By: Pastor Attie van Nel
“The Church has always been an integral part of the ANC”
The church is an integral part only of the Kingdom. The church was never designed to be embedded in and captured by either political, imperial power or capital. A clear reading of the ministry of Jesus was to identify inequality where it existed and confront it viciously. The foundational Apostles entrenched that ministry and that’s why John who gives us the last book in the New Testament Revelation, as an example, was beheaded and his head burnt in oil because of his prophetic voice towards the rulership of the king. A careful search on how the majority of the disciples died leaves one with a conviction that they were all brutalized.
The church cannot be appropriated for party political ends. It is opportunism and a sell-out position of the highest order. It’s the exact sin of the apartheid Dutch Reformed Church and other pliant churches who provided theological cover and doctrinal justification for the National Party.
The church must in fact be recaptured to regain its prophetic voice in relation to power, how it’s discharged and whether it has a discernible bias towards the poor.
If the church was an integral part of the ANC, then by implication, the ANC is the bigger institution between the two. What frightens even more than this perverted theological interpretation is the unavoidable question: where does it leave believers with a different party political persuasion?
“It’s wrong to criticize government from a religious point of view”
Donald Trump just facilitated an acceleration towards deepened conflict and bloodshed with the unlawful assassination of the Iranian general. If the Chaplain is to be believed, the global church has to keep quiet and resign its involvement to the self-imposed restricted space of prayer only.
Of course the church must criticize not only government, but any powerful or influential actor on the basis of the Bible’s directives on how that power or resources are used. It’s not only our right, but our call. Similarly, we should have the courage to praise government where it does right, embraces the right policies and govern in the interest of all South Africans.
If government can’t be criticized, what is the Chaplain asking of us in relation to Eskom, failing primary healthcare, neoliberal economic policies and a range of poor policy choices?
The church is not voiceless. It’s not an unthinking, undiscerning and valueless establishment without an opinion on critical matters, including on the behaviour of the governing party.
On the contrary, while the Chaplain correctly calls us to prayer for those in authority, it does not amount to a de facto silencing of our prophetic voice. In other words, prayer and critique are not mutually exclusive.
In conclusion, Jesus established a clear mandate for the church in Luke 4 vs 18 & 19. The Apostles bequeathed to us a church that was fiercely independent, uncaptured and not contaminated by party political affiliation. (This does not mean the pastor or believers are precluded from holding a particular party political bias and voting as such. In fact, it must be encouraged)
But the pulpit must be defended against contamination and being appropriated to be a flagbearer for political orientation.
The Chaplain may be repeating the very mistake of the religious right wing in the USA who abuse pulpits for the benefit of the Republican Party, regardless of that Party’s atrocious policy stance towards the poor and therefore contravening the Biblical standards.
This is the church of Jesus Christ, birthed on the Cross and ordained on the Day of Pentecost. It plays a leading role in establishing the Kingdom.
The Chaplain should rediscover his prophetic voice and use his proximity to power to facilitate Kingdom thinking and transformation.
*Pastor Attie van Nel
Holds a Bachelors in Business Administration from UNISA with Majors in Strategic Planning and Human Capital Development. He is the overseer of Crossover City Church in Kimberley.