In all the talk about the elections, a voice that is seldom heard is that of the church. For a while, it seemed as if the church would arrive late –
out of breath, but it would arrive. Now, it appears the voice of the church will remain silent. One is not talking about the church leadership in this case,
but the clergy who used to swell the ranks of the peace marches and who could be relied upon to make the relevant mention of the situation in the sermons.
Sadly, it seems the struggle has been abandoned with indecent haste. It is back to the business of the religious marketplace. The dilemma is this: the struggle for justice had as its aim the solidarity task of ridding our country of apartheid.
Now, in the period of election, the fear is that by giving an informed indication of how Christians ought to respond to the upcoming elections, one could be
identified as being for or against a certain party. If the church decides not to speak, it forgets that silence, in itself, is a statement.
It can be argued this neutrality was ignoring the legacy of individuals who had inspired the oppressed, who had gone to jail and who had been killed in
struggle for what believers had prayed and had in turn struggled for.
Also, in an unique way, the church had been a political home for many. In the absence of organised political organisations, the church was the place where many people first became inspired to work for justice.
Therefore, being a Christian and being politically involved should not be seen as one being exclusive of the other. Political participation provided
insights and strategies for allowing our neighbour whole plight, which was so obvious to see. Therefore, we need to talk about the upcoming elections as
Christians and how we should vote.
There are important questions that we should attempt to answer. Are our decisions and choices fear based? Are these fears causing us to revert to the apartheid style of thinking and relating to others who appear different from us?
Are we responding to this new challenge from God as free men and women, or as slaves who are longing back to the flesh pots of Egypt?
Democracy includes the right to disagree. Is it not time that we as Christians set an example of tolerant disagreement which is a whole sight more Godly than this damning and supposed neutrality?
Is it not time to break the silence about the elections and what we ought to do as people of faith? Making choices is part of life: some of these might make us unpopular, or so we fear. But if one’s decision is faith based, respect is often more for thcoming that wanton criticism. A useful text is that of Deuteronomy 30:15 “I have said before you this day life and good, death and evil.” Further on we are cautioned “…choose life” (verse 19). As Christians seeking certain
ways of electing His will be done, we have to make choices that we can live by and give an account of (1 Peter 3:15).
Besides the people that are undecided about who to vote for there are many others that have decided not to vote. The elections form part of the ongoing struggle for justice and peace for all our people. To vote is to exercise a human right and so when you do vote, you must take care that you vote in a responsible manner. To quote the great Chief Albert John Luthuli, the 1961 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, “Vote and let us build together”. As we look back with pride on Church leaders such as ZK Matthews, Albert Luthuli who stated that he was “in the movement” (ANC) simply because he was a Christian, John Langalibalele Dube with his declaration of “forward with Christianity and liberation”, and Desmond Tutu, Bishop Emeritus Z Kameeta and other Namibian religious leaders with the dream of a “Rainbow people of God”.
These were leaders who made connections between their Faith and what they understood as God’s politics, as Jim Wallis, the American political theologian
would have called it. The church in our country is huge in numbers, but sometimes it appears as if the impact is minimal. Therefore, I am constantly reminded of the words of FR. Trevor Huddleston who, in 1950 when apartheid was being developed with passion by the nationalist government, looked for the guidance of the Church and, when he did not see much, declared, “the Church sleeps on, although it sometimes talks in its sleep”.
In light of the aforementioned, there are also 3 Ps that are useful in this regard: Principles, Platform and Performance. On the basis of the aforementioned principles using reason you then decide what would best serve your needs and the interest of the country as a whole.
As a parting thought, I leave you with a quote from Rev. Dr Steve De Gruchy “If your Church disappears overnight, who would miss it, aside from the members. If the answer is hardly anyone, then you need to turn your Church into a real asset for the community”. These are truly words to live by, especially with the looming local and regional elections.