Since meeting Dion, it seems I’m constantly and delightfully led to theologians from South Africa. Please allow me to lift up some gems .
Q. Do you distinguish between social involvement and political involvement?
Yes, I do, in the sense that it was not important for us to be part of a political party. We were not-people like myself, Dominicans, Christians, etc.-trying to gain power. We were working for justice. That’s a social issue. We did work with political parties-in fact very much so-because it was necessary to do that in order to ensure that there was going to be social justice. So, while we worked with politicians, when the time came to have a democratic election, it was the politicians who became members of parliament and of government, but those of us who had worked on behalf of Christianity and because of our Christian faith, we continued working in the Church; we were not interested in political power. But there were a few people from the Churches who did go into politics, partly because there were not many people to take all the political posts of government that was necessary at the time.
Q. Did you ever see any conflict between your social activism and your vocation as a Dominican and religious?
The conflict was not so much with being a Dominican, but there was conflict with the Church and with other members of the Church, because there were many people who said that one should not be involved in politics, and that even issues of justice were not the kind of thing that a priest should be involved in. I was often accused of being a "political priest."
I was also accused of being a communist. If you were against the government-which was regarded as a Christian government, even if it did wrong-and if you wanted equality for everybody, then you were a communist. That was a criticism that I and many in Latin America put up with: the accusation of being a communist. All that is gone today, but it was a problem in the past.
Q. How do you pray when confronting misery, suffering, injustice, and misunderstanding?
A. I think we have learned to live with that-not that we do not protest against it. It is very sad, and we continually try to change the country so that there will not be poor people, or fewer poor people. But I think we realize that this is very difficult with the kind of globalized economy we live in today. We have to realize it is a struggle that will take a long time. We cannot solve all these problems ourselves and need to trust in God and do the best we can. So, I think that would be more my prayer.
The virtue we need most of all, I would say, is hope. We need to teach people hope, and to be hopeful ourselves in one way or another.
Q. How can you teach hope?
A. Well, "teach" is entirely the wrong word. No, you can’t teach hope. But if we are hopeful, and can give an account of our hope to others, as the Letter of Peter says, we can, by what we do and say, enable other people to be hopeful.
Reading this is so inspiring . and empowering! In our own unique way, Malaysia has much to learn.
. What the South African experience seems to be saying to us here is that justice, peace and reconciliation can be achieved only through good leadership, which does not only mean leadership that is strong and decisive, but leadership that is humble, honest, fearless and unselfish, a leadership that is based upon a deep personal freedom. In Christian terms we might want to call it ‘holiness’ or ‘sanctity’. That this should have been found in people who sometimes had little or nothing to do with the Church is a challenge to our theology.
. Another element in South Africa’s dialectic of change was the development of a strong civil society. Because only the mildest of opposition political parties were allowed to operate, the real opponents of apartheid, black and white, worked in and through the organs of civil society. Many South Africans were in fact members of the banned African National Congress (ANC), Pan African Congress (PAC) or South African Communist Party (SACP), but they worked in civil society movements like trade unions, youth movements, women’s movements, student movements as well as volunteer organisations or NGOs (non-governmental organisations) working for the poor, the uneducated, the illiterate, the disabled and so forth. Churches and religious communities, and especially religious organisations and movements working for justice and peace, were also seen as part of civil society.
It was in the organs of civil society that people of different colours and creeds learnt to work together united in the struggle against the common enemy, apartheid. In 1983 almost all these organisations and movements, including some church movements, came together to form the extremely powerful United Democratic Front (UDF).
. Over the years most whites had been pleading for peace and reconciliation, but they had not been willing to sacrifice their privileges and allow equal rights for the black majority in one undivided nation. They wanted peace without justice. Tough negotiating changed that.
. Reconciliation in South Africa is based squarely upon a common belief in the value of negotiations. Today, South Africans, black and white, travel the world to assist in situations of violent conflict by ‘preaching’ the virtues of a negotiated settlement.
A feature of South Africa’s experience worth noting is that negotiations, and even the original talks about talks, were never brokered or facilitated or mediated by anyone from outside – even when the negotiations threatened to break down and once or twice did break down. That the negotiators themselves were able to pick up the pieces again and again and get the process back on track must be attributed to our extraordinarily wise and magnanimous leadership.
The South African experience of conflict and reconciliation highlights a number of human and Christian values:
– the value of dialogue and negotiation in place of violent conflict,
– the value of striving for a more just society rather than the victory of one group over another,
– the value of making carefully defined concessions or compromises,
– the value of a willingness to forgive or at least to grant amnesty when necessary,
– the value of dealing with the past rather than burying it,
– the value of avoiding complacency and apathy in the face of overwhelming problems,
– the value of a strong civil society including trade unions and religious communities, and, last but not least,
– the indispensable value of good leadership and personal freedom.
Good basic information.
I’m on Albert Nolan overload right now ..
Episode 1: Jesus was amazingly free (21 min.)
“Jesus was an amazingly free person and what he was bringing was not new constraints and so forth, not new prohibitions, etc., but freedom,” Nolan tells Tom Fox. “Many people look at Christianity and the church and see it as something that constrains, it prevents people from being free, it prevents people from doing things, and is generally restrictive and I think that’s a mistake. Christianity is not supposed to be like that and Jesus was not like that.”
Episode 2: People are disillusioned (22 min.)
“All the things that were promised with progress are not working,” Nolan tells Tom Fox. “The great ideologies are all shown today to be faulty. The grand narratives, as they are called, are all falling apart. People are disillusioned.” And this is a great opportunity for Christians, he says. Christianity has a holistic answer to this. This disillusionment, he says, “opens up all sorts of possibility.”
Episode 3: New voices give hope and the ‘new science’ (17 min.)
“While we in the West were pursuing individualism as a great ideal, being independent of everybody else and autonomous and so forth, we are beginning to discover now that that is not good for us. In other words, being selfish and self-centered is our problem, not the solution to our problems,” Nolan says. This is being challenged, he said, by new voices: the poor, women and indigenous people.
Also in this episode, Nolan talks about “the new science.” He tells Tom Fox: “Scientists have reached the point where they’re able to say, ‘We don’t know, we don’t understand . It’s a whole new approach to the universe, to the world, to human beings, to everything-that it is mysterious.”
Episode 4: Jesus’ spirituality (26 min.)
Nolan says, “What Jesus tried to do for people was not to condemn, to blame, to punish, judge, or any of those things, but quite clearly to heal. He says that people need, the sinners need a physician. They need a doctor. They need a healer. . [Understanding this] is very important, it’s a way of understanding what [Jesus] actually contributed, what he brought, what salvation is all about.”
Episode 5: In the presence of colossal mystery (21 min.)
“Everything is a mystery.” That doesn’t mean, Nolan explains, that everything is disappointing because can’t know it. “Rather, it is recognizing that we don’t know, but it is so much bigger, greater, grander than anything we do know,” he tells Tom Fox. Being “in the presence of colossal mystery . leads to a kind of attitude of praise and worship and adoration, but then also to the recognition that the mystery loves me and you and everybody else. So, it is a mystery of love.”
Episode 6: The sharing Jesus had in mind (22 min.)
“Sharing seems to be an extremely important part of Jesus teaching that gets lost,” Nolan tells Tom Fox. “It’s no longer seen as the great ideal that Jesus wanted. I think Jesus saw the solution, if you want to call it that, to the problem of poverty and wealth, and all that kind of thing, as sharing. . [Sharing] seems to me to describe a very important aspect of the Kingdom of God.”
In this episode, Nolan also talks about creation. God the creator is better understand as artist than as a manufacturer, he says. “God’s act of creating, not only continues right through to today, but God creates with a process that’s evolutionary. In the past, I think we didn’t realize that. Even the great theologians, and so forth, didn’t realize that,” he says.
Short but profound .
A hope-giving spirituality, then, would be a spirituality that deepens our sense of the reality of God. Yet for many people God is dead: despite their profession of belief, in practice God, plays no role in their lives at all. We cannot blame them for it: the images of God (punishing judge, supreme male patriarch, the all powerfull manipulator, etc) is hopelessly misleading. Hence for hope we must to unlearn these images of God. We should not worship images(idols) of God.
We need a re-enchantment with God. The removal of mystery lead to the death of God. Our way to the mystery of God is not knowledge. Hence, my relationship to God is wonder, being enthrawled, being marveled. The new cosmology, away from Newton’s mechanistic machine cosmology towards Einstein, the mystery. Then the next step is worship and adore God- we can only bow down and worship- we are in teh presecne of some so much bigger then what we are. One we’ve done that, then trust and confidence in God comes forth- we believe what jesus taught us. God becomes like a personal lover. an expreience of love. This is prayer, not knowledge or theology. It a relationship.