Friday, December 21, 2007

Is There Hope?

After the announcement of the ANC party election results, there was a clip of Helen Zille saying that there is still hope for South Africa. I ask: what hope? Is Zille really the source of hope? Are we to rely our hope and our trust on one person and her party?

These days it's difficult to put your trust in any one person or group. Confidence is in short supply, especially in these difficult days in South Africa.

Contrary to what I've said above, I'll state what we do want to hear: there is hope. This hope is not founded on people, parties, on the ACDP or on Rev. Kenneth Meshoe. Rather, it is founded on God. Of all the things that have come and gone, the Bible has been a steady source of wisdom for thousands of years, and despite attempts against it, has stood its ground. This itself is reason for tremendous hope.

Here is some inspiring Scripture from Psalms 37:7-11 (NIV) to give you hope for today:

"Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.

9 For evil men will be cut off,
but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.

11 But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy great peace."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

ANC Election Was a Lose-Lose Situation

The ANC's national convention in Polokwane has been watched with nervous faces around the country over the last few days. It's pretty clear that the media shares the views of many South Africans that there is a cloud hanging over an ANC-led South Africa.

I was caught between the two candidates. Jacob Zuma is very clearly not the right person for presidency. Anybody with a nose can sniff that all is not well with his candidacy, and the immunity from prosecution which presidency would grant him is a frightening prospect. However, I believe it would have been almost as bad if Thabo Mbeki had been given a shot at a third presidential term. For that kind of power to entrench itself in the long term makes the future of South Africa look more and more similar to that of Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, etc, etc.

Honestly though, a change in the ANC's leadership positions has a small side benefit for the ACDP in that it's good for South Africans to get used to change. By voting Mbeki out of his position, there are signs that the population is accepting that all is not well. That is good news. We are now just a few stepping stones away from realising that the real problem was not Mbeki, but the ANC itself.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Who Can You Trust?

The discussion of authority, how to submit to it and when to challenge it is a fascinating one. However, upon reflection, I feel that the topic reinforces a suspicion I've held for some time now - that the successful running of society depends very heavily on trust.

Consider for a moment how important trust is in your everday life. You drive on the left side, trusting that the opposite traffic stays on the other side. You hand over a R100 note at the supermarket and don't count the change, because you trust that the change will be correct most of the time. How often have you counted the notes that come out of an ATM. Doctors also hold a highly esteemed position of trust. We're more happy to trust an eTV news bulletin than the government they portray. In fact, how often do we question the contents of a front cover story in the local newspaper? Have you thought about whether the speedometer on your dashboard can be trusted? And are you sure that your favourite bank isn't investing your cash in a Colombian drug cartel?

While these kinds of thoughts may cause us to trust less, society actually depends on a certain level of trust. Imagine having zero trust in each of the scenarios painted above - we'd hardly be able to move. The reason the whole question of authority comes up is simply an issue of trust.

What produces trust? I'm sure there are many, but two spring to mind. Firstly, a track record. The longer a service functions successfully, the less likely you are to doubt it. Secondly, a point of reference. If your favourite uncle says that the corner butcher is the best in town, you're more likely to trust it.

In the case of the ACDP, the point of reference is the Bible. The Bible is a trustworthy book. It has a track record of 2000 years, has been used to fight against drug use, to pull down slavery, to promote honesty, to encourage faithful marriages, to hold governments to account and to provide a platform for the analysis of morality. The real question then is: how faithfully do the ACDP adhere to the Bible?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Where Does the Golden Compass Point?

Film production often goes through periods of similar themes. The comic book hero theme is now well worn, and fantasy adventure is making its move. The initial Narnia movie helped to give some impetus, followed by Stardust, and now the newest in the fantasy family, The Golden Compass.

You'd probably be regarded as a little naive not to know anything about the background of the Narnia series of children's books. Written by C.S. Lewis, Narnia was a kind of metaphor for Christianity. Even as I watched The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, I was wondering how impossible it must have been to miss the comparison between Aslan's death and resurrection, and that of Jesus Christ.

The Golden Compass has just as much deliberate undercurrent as Narnia. The original children's book was written by Philip Pullman, who famously said, "My books are about killing God..." A dedicated athiest, Pullman is an honorary associate of the National Secular Society.

What then is the message of the film? In truth, the film has been watered down from the original story told in the books. Essentially the story is about the fight against a controlling authority, portrayed clearly in the books as the church, or the Catholic Church to be more specific. Facing loss of revenue in the more God-fearing US, the tone was watered down. Still, some analysts believe that the message of questioning authority is an important one.

I'd say the message is not healthy either way. Children are going to begin reading the books out of curiosity anyway. What is being shown is that the emphasis seems to be centralled on this very question of authority. Let's call it what is is: rebellion against authority. Ultimately I don't believe that the real issue is whether authority is good or not, but whether we are ready to honour and submit. The truth is that we are all part of a structure - nobody is above the law. That is as true for a ruling political party that stands under the authority of God as for a child who must decide whether they will behave well at home. A submitted spirit makes for a healthy person that can be counted on to wait for their turn, to respect others and to take the hits even when they know it's not fair. These make for healthy society, not someone who lives only to question every instruction they receive.

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