnancies leave us reeling. While it may be true that such challenges are common to young democracies and developing nations, and even understandable in a nation still struggling to extricate itself from a heritage of appalling statutory inequality and injustice, there remain even greater concerns:
• Government is struggling to find workable solutions to the challenges, and much of their response is reactive rather than pro-active; patching up rather than addressing root causes. Criticism or confrontation on the issues is more often met with denial and self-protection or even counter-attack, than acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility. Those institutions that question or challenge government or in any way seek to bring it to order are subject to vilification or attack.
• Party interests are overriding the interests of co-operative governance, so that community needs are taking second place while the parties engage in blame and mudslinging.
• Racism, rather than declining, is growing, becoming increasingly prevalent among young people and public servants and officials. It is also becoming a convenient scapegoat for any type of conflict that arises, so that the real issues in the different cases are being skirted.
• Bribery, corruption, negligence and seeming disregard for the rights of citizens have caused growing mistrust in those institutions that are meant to protect and uphold civil society.
• The type of violence we are seeing, particularly among young people, is of a type that shows total disregard for generally held societal norms and values. The rape of elderly people and young babies and acts of brutality display real socio-pathological tendencies.
And what of the church?
People from various church affiliations are speaking about South Africa being at another critical point in history, a “kairos moment” as we were before the first democratic elections. Several have made reference to the national prayer movements and concerted action on the part of Christians that helped pave the way to a peaceful transition. Many are in agreement that the church needs to make a similar stand now; that we need to pray, make our voices heard, as well as taking action where needed.
It is of great concern that the church is not rising to be the voice, hands and feet of Christ at this time in our nation; that we are joining the voices that blame and complain instead of standing and proclaiming God’s way. It is the church that needs to highlight areas of rot and laud areas of righteousness, and especially demonstrate God’s righteousness in all that we do and say – be the light in the darkness and salt where there is rot. Our country needs a mindset change, hope, direction and role models of righteousness. Much healing is still needed, and the church should lead that.
But in order to get to that place we need to look to ourselves first. The truth of 2 Chronicles 7:14 still stands. We, as the church, need to pursue unity among ourselves, seeking forgiveness and letting go of offense. We need to put down self – our programmes, our achievements, our agendas. We need to seek God’s face in all that we do, not only seeking his direction, but also to lay down all in ourselves that is not of him; to acknowledge, repent and return – turn from our wicked ways. And we need to pray.
Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children… Let the priests who minister before the Lord, weep between the temple porch and the alter. Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord”. Joel 2:15-17
By Colleen Saunders
Many South Africans are asking how they can become more relevant. Here are some first steps that may help ...
1. Read the bible with people who are not the same as you and allow the reflections that emerge to change the way you understand your cultural reading of the bible.
2. Take a look at your lifestyle - how you spend your time, treasures and talents. Do you live in a way that changes the way things are in the South Africa? How do you live in ways that keep South Africa the way it is?
3. Listen! To other people, to your own heart, to the world around you and to God. What are you hearing? What do you need to take notice of? What are the first simple steps you can take in response to what you have heard? Who can you talk to about this?
4. Speak! Tell your story. Our faith is a story-telling faith. The richness of all our stories make up our hope for a different South Africa. Talk about what you have learnt from other people’s stories. Weave your story and others’ stories into God’s big story and share this with everyone you meet. We need more than a single story about our country and each other.
5. Ask yourself this one simple question: “Do I believe that all South Africans have been created equal in the image of God?” If your answer is yes, then ask the following question: “Does the way I and my family and community live, reflect this truth?” Start making small changes where it is obvious that what you believe is not reflected in how you live.
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