Daniel P. Kidder in his Treatise on Homiletics notes ‘A moment’s reflection upon the eternal consequences that may issue from the preaching of a single sermon in the name of the great author and finisher of faith, should be sufficient to effectively rebuke the haphazard carelessness and the recklessness of self-conceit with which texts are sometimes taken and treated in such as may harmonize with the divine guidance often as he may perform that important task.’
I thought about the words of Kidder when I listened to the clip of Pastor Olivier of Rivers Church’s sermon. I was further troubled when I read the bereft of pensive reflection immanent in due repentance and evidenced in lame apology he offered after the outcry.
Perhaps I must start in stating upfront Pastor Andre Olivier of the Rivers Church in Sandton is entitled to have an opinion as a citizen of a democratic society. I therefore will defend his right to have an opinion no different to any of us.
Therefore free speech as a constitutional bill of right subject is not on trial when many of us across various platforms and strata of humanity air our discomfort and disdain with the statements accredited to Pastor Olivier.
Perhaps what is cause for grave concern is where and from where these ideological views and statements were shared.
As a fellow member of the clergy, some solicited my opinion as to how I see or understood Pastor Olivier’s statements.
I have attempted to delineate six levels or areas where Olivier in my assessment erred. I will attempt to highlight these herewith:
Firstly Olivier did not maintain a discerning of the pulpit as sacred
My conclusion is I am burdened by the preacher’s articulations. In order to appreciate my postulated burden with Olivier I must first start in addressing where the words were released. I light my proverbial candle by hearing John Calvin “when a man has climbed up into the pulpit… it is (so) that God may speak to us by the mouth of a man”
The pulpit necessitates a consciousness and an awareness of the sacred context of preaching for such preaching is truly the prognostication of God’s Word. The pulpit is not a place for opinions, Calvin reminds us its God speaking in the mouth of human beings. The pulpit is not the place for racial rhetoric or the postulating and defending of racial ideologies regardless to how dear one may hold them.
So carried away with sharing his clearly deep-seated views that he had to remind himself that he was off the topic. It is clear somewhere in the sermon the Holy Spirit was no more leading but a man who has defined conclusively his identity as ‘white’ on a mission emerged to make the case for the white identity in success of economic expression.
Secondly Olivier perhaps did not discern the true identity of the body of Christ.
Pastor Olivier’s understanding of the believer is scripted in blackness and whiteness of identity constructs. It appears he speaks as a “white” man less as a Christian. He will forgive us to read him as first “white” and than a Christian. The complete Redemptive Work of Christ that finds all humans in an equal state of sinfulness and therefore in need of righteousness simply has no place for racial classifications as the supreme identity of the believer.
We dare not reduce the costly redemptive work of Christ to be subservient to race for an identity for the believer. It must be that we condemn with every fibre in our collective bone the idea in which “black” and “white” are supreme as descriptive of the believers’ identity.
Thirdly Olivier ventured to share his personal opinions as the word of God.
He opts to share from the pulpit his personal views on South Africa in economic history and present circumstances along racial lines, in which he opts to explain and defend the wealth of whites. So categorical and confirmed are the views of Olivier that he challenges those who argue those with a denotation of white for their human agency never to have taken any land or anything from them.”
I shall remonstrate right here the preacher left the house and a crusader of a ‘white’ identity stepped in. At this point Olivier had just become a politician and it can be argued he had just violated the ethical code of preaching, because his audience reflects South Africa in history warts and all. To become a crusader for white economic defence Olivier opened himself up to be questioned as no more preaching but engaging in a form of politicking in an election season.
In the fourth instance Olivier proved perhaps oblivious if not insensitive to our current race informed discourse.
Olivier it can be argued proved very insensitive to share these clearly deep-seated views when he as faith leader ought to know where we as a nation finds ourselves with the constant and regular racist statements of those who claim a “white” description for their identity.
He must have known the unwelcoming and stubborn reality that fills our media and public space on a daily basis. Yet common sense or should I say God sense simply didn’t caution the pastor from the richest square mile in Africa to venture into very troubled waters of inequality, race ownership of an economy and the defence of whites as hard workers.
In the fifth instance Olivier proved insensitive to our collective historic and current land ownership in South Africa
It is common that there is an attempt to whitewash a history of colonialism and apartheid, in which land the actual proverbial nerve stands paramount
The subject of stolen land raises the ire of many who shares a discomfort in being tagged as beneficiaries of that which was stolen, violently dispossessed and in many cases robbed from those who became subhuman under white supremacy.
To Pastor Olivier we must say regardless to how discomforting our history portends we dare not attempt to annihilate it only because we embarrassed by it. To disown our history of stolen land in one-dimensional claims of land was not taken from its rightful owners is simply not acceptable.
Whilst our history may prove discomforting we simply can’t airbrush colonialism and apartheid.
I implore Olivier if he is to preach the Word to attempt to do so and leave his confirmed political opinions for his braai mates.
Lastly Olivier’s apology attests a public relations exercise of damage control
Let me in conclusion turn to the apology of Olivier. The broader South African society finds itself subjected in recent times to the tasteless and completely unpalatable racist exploits of an endless list of publicly known cases. These include the likes of Penny Sparrow, Chris Hart, Richard Slade, Judge Mabel Jansen, Vicky Momberg, Justin Van Vuuren to name a few…
These are all documented cases in the last couple of months. In each instance when these racists were caught out they offered lame duck apologies that ranges from, it was as a mistake, I was angry, I did not mean it to hurt anyone, I was stupid, If I had offended anyone..
It has almost become a subculture by now that you first prove brave in racist rant and when you caught out you apologise and a very forgiving ‘black’ South Africa forgives and we continue until another, and another and another. It appears it has become fashionable to be racist.
Today Pastor Andre Olivier took to twitter to tend his apology too.
“Reflecting on my sermon last weekend I believe that it is right to express my regret for the hurt and offense…that was caused by my statements made during my message. For that I unreservedly apologise…I recognise that my words were poorly chosen, particularly in context of where this country comes from. My comments did not reflect my intention, and I acknowledge the harm that has come as a result. I love all South Africans & am committed to build the country to overcome the wrongs of the past. Words cannot express my remorse. I trust my future actions will support the sincerity of my apology.”
It is clear from this apology that Pastor Olivier was advised or counselled because these words were coached to be diametrically the opposite of what he shared in certainty yet without restating any of the controversial subject matter.
It appears his apology refuses to address each of the controversial subject material he in braveness of white defence crusade led. He now gives a generalised blanket apology clearly the work of a public relations and spin doctoring.
What we expected to hear from Pastor Olivier should perhaps have read:
I, Andre G. Olivier was wrong for having abused the pulpit in dragging my personal ideological stances as God-speak, a transgression of sin for which I am petitioning God for mercy.
I gravely erred when I tried to defend ‘white’ wealth in claim of hard work I gravely insulted the intelligence and being of those whose share a denotation of “black” for the human agency.
I dismally failed as a leader when through these utterances of mine I destroyed the dream of Autsomoah, Nelson Mandela, Beyers Naude, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Van Zyl Slabbert, Neville Alexander and many others.
I erred when I challenged documented history of land ownership and acquisitions in South Africa, the very reality of an ungodly colonial and apartheid supremacy past.
I proved insensitive to everyone who shares a denotation of “black” for their identity, because in defending “white” wealth immanent in hard work I had implicitly stated “blacks” are lazy.
I sinned for letting an unscientific notion of race in ” white” identity count more than the believers’ identity in Christ. Yes I spoke in certainty of my whiteness and my class disposition proving very insensitive to the poor, the very poor that Jesus reminded us we will always have with us.
I have sinned before God and man and have not respected God neither those he made in equal in Likeness of His Divine Image.
In my arrogance I allowed my pride to enter God’s pristine moment when he addresses His people and He does not see them in colour of ‘black’ or ‘white’ but as His beloved.
My utterances were irresponsible as a leader in a democratic society where we struggle to heal the wounds of racial hatred, thus my utterances fuels the demon of racism.
I now petition God and my fellow men to extend mercy for this my sin. I pray that over time my actions will confirm the repentance of evil and that I be embraced in the society of South Africa as equal to all and above none.
Rather what we hear from Olivier now is, he is all of a sudden conscious of our collective historical context. He is today full of love for all South Africans. He wants to build now.
I implore Pastor Olivier to repent and go and rethink your apology, and allow repentance to lead your apology not a public relations damage control premise.
Bishop Clyde N. S. Ramalaine