Where is God in our SA quest for economic freedom?
– Those who suffer economically are the Object of His love and the Subject of His redemption (deliverance) –
This note was birthed in conversation with a facebook friend who asked the question “where is God in all of this?” Let me then begin to qualify or entertain this worthy question. Throughout the known and less known histories of men, there has always been a need to ask for the relevance, presence or even opinion of God in specific epochs. Humanity and those who believe in a God have always felt that there must be an opinion that God holds on issues be such war, social injustice, rape, abuse, death and dictatorship or oppression.
In man’s search for such we for always seek to make sense of our prevailing context through the lens of our faith. That means we process our experiences good, bad or ugly through the contemplation of our souls. This means it is natural to ask for God or about God in times of plight.
In South Africa today no different to in London UK, New York USA or the Arab league nation the questions are the same, the issues are congruent, youth are feeling marginalised, disenfranchised robbed and hard done by political and economic systems that have proven less humane and rather heartless to the plight of the poor, unemployed and the disenfranchised.
The Arab Spring have sprung and many despots that we all thought would never vacate their seats have been ejected in this season as young people begin the proverbially in Biblical sense “walk around the walls of Jericho”- claiming the end of oppressive regimes and systems.
Is it not amazing that the proverbial globe is in jolts of discomfort exemplified in discontent and articulated up rise. Yes, the entire globe is in convulsions of what could be deemed “insubordination“, whether it is Swaziland or Syria.
To consider these activities prevalent as pockets of dissatisfaction informed by misleading by those who can lead the masses in rhetorical confusion, is not to understand the context of this world phenomenon where the majority of the people remain in shackles of poverty doomed to no future and a life of struggle ad-infinitum.
The UNCHR figures tell us that the only true majority in our society today across the globe are young people or those defined as YOUTH. It then is understood that these would also endure the most of such inequality of rights, privileges and opportunities. It also would literally mean these are the most prone to prove vulnerable to suffer the most under a crumbling world economy informed by suffocating capitalism.
David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister missed this reality when he mid-September with the London up rise defined this as hooliganism. Herman Cain current Republic Party frontrunner in the USA 2012 presidential race, made the same blunder when he called the protesters of Wall Street as uninformed blaming themselves for their plight of joblessness.
In South Africa, there are those who consider the ANCYL call for protests in the name of economic redress as shortsighted and a narrative of seduction in which the poor are misled by a young man called Julius Malema who has been shown to have an appetite for the accoutrements of what wealth projects. These argue that the poor are stupid and allow this cum – capitalist to blind them to think the issue of economic redress is a necessity when another agenda holds sway. These advocate in public intellectual embrace as Professor Jonathan Jansen said months ago, “an attempt at enriching a few, to steal more from the state coffers in the name of economic redress”. That being the case for our views and opinions in a democratic SA are indeed welcomed and must be respected. I have sketched the context of the questions we are dealing with today to attempt an answer at a weighty question where is God.
Our only point of departure if we claim to be believers in God has to be the Bible. For it is in such that the identity, thought construct, heart and opinions of an unseen God is made known, and liberally shared. It is also important to in the beginning make it clear for me such Holy Writ is inerrant, infallible, uncontested and stands in a epoch of times yet applicable in a multiplicity of epochs without loosing its identity as truth, unchallenged in context, perfect for correction, reproof and rebuke. It is for us who believe the Word of God, in which we encounter a speaking God who refuses to be quiet regardless to situation, circumstance or prevailing context.
One if the not the central themes of the Biblical discourse constitutes a God who seeks to liberate his people. The entire redemption episode of salvation as a golden theme that weaves through the Old Testament Genesis right up to the New Testament Revelation, which for us also constitute the Canon, is the theme of liberation. The theme of a God who is actively engaging in initiating such liberation be it from an oppressive Pharaoh or non-God fearing Sons of Eli.
The second pertinent to God being a speaking God is to know that God chooses sides. There are those who advocate that fairness is to be an attribute of God, I hold a different view, I think instead of wanting to see God as fair we must Him for His consistency. The text says, “God is angry with wickedness all day long”. The fact that God preferred the offering of an Abel to that of a Cain has held many scholars in debate and contention to understand why He did such.
Yet regardless to our opinions and the litany of commentaries on the subject matter, none of us can today exclusively and authoritatively declare beyond question and advance a reason for such preference for one and a rejection of the other. He is the God who prefers a younger Jacob (deceiver) to an Esau (firstborn). He is the God who instructs His prophet Nathaniel to go to the house of Jesse and anoint Him a new king and such is David, who is the youngest and most feeble, one who later will sin gravely in adultery, conspiracy and murder.
He is the God who prefers a Gideon who is weak in his faith, scared of the fight but preferred as God’s mighty man of valour as the angel greets him. Yes, He is the God who prefers a Joseph the last born of a Jacob to all the sons of Jacob. I am saying this to advance the argument God is not neutral He does not stand indifferently. He consciously chooses sides and had long time chosen against abuse or oppression, if it concerns the object of his love and the subject of his redemption.
This side choosing of God is made manifest when he designates himself a role as the defender of the downtrodden, the protector of those in danger, the Father to the Fatherless and the Husband to the widows. He is the one who defends the cause of those who suffer injustice regardless to what. He is the one who exacts and calls and end to the mayhem and suffering regardless for how long that may have been perpetuated. He is the God whom Habakkuk one of the minor (only in volume as recorded) prophets ask “How long shall injustice rule over the justice”.
The God we proclaim and love is a God who chooses sides. In fact, when it comes to injustice he has chosen sides along time ago.
Irrespective how much we credit our political heroes for our political freedom, these cannot claim the victory over the demon of Apartheid as theirs outside of an active omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent God who holds the earth in His hand and measured the heights of the mountains and the depths of the oceans. The God who contains men in the capsule of time, in which we must sleep, eat and visit a bathroom.
The same God who affords humankind an intellect to let an Airbus 380 fly across the expanse of the earth as controlled by computers designed by a man, the object of his love, and the subject of his deliverance or liberation. This God is not neutral when the object of His love and the subject of his liberation finds themselves denied, disenfranchised or abused by systems of humans. His anger arose at those who oppress others; His discomfort is shown when he says “this day Pharaoh will know that I am God”. The God who is actively initiating the redemption of humanity by dispatching Himself when the recompense of sin demanded a perfect sacrifice is the God who in the 21st Century proves relevant on the issues of the 21st Century if the object of His love and the subject of His deliverance are involved.
He is the God who could not allow apartheid to be go on forever, He is the God who heard the cry of His people, who witnessed the blood of the first Khoi- San who was butchered when avarice and greedy Europeans sought to deny this nomad to traverse a land in expanse he has always known. He is the God who is nauseated with the death of a Ashley Kriel, Solomon Mahlangu, Steve Biko, Fort Calata, and Matthew Goniwe. He is the God who detests oppression whether it is Jews over Palestinians or Iranians declaring Jews no human beings, or employers over employees. He is the God who is stirred in wrath when a husband abuses his wife or an uncle rapes his niece or nephew. He is the God who cannot rest when injustice is perpetrated. He might prove slow but decisive when he answers the call of His people for freedom. He is the God whose intestines is in knots when fathers abdicate their responsibility in contrast to nature and abandon what they produce. He is the God is angry when hijackers kill innocent people, when communities are robbed of their land and mineral wealth by unscrupulous “business people” who take advantage of the ignorance of others. He is the God who established how long presidents and parties will rule in contrast to what these may think.
Hence, where is God now in this economic redress debate? Someone once noted for which he was castigated by those who denied him the full stretching of his thoughts, “God is dead”, this he said to make the point the way we live we have killed Him.
To understand God’s presence in our world is to understand his absence yet such absence is neither an absence in purpose nor an absence of destiny but an absence that we have requested by our rejection of Him – yet he is actively engaged in our society today.
It is Him who 17 years into democracy has risen in the minds of us to call for a CODESA 3 one with an ECONOMIC REDRESS as a non-negotiable. It is Him who is abhorred by capitalism in which the masses remain abused by a few who are overtaken by greed incomparable manifested in salaries of R20million for a CEO when, the average worker must organise to get a living wage. It is the God who asks ho can 86% of South Africa remained supported by a Constitutional democracy now, not offend the masses?
How can mines He provided be only good to enrich a handful be they white black or whatever colour they choose to define them for he never defined them in such myopic and cynicism of black and white. They remain the object of His love and the subject of His deliverance. He is the God who cries wrong, that the economy of South Africa in the name of democracy is defended exclusively owned by whites. He is the God who asks whose wealth is this, whose minerals are these.
He is the God who will rise and condemn those who call themselves black when such seek to oppress others who call themselves white. He is the God who will return the land of the Khoi-San or due repayment for such atrocity. He is never neutral, He may be slow, but He is an on time God.
This God has in these times now chosen to make known the consciousness of such grave economic disparity glaringly visible no dissimilar to the political freedom struggle we lived through in another epoch.
In conclusion He is the God who chooses people to lead His cause that often we don’t qualify for we know too much of their clay feet. I hold if Moses was such an example than Malema is duly qualified to lead this economic struggle notwithstanding all his known and unknown shortcomings. It must attest to something that the intellect and hugeness of presidents and leaders could not see the need for this redress that a child for whatever reasons was able to identify.
In my books Moses was less qualified to lead the 3 million people who constituted the object of His love and the subject of His redemption. Moses was a stutterer, Moses was raised in a foreign country with a foreign language and dialect (the House of Pharaoh), and he was raised in the house of Pharaoh. He lied and had killed a man. I bet if the Israelites had to choose the captain of there deliverance they would never have preferred Moses.
No different with us today, we are blinded by the shortcomings of a Malema. We are held hostage by his appetite for breitling watches, Gucci suits as if we do not share such appetite. We are judging him for trying to manipulate the systems to fast track his own economic welfare. Need I say categorically here and now no different to many apartheid and democracy billionaires have done when these became wealthy by political connections and not by organic entrepreneurship, the same who today holds the moral code for what must inform a morality in wealth creation.
I shall conclude God has propelled this cry for economic redress and the instrument(s) He uses must not be seen as the reason for this redress. He as God is not silent, He as God is saying enough is enough my people are abused and this must stop. Hence, just like the first marches against Apartheid signalled the end of the evil inhumane and unjust system so this first march organised by the ANCYL and the YOUTH constitutes the first signal that economic redress is ordered by the heavens and nothing shall prevail against it.
Perhaps the Biblical meaning “a child shall lead them” is proving as a hermeneutic key for this epoch an interesting angle at this our call for economic redress.
Hence, thank you Michelle Jacobs for asking this tough question today, it compelled me to think and attempt an articulation of what I believe God is doing and saying in this epoch.
Bishop Clyde N. Ramalaine
Independent Observer, Founder of the Thinking Masses and author of “Through the Prism of My Soul” and anthology of Contemporary Political Commentary and Analysis.