The spiritual centre of apartheid
Posted by Iwan Russell Jones on 22 October 2010, 9:48
THURSDAY 21 OCTOBER – The trip to Kayelitsha was organised by Gordon Aeschilman, a South African artist and activist who has been involved with the Lausanne movement for many years. Gordon wanted to give us an insight into the relationship between poverty, power and religion in his country, so he took us next to the Groote Kerk in the centre of Cape Town, the oldest church in South Africa.
As it happened we couldn’t go in because of an organ rehearsal, so we sat and drank coffee in the Institute of Democracy right opposite and listened while Gordon explained its significance. He told us that this place of worship belonging to the Dutch Reformed Church was the spiritual centre of apartheid in South Africa.
The Groote Kerk was the home of the Broederbond, the secret society that provided much of the leadership and ideology of the regime, and the place where a special service was always held at the opening of parliament.
Gordon reminded us of the explicitly religious nature of the apartheid regime. This was a government that believed itself to be thoroughly Christian. It gave the church an honoured place and role in society. It passed legislation on all kinds of moral issues. It outlawed abortion and pornography. It was comprised of people who believed in mission and in promoting Christian values. It was, in many ways, he suggested, the kind of government that believers long for today.
Yet at its heart was a form of Calvinist theology that insisted God had made white people superior to those of other races, and had given them authority to rule over others.
South Africa, Gordon concluded, is an important case study for the Lausanne movement and the whole of the evangelical world – a study in the corruption of Christian faith and the seduction of power and wealth. ‘This country has got a big DANGER sign written on it.’