Opinionista Lance Claasen 14 May 2014

Q: What do the ANC and the Catholic Church have in common?

A: Both are large and old, with rituals that are steeped in tradition. Both are headed by leaders that are infallible in the eyes of their supporters. Both have sights of pilgrimage and saints revered long after their passing. Both are cumbersome when dealing with criticism from the outside and ruthless on criticism from within in their ranks. Both can be remarkably enlightened, while at the same time bogged down in paternalistic chauvinism.

But above all, both are a mystery to those outside their organisations. Those who are critics view staying in these two organisations, with their obvious faults, as nothing short of negligent at best and brainwashed at worst.

Being a member of the ANC or the Catholic Church is more than getting a membership card or paying a tithe. It is an investment faith in an organisation that liberated you from oppression or, if you like the smell of incense, sin and damnation. The liberation being offered is away from worldly events and the promise of a better life, whether it be on heaven or on earth. Is not theoretical in terms of the believer. It is real. It is tangible and completely out of reach of the non-believers on the outside.

Even when the believer has a crisis of faith, based on the actions of a bad Pope, the church is still holy and cannot be left to join the new-styled opposition down the road. It seems like a betrayal of who you are and what you believe. Going over will make a mockery of what you have stood for in the past. So believers are more content to let their faith lapse than walk over to the competitor for hearts and minds.

So what does the opposition have to do to gain the hearts and minds of lapsed believers of an old tradition?

Don’t attack the bad Pope. Everybody knows he is a bad Pope, even those that kiss his ring. Drawing any more attention to won’t bring the believer closer or make the infallible head more fallible. It would be better to place yourself in the shoes of someone weighing up going against everything they believe in. Think of the angst, the sense of betrayal the overwhelming sense of guilt for turning your back on the establishment that saved you.

But in the battle for hearts, minds and souls those charismatic preachers of new paths and new ways are often blinded by antipathy, anger and vitriol. Those on the outside do not see the anguish of believer. They think is being irrational holding onto a relationship that has served its course. They blame the believer for believing that things will change for something better. Their lack of compassion for the believer in crisis does not bring the believer closer but drivers them away.

Their preachy self-serving, holier than thou, high-handed condemnation might win minds but fails to win hearts.

The secret is finding compassion for the crisis of faith being faced by the believer and find a way to walk one through the anguish they are going through. Ask them to reflect to reflect on a dead relationship that has become selfish and one-sided. But above all it must give them hope for something better. Give them belief in something that is bold new and core to values that they believed.

Faith has to be an action, not just something packed in the recesses of blind belief. It has to be alive to the believer. Real, tangible; by asking the question: “Do you believe, and why do you believe?”

That is the seed which germinates into crosses in the private sanctuary of the voting booth. Posters, tweets and slogans do not win elections; people do.

Faith is not a mathematical equation, nor is it logical or rational. It is emotional relationship with a person, a process or an institution. It is the hope that things can get better, even when the evidence suggests things are not. (Ask any supporter of a long-suffering sporting team. You don’t ditch your team when results go against you.)

The election results are clear: 62% of SA still has faith in the ANC. DM

(Being a practicing Catholic, I acknowledge that some of my ideas are inspired by my brother Larry, and my colleague in competition, Eusebius Mckaiser.)



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