Here are two followers of the Christian faith who have both been uncompromising in their beliefs about what it means to be a follower of Christ in South African society. One believes that the struggle for the kingdom of God is to be waged in the celestial kingdom against the devil and all his servants, and the other believes that the kingdom of God is a struggle to be waged on Earth against the forces of destruction and injustice. .
This does not mean, of course, that Tutu did not believe in prayer, just as it does not mean that Mogoeng, presumably, does not believe in social justice. But the difference between the two highlights the centuries-old trajectories of religious belief – the upward journey and the outward journey, the love of God and the love of people, doctrine and action, faith and works. The power of Tutu’s testimony was that he managed to treat the vertical and horizontal dimensions of faith as just as important, just as necessary and just as demanding.
But there was always a price to pay.
When Tutu was at the forefront of the fight against apartheid as general secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), he was probably personally responsible for the mass exodus of white Christians from the Anglican Church. towards the type of churches that Mogoeng represents. . The Nationalist government had skillfully portrayed him and his church as the “Communist Party at Prayers” and white Christians swallowed its propaganda en masse. Likewise, his rejection of violence as a means of overcoming apartheid and his advocacy for peaceful methods such as sanctions and reconciliation with the apartheid perpetrators have led him to fall out with many of the other. side of the political spectrum and nicknamed him a sold.
So here’s a question: How many white South African Christians joining in praise for Tutu today remember hating him in the 70s and 80s? And if they remember it, they paused for a minute to wonder what made them hate him back then and what has changed to make them love him now? If there is any truth in the United Nations’ claim in 1966 that apartheid was a crime against humanity, then why have so many white Christians hated Tutu just for saying this in the 70s and 80s? ? What made so many of them so blind to the injustices of apartheid when it was universally condemned?
It is a deeply theological question that demands a theological answer. And the answer is this: No matter how pure we think our religious faith is, it is never free from the echo chamber of our own ideological biases, especially when it comes to questions about our own. own political interests. The best we can do is make the presumption of bias a premise from which we walk our journey of faith.
In my opinion, it is precisely this lack of awareness of ideological prejudices that caused Mogoeng’s downfall. He sadly embraced aspects of the doctrine of Christian Zionism that made people justify the blatant violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people. This extraordinarily powerful ideology teaches that the occupation of Palestine by Israel is the direct will of God, that this occupation is therefore justified and must be supported at all costs, and that to do otherwise is to go directly against the will of God. God.
The teaching that the kingdom of God belongs in a special way to the poor and oppressed, taught so clearly by Jesus, is eclipsed by this doctrine. Israel is now the richest and most powerful nation in the Middle East. According to Fareed Zacharia, he could defeat every other country in the Middle East in six hours, let alone six days.
Christian Zionists would have us believe that this is all due to God, who continues to favor Israel above all other nations no matter what he does and how he treats others. More than that, if we do not support it, we will attract the wrath of God on us. The Palestinian people are, literally, a non-entity for Christian Zionists. We could not find a more powerful theological justification, and surely heretical, for their dehumanization. And Mogoeng wants us to believe that !? A clearer indication of a misguided judge and his right to occupy the post of chief judge is hardly possible.
Christian Zionism is often accompanied by what I call a enchanted forest theology where enormous influence is given to an invisible devil and his cohort of demons and powers and you have direct, unmediated contact with God who is constantly telling you what to do. The enchanted forest is an attractive place to carry out your spiritual wanderings. Who does not want direct contact with divinity and be the recipient of various kinds of spiritual communications, whether real or phantasmagorical?
But once you enter a realm where the primary data of your faith is informed by a whole other world, you withdraw from the real world and begin to inhabit an unreal world.
The allure of the Enchanted Forest is powerful but it takes us away from the place where we all must, ultimately, live our lives – the realm of the mundane. And these are the issues arising from the utterly mundane that Jesus spent most of his time dealing with. How to live with people, politics and property, for example.
The Enchanted Forest inevitably distracts our attention from such common, simple, and brutal problems as they are.
And it is to these that Desmond Tutu has constantly drawn our attention. From the daily injustices of apartheid in South Africa, to the daily injustices of today’s Palestine, to the daily injustices done to the environment, to the daily injustices to the gay community.
Tutu constantly reminded us that these were not righteous, not godly and not true. It was the call to true religion, to true faith.
This is what makes him recognized across the spectrum of faiths and political beliefs.
That is why he and others who have been forgotten will be remembered. SM / MC
Tony Balcomb is a Senior Research Associate at the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He was a pastor in a Pentecostal church for fifteen years during the apartheid regime.