Friday, April 30, 2010


I am probably someone that frustrates people quite a lot by not accepting, without question, things that others treat as normal. But something that I am starting to question very late is our understanding of worldviews. Worldviews are ok, but our absolute categorisation of them is starting to become static and unhelpful. Pre-modern/traditional, modern and postmodern. So pat, so easy. So even taught in university courses. I have questioned our understanding of postmodernism before - saying primarily that there are two streams, extreme modernism and counter modernism. Now I am wondering about modernism. What about two ages - the age of enlightenment (hey, we can actually solve problems and control our world to some extent) and then the age of despair (oh no, we can't solve as much as we want and actually we are helpless, simply a product of . . . whatever). They are both aspects of modernism.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Matric Dance

My second daughter has had to cope with moving towns (and schools) just as she starts her matric year. She is doing very well! On Saturday she had her matric dance - another stress - how to find a date when you've been living in a place for only four months? But God is good and church is community.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Today is . . . um . . .

The university changes its timetable whenever there is a public holiday. So today, although it is Wednesday, the timetable followed is Tuesday's. This is a good idea, because we lose a lot of Mondays to public holidays (I suppose Tuesdays too). This is the first time this year that the change has affected me and I'm feeling really confused! The thing is that the rest of my life doesn't change - Wednesday is shopping day. I can't just not shop because today is an academic Tuesday - the family will starve. But will I remember as I get absorbed into Tuesday?
To make it worse, my husband and eldest son have Monday today. So there are two of us having Tuesday, two of us having Monday and two of us having Wednesday!

Monday, April 26, 2010


I am actually, for the first time this year, starting to feel happy. It is an odd feeling because it is mixed with guilt - should I be feeling happy?I have psychologically stepped out of the cage - which I now visualise as being in the bottom lefthand corner of my life. It's there. It contains guilt and feelings of inadequacy. Some of that is real and some things are going to bite me sooner or later.
But I also feel more in control of my life. I feel that I can make this year work and be meaningful.The two things that I have done that I think help the most 1. I've promised myself to email a particular friend who is on the 'outside' once a week every week. This keeps me aware that there is meaning in my life beyond the seminary - there have been times that I've struggled to believe this. 2. I've commited to using most of Fridays and part of Monday afternoons for my own goals and ambitions in terms of study and writing. That has been in place for two weeks now and has been very liberating.There have been other changes that I have made, but they have risen from these two initial changes.
God is good.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What is culture?

One of our tutors at seminary made a remark to our Formation group about cell phones. He said that he, as a white person, would not answer his cell phone in a meeting, but he had observed that it seemed to be black African culture to take calls whenever wherever. He gave an example of a minister who took a call while preaching - which he did find unusually extreme, but it was an example of what he had observed.
Now, most of us would agree that this does describe black African behaviour regarding cell phones. But the black guys in our group said, 'no, that is not our culture'. This is similar to what I posted previously where black African people in one of my groups asserted that witchcraft and witch hunts were not part of African culture.
What do we mean by culture in South Africa today? Is behaviour practised by a definable group part of that group's culture? Does it need to be a traditional practice (I mean something practised by previous generations) to be culture? What I think is happening is that culture has become a concept used to legitimise behaviour. 'I do this because it is my culture and you may not disapprove because it is not your culture and you do not understand'. In fact the whole meaning of the word culture has been distorted. When someone says, 'this is not part of our culture' it really means 'I do not think this is legitimate behaviour, therefore I choose not to acknowledge it as part of my culture'. This is ok, up to a point, but it does entail a denial of the fact that certain practices, even if they are illegitimate, do form part of certain people's contemporary culture - or culture of origin. In the long run, pretending that a harmful practice does not exist is not likely to lead to a positive change in culture.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Listening to each other

One of the big things with theological dialogue and conversation is the willingness to listen to each other. Most of us recognise the need to be aware of points of view that differ from our own and the oportunities for growth in ourselves and for mutual understanding that arise from engaging with each other. Sometimes, though, I think the call to listen to each other comes from people who are really saying, "I will listen to you because I want you to listen to me, but there isn't the remotest chance in all the world that I will change my position because of anything you might say."
I think there are times when it is ok to say that we are not willing to change, partly because we don't have time to properly listen to every theory or thought that comes along, but it is dishonest to say that we are listening when we have no intention of allowing what is heard to impact us.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Can be discouraging

It's interesting how things can discourage me and I don't even realise it! When I started at seminary there was some discussion about my doing a doctorate in theology next year - however someone, who ought to know, said it would take a minimum of four to six years through UKZN. Now, I was pretty sure that it would be faster through Unisa, but UKZN is just around the corner and the seminary would prefer to use them.
So I mostly put my thoughts on the backburner, because I'm in no rush for a doctorate - I don't need it for anything. But in semi-casual conversation with someone from the university I discovered that I could do it in two years and they would apply to get it through and no problem with two and a half or three years. Now, suddenly I'm fired up about it. Maybe it does take me four to six years - but then that will be my choice! It can be done faster.
I had no idea that the length of time I thought would be involved was discouraging me!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Black Consciousness

I was talking to an academic at UKZN recently - it was an informal discussion about the possibility of my doing a doctorate there next year. As we were talking and I mentioned black consciousness he said, 'Don't waste your time on black consciousness, leave that out. It will soon be a thing of the past.' That puzzled me because it seems to be very much a thing of now. But then reading more of 'Christ Divided' (see a previous post) I eventually came to understand that the idea of black consciousness movements and black separation is not a desire for 'separate development' but a desire for black people to overcome the sense of inferiority that they feel amongst white people. Ok, so I've heard this before, but it registered more clearly with me now. And so the people who I know who are keen to work at being people together in this country, regardless of race, are new generation people who operate without any sense of inferiority at all. But there are others (mostly older people) who haven't made that transition yet. In this sense, black consciousness should die. What may arise in its place is black supremacy or simply organisations that exist because people in them enjoy the power that they have there.
Got to go to a meeting . . . so forgive the not quite complete thoughts!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Precious by Sapphire

This book was lent to me by a fellow seminarian who bought it in London. A story about a teenage girl who was sexually abused since her early childhood. It is very explicit and certainly drives one to be aware that 'sexual abuse' is a fairly mild word that pertains to violent and disgusting behaviour. I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know how it compares.

Friday, April 16, 2010

To follow up on birds in cages . . .

I have to concede that I have finished this week better than I did the last one. I am in a much better space. The biggest reason is probably that I have put time in my schedule for my own reading, research and writing - with the blessing of the seminary. That time is enough that I can say that my goal for this year is to write 'my book' and to get together a proposal for a doctorate. I also want to keep the seminary happy, so that I can eventually get to be a minister, but that is now not the be all and end all of my life. Important, yes, and I hope that I learn in the process, but in terms of my own personal growth the book and the proposal are fundamental.
The test for me will be whether I can defend that time and use it for myself or whether I will keep using it to catch up seminary business. That is just a matter of self-discipline.
Thank you for all who said a prayer for me - both my husband and I felt last evening that we had broken through some sort of barrier in our separate work lives.
God is gracious.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Digging out the past

I am not somebody who goes back and reads stuff that I wrote in the past. I keep a prayer journal, on and off, which records the things that I am struggling with or celebrating, but I never go back and read it. Which is probably a pity - but somehow I just don't like doing it.
About two years ago I had a hard disk crash on my pc and someone recovered a whole lot of files for me - but they have the useful names of recovered_123.doc and so on. Every now and again when I know I had something and I think it might be there, I go and search through those files. Last night I was looking and was quite surprised at what I found. I actually did a fourth year research paper on the use of the internet in ministry - I don't remember that at all! I also found the research paper that I wrote on funerals in different contexts. I am scared to read them because I am afraid that I will think them terribly inadequate, but I hope I will and maybe I will post parts of them here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Birds sometimes can't live in cages

I think I have found a metaphor for what I am experiencing in seminary. Some birds do well in cages - like budgies. Others -no matter what good things you give them, food, water, toys, treats - will pine away and die. So seminary is good - everything is great. But I'm fading away . . .
Now that I have a metaphor, maybe I can find a solution - I just refuse to become bitter and angry.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Christ Divided

I am busy reading the book 'Christ Divided:Liberalism, Ecumenism and Race in South Africa' by David Thomas. Steve Hayes reviewed it here.
This book is helping me to crystalise my thinking on issues of church and race - but I find myself just as confused as ever as to the way forward.
The church deals with the history of the church in South Africa and describes the involvement of the early missionaries, showing how this affected and affects the church today. Basically, Thomas says that there were two missionary approaches. The one was to plant a church within an ethnic community and allow that church to be fully owned by the community - in effect, once the church had taken hold the missionary would withdraw. This is the understanding of 'good mission work' that I have always had due to whatever books I have read. The best evangelism is done when the evangelist is from the same ethnic group or community as the people amongst whom he or she is working. BUT - it turns out that this mission focus was held by the people who ultimately drew up apartheid - separate churches (based on ethnicity) led to separate development. This mission practice was carried out by the Lutherans and the Dutch Reformed Church, amongst others.
On the other hand the Methodist Church and the Anglican Church had a different tack. They believed passionately that the church should not differentiate on the basis of race and that if they were to have separate churches it would be like saying that God saw blacks and whites differently. The drawback to this approach was that for sometime black people were in the minority in the churches and so things tended to go the way of the white people and black people had few opportunities for top level leadership. Some black people actually requested that they be allowed to establish their own churches.
I'm struggling with the question of , 'So what is right? Group consciousness and self determination or multi-racial at all cost'. I believe that the Methodist Church in Southern Africa today could easily be divided into two bodies - black people who are tied closely to their traditions and heritage and see little use for white people and their ways and white and black people who want to work together to develop a common heritage and a common future. I think that if we made that distinction, both churches would grow and flourish. But would it be right?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Feeling Abandoned

I sometimes lie awake at night - I don't sleep that well. So last night I wake up at 3am. And my thoughts are just so negative. Two years of seminary stretches before me like - well something I don't want to do for two years. I pray and ask God if there isn't another way to serve him. Why this? And I don't get any answer.
I'm in a between place. I don't belong anywhere. Will I manage another two years? (one year and nine months!)
I will feel better tomorrow.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

De La Rey, Malema and Christian Soldiers

I think this is an intersesting comparison of three songs that are being sung today!

Here are some of the words of the song De La Rey sung by Bok van Blerk (translated into English):

On a mountain in the night
We lie in the dark and wait
In the mud and the blood
As rain and streepsak clings to me
And my house and my farm were burnt to the ground so they could capture us

But those flames and those fires now burns deep deep within me.

De La Rey, De La Rey can you come and lead the Boers?

De La Rey, De La Rey
General, General we will fall around you as one.
General De La Rey.

I think it would be fair to call this an 'Afrikaner consciousness' song. It calls people together and brings about an emotional response. This song made many people uncomfortable when it came out. It is a rallying call, but I don't think a call to violence. Perhaps the main message is that the Afrikaner people see themselves as becoming the oppressed.

This is the 'Kill the Boer' song that Malema has made famous - I got it off the web, I hope this is accurate!

Ayasaba amagwala (“They are scared the cowards”)
Awudubule (i)bhunu (“Do shoot the/a farmer”)
Ziyarobha le zintsha (“They rob us, these dogs”)

Again, I think it is fair to call this a Black consciousness song. This song, I would think, carry meaning that goes beyond the words. Is it a call to violence? Actually, I think it depends on how one would translate 'Awudubule'. It might be better to see it as saying 'Please shoot the Boer/Afrikaner' and in this sense it could even be a prayer. But the key point would be that it does not express a motivation to kill, but rather a plea that someone else would do it! In this case, it is not a call to violence, but a rallying call for those who feel disempowered and an expression of the need for hope.

Now, how about this one?

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
forward into battle see his banners go!

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.

This time I would describe this as a Christian consciousness song. Is it a call to violence? From the words, yes. But from long practise, no. Everyone is quite happy to accept that the 'war' is metaphorical.

So, what is fair? Who should be allowed to sing their 'consciousness' songs? I think that the militant Christian hymns are losing favour these days. The difference between the De La Rey song and the Kill the Boer song is that Afrikaans people are a minority and in a sense they are oppressed by affirmative action, but Black people in South Africa are no longer, as a group, oppressed. For some of them to continue to sing freedom songs is not sentimentality but, I think, rather an indication that some of them are not willing to pick up the burden of responsibilty that lies on the 'dominant power' - if you like, the oppressor. Of course, many do take up that responsibility. They call for Malema to be silenced. They remember the past by constructive action, not rhetoric. They work for the upliftment of the previously oppressed. This latter group must be the hope for South Africa - and I believe that we will find many of these people in the churches and I hope that the church will encourage and empower them.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Lessons from Witchcraft

We had a really useful small group discussion at seminary yesterday. The subject was the practice of witchcraft and the hunting of witches in the Limpopo province and the question of how the local church should respond. The purpose of the discussion (from the course presenters point of view) was to understand the difficulties of engaging prevalent cultural practices with the gospel.
I'm not sure that we made any meaningful progress in actually solving the problem, but two things made me stop and think. By the way, my group was three black people and one white (me). All spoke good English, which I think made for the good discussion.
Stop 1: Witchcraft is also part of white culture - why else could Shakespeare have written as he did in Macbeth? Eina. Is that how black people understand white culture? By reading Shakespeare? Well, I stop and think.
Stop 2: Witchcraft is not part of the black African culture. Ok, I'll go with that. But what is it then? We might need to start thinking of words other than 'culture' because we've lost a real sense of meaning. Are we talking traditions? Practice? Religion? Some sort of ideal? I stop and think.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Back to Work

Today it feels like the Monday of all Mondays. And it's Tuesday. Holidays are over, the hype of Easter is done and now it is back to the daily slog. I think the most difficult thing is 'changing mode' - going from holiday and freedom back to discipline and other people's demands. In my flat at SMMS. Feeling that I don't want to be here. My husband is probably still in bed at home. I've done quite a lot of internal wrestling this last week. Moved from depression to almost a state of elation on Easter Sunday evening. Bouncing around like someone with bipolar disorder - not that I want to minimise anyone else's more serious struggling.
I've come back to college with more determination to be true to myself, but without any real idea of how to go about it.
But as I merge back into the stream of work, hopefully that determination will find practical shape.
Take a deep breath. Jump in. It'll be ok.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Now by Delme Linscott

I read Delme's book a few days ago. It is a short little book that is quick and easy to read. I do think that Delme manages to write books that people actually want to read. That might sound a bit odd, but there are books that writers want to write and they hope that people will read them and there are books that really meet people where they are. Delme seems to have the knack of spotting those spaces and filling them.
This book is an encouragement to make the most of every moment - not to leave things for later if they should be done now and to live a life without regrets. Definitely worth the investment. You can find out more about his book - and also the interactive element of his book at

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Eugene Terre'Blanche

So, Eugene Terre'Blanche has been murdered. And no one will ever believe that is has nothing to do with the 'Kill the boer' song or Julius Malema. This weekend Mvume Dandala has also called on the ANC to stop its members torching the homes of COPE members.
Afriforum, ANC Youth League, PAC Youth League.
What sort of crisis point is this? Will the ANC cover it over as if it is nothing - or will they leave the politics of being popular and become more responsible?
I guess Easter is an appropriate time for crisis. Jesus gave his all and God pulled him through. Who will our leaders emulate? Jesus? Herod? Pontius Pilate? The disciples?
And me? Will I need to take sides? Who is 'my side'?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

He writes a good story . . .

Ian Webster is one of the Local Preachers at the Pietermaritzburg Church which is my unofficial home at the moment. He likes to retell the Bible stories and he is putting them on his blog. So may I recommend the Wondering Preacher to you?