Opinionista Lebo Keswa 2 December 2014

A dead faith with no action, Mr President?

The ANC surely cannot be serious when it admonishes the faith community merely to pray for the country’s problems to go away – and otherwise simply to keep quiet.

The Chaplain General of the ANC is either a very busy man, or a very idle one. Besides praying at ANC conferences, is the Reverend Mehana really busy with anything prophetic at the ANC head office?

One would assume that the Reverend would at least have given guidance on matters spiritual – at least those the ANC pronounces on publicly. But I am not holding my breath, with him preaching to the not-so-converted on issues of moral rectitude. The ship is sinking so steadily on that front that nobody can be expected to save the movement from itself when it comes to total moral collapse.

Still, the president’s religious gaffes demonstrate that there is little or no guidance from his advisors on how to articulate the ANC’s position on how to deal with the religious sector or how to respond to matters of faith – which is a problem when combined with people’s obvious indignation with the party and its daily loss of moral stature.

Surely Zuma and the ANC cannot expect faith communities to smile at the rot. Yet Zuma says: The Christian community must not become an opposition! They must pray for the ANC when they go wrong! But remember Desmond Tutu during Apartheid, Mr Zuma? Did he merely pray for the fall of Apartheid – or did he speak out against injustice? Do you remember that as a result of bravely speaking out, he was seen as being part of the ANC? He was viewed as being in opposition to Apartheid and all that it stood for. The Christian community today, according to The Gospel of Reverend Zuma – must, however, merely pray and not utter a murmur against the glaring corruption that is sinking our movement.

The faux pas that the president engages in each time he speaks of religion is an embarrassment, to say the least. His latest sentiments simply imply that Christians are not to enter public debate; not to be prophetic in their day-to-day dealings. If they speak out against the waste of public funds occurring in almost every municipality, they will be labelled as opposition. All they are entitled to do is pray quietly.

Clearly Reverend Zuma has never heard the adage that faith without action is dead. He obviously requires a dead, blind faith from South Africans, especially those who support the ANC. His call for collusion with wrongdoing is the lowest point the ANC has reached yet – seeking to silence those who merely wish to better the movement. It must be condemned.

Zuma previously claimed that anyone fighting the ANC was going against the will of God. He added, as if that were not enough, that the ANC would rule “until Jesus returns”. These cringeworthy pronouncements were allowed to slide, however, showing the ANC leadership’s disdain for the faith community.

In every address to the religious community, Zuma is now expected to make some ill-advised, Old Testament-like pronouncement that has Mac Maharaj scrambling for a reasonable explanation. But surely the ANC is not so desperate for votes that it now requires religious sentiment to cling to power.

The ANC has deep roots in the faith of our people. It was launched in a church in the Free State and its first president was a man of the cloth. All these luminaries who have an association with matters of faith must be turning in their graves today, at the desecration of a once-beautiful association between the ANC and the church. What was once a solid and productive relationship is now simply a string of blasphemous utterances, where scripture is quoted selectively and used for personal gain. Who would ever have thought we would hear the ANC call for men and women of the cloth to be silenced?

Let our memories not be short: let us remember what has been happening to the likes of Desmond Tutu since the dawn of the new South Africa; luminaries who have been despised for daring to call on the ANC government to do the right thing. They were invited to speak, to come up with solutions; but when they did, the ANC never intervened and merely turned a blind eye. Surely the party spoke with a forked tongue.

The ruling party, with its churchly roots, would do well to remember the Biblical admonishment: that faith without action is dead. Asking faith communities merely to pray – and not to speak the truth to power – is asking for a dead faith. Amen. DM

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