“Towards A Better Union …” Speech to the Post-Graduate Hooding Ceremony at Rutgers University Newark 12 May 2016 By Lorenzo A Davids

Ladies and Gentleman, good afternoon

I am delighted to be with you all today.  When I was invited to give this address to you all I was sure that you had all taken leave of your senses.  My view was that I had very little that I could impart to this distinguished audience and to this prestigious institution. And since you will have had such distinguished speakers at Rutgers Newark in recent years as President Obama, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Cory Booker and actor-humanitarian Forest Whittaker, only a fool would agree to be delivering this address in the shadow of such greatness.  So I said yes, I would love to do it.

I wish to thank Chancellor Nancy Cantor, who has become a friend and partner in the on-going development of a strong civil society in South Africa, for welcoming me to the Rutgers Newark community.  I also wish to thank Dean Farmbry, who through his continued efforts to network strategic partners all across the African continent, and especially in South Africa, is proving himself to be one of the most influential and strategic shapers of development dialogues in South Africa.  Thank you, sir.  Thank you too to the Rutgers faculty and staff for this invitation to be here today.  It is a singular honour that I treasure greatly, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Let me begin by congratulating the 2016 graduating class on this remarkable achievement.  Your courage and your endurance is what we have come here today to celebrate.  Congratulations!  Along with you, we also recognise your parents, your moms and dads, who, many of them, have worked their fingers to the bone to bring you to this point today.  We recognise and honour those grandparents who raised some of you in the absence of your parents. We honour them today.  We honour the many single moms and single dads who through hard labour sacrificed their own dreams to bring you to this point.  And then, we recognise and honour those parents, those brothers and sisters, who encouraged you to endure day in and day out, and who sadly are no longer here with us in this life, but who are the reason you are here today receiving this degree.  Whatever privilege and honour your new title may confer upon you, never forgot those who worked hard, often without a college degree, to ensure that you got yours.

You are now part of a distinguished global fellowship upon which two important qualities have been thrust: The Power of Imagination and the Responsibility of Greatness.

Of the over 8 billion people in the world today, you have to realise that as a member of the approximately 18 000 PhD Graduates and the even greater number of Masters Graduates in the United States this season, you have achieved an award of significant value in proportion to the achievements of the majority of the world’s population.

I have been coming to the USA almost annually since 1982 when, as a 21 year old 3rd year Social Science student at the University of the Western Cape, a group of 7 final year University of the Western Cape students decided to attend a student conference in Philadelphia.  At that point of my life I, along with the rest of the South African population of colour, were actively discriminated against in South Africa because we were black and had none of the human rights which you had taken for granted for decades:  We had no right to free speech.  We had no right to free association.  We had no right to freedom of belief.  We had no right to equal education.  And we had no right to choose the government of our choice.  I was 21 years old and I had never cast a ballot in my life.  At that point of my life I had never lived in a hotel before.  At that point of my life I had never boarded an aircraft before.

For most of the world in which we live in today, the scenario described above has changed very little over the last 34 years.  And therefore, ladies and gentleman of the graduating community, I wish to remind you of your twin obligations to not shrink back from greatness and from imagining a better world.  For upon you are conferred the hopes and dreams of not just the United States, but of the many who will peer through the ever narrowing lens of time, looking to you for solutions to some of the world’s most vexing problems.

This is your world, and along with your global colleagues, you are its greatest gift.  If you don’t rise up to shape it, someone else will. It was the Irish poet, broadcaster and later Irish President Michael D Higgins who reminded us all during his inauguration speech in November 2011 of our obligation to be “a better version of ourselves.”  In every generation we have to make this choice:  Whether we shrink back to hark to the calling of our fears or whether we become a better version of ourselves. Whether we believe our fears or follow the pathways of the dreamers, the initiators, the inventors and the innovators.  For the world we know today was not built on wavering indecision, wounded scepticism or warring bravado.  It was built on the intelligent ideals of great thinkers who took the concepts of liberty and justice and equality and carefully navigated a pathway that ensured that a free, equal and prosperous society would triumph over the darkness of fear and the despair of faith and imbued it with the tools to always find those pathways, and more especially in times of difficulty, to a better world.  That obligation to finding better pathways, using the wisdom of the Old and the navigational skills of the Now to create a better New, now falls upon your shoulders.

We have an obligation in this calling to greatness to not allow others to shrink the world for us, to fill us with fear of the other, or to cause us to believe that our greatness is simply a cultural project.   This greatness calling is a greatness to global leadership along with your compatriots around the globe.  Nations such as Egypt, China and Zimbabwe are all committed to increasing their postgraduate outputs to pail that of the USA by 2020, with India already almost graduating 20 000 PhDs a year.  You must realise that you have to be more than just an American citizen.  You have to thrust the better version of yourselves onto this global stage.  Leadership is about sense-making – but you do not have the luxury to only make sense to America.  You have to make sense in a globalised context.  And your leadership in matters of economics, geo-politics, energy, law, technology, security, environment, humanity, hunger, housing and the host of emerging global challenges will have to be demonstrated shoulder to shoulder with your global compatriots, who for most, have an innate knowledge of these issues as most of them have grown up with it and have been personally affected by it.

William Shakespeare said:

‘Be not afraid of greatness,

Some are born great,

Some achieve greatness,

Some have greatness thrust upon them.

Class of 2016, ladies and gentlemen of the graduating community, your moment of greatness has been thrust upon you.

This greatness calling is what your nation’s founding fathers had in mind when they gathered at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and penned the words to the United States Constitution, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”.

And it is this powerful phrase in the preamble of the Constitution “in order to form a more perfect union …” which jumps up at us who read it from afar   This is your moment in time, amidst a year of a highly contested election, that your moment of greatness is thrust upon you as it was thrust upon the writers of that Constitution in 1787, to advance the ideals of “a more perfect union” that will be a message to the world of your readiness and understanding of this global relatedness to the other nations of the world.  This greatness calling is what Abraham Lincoln saw when he penned those famous words in 1854 and I quote “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us”.  This greatness calling, ladies and gentlemen is what calls you, from those 13 original states in 1787 to the 52 states today and forward to the 196 countries in the world today – to advance, with the intelligent leadership of the world’s 2016 graduating community, a better union for all the world’s people.

Ladies and gentlemen, Rutgers Newark is not the most diverse university in the nation for no reason.  Your country and the world needs you to unleash this diverse brilliance of your being into all spheres of geo-political existence and not to cave in to the fears of your future.   In your greatness on behalf of this nation and all the world’s people you must, in determined fashion, advance the integrity of memory, gleamed from the great nuances of your own history, which built a greatness from divergent and disparate ideals instead of a conditioned similarity.  You must show that you have a regard for history – both past and future and know your place and position in this unfolding story.  Like the difficult pathways of old, navigated under enormous public scrutiny, you must diligently and collectively give yourselves to the pursuit of a more perfect union, the union which transcends culture, colour, gender, ethnicity, economic status and which focuses itself on the pursuit of peace and prosperity, having a determined bias towards justice, righteousness, prosperity and freedom for all.  This is the better union your founding fathers would have demanded of you today.  And this is what you must commit yourself to.  And in valuing the integrity of memory you will always know which pathways to follow to this greatness.   And know that by peering into the greatness of the past and seeking the integrity of memory you will secure an even greater future, not only for yourself and for this nation, but for all the peoples of the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen, look around you and see how privileged you are.  Your generation today owns, earns and enjoys more than what 80% of the world’s population have access to.  If you shrink this world to being only about you and this country, you will have missed the abundant opportunities, all marked with your name on, to make a better world possible.  All over the world, there are destinies which will require your genius and bravery and will call on you to take your seat at the convention for a better world.  When I and 6 of my fellow students decided in 1982 to board that Iberia flight via Addis Ababa and Madrid Spain and New York City to Philadelphia we had no money to fulfil that obligation.  All we had was a sense of our place and position in history.  Our parents were mostly uneducated, mostly unemployed and mostly dead scared of our determination.   But we began to pay for our trip by selling old clothes, and telling our story to church groups and small time business people.  And slowly, dollar by dollar, we paid for that trip and all 7 people made it to the USA.  And it was those second hand clothing sales on a Saturday morning and those small meagre contributions from equally poor people that became the pathways and the stepping stones that got to me this platform at Rutgers University today.  It begins when you recognise your place in history and respond to your position in the pursuit of better union.

It was Robert F Kennedy who on June 6, 1966 spoke to the National Union of South African Students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and said “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”

I am calling on you to bend history itself and to purpose yourself to seek a greater union, wherein lies a greater world and a greater humanity.

But let me reflect for a moment on the obligation of imagination.

This nation has been inspired by the dreams and minds of great men and women who imagined great things. From the founding fathers who saw a better union, to your explorers who dreamt of conquering outer space to Dr Martin Luther King who dreamt of a deeper and richer equality to your poets and your artists and your immigrants who all spoke of the power of imagination, now imbedded in your psyche.  The great African American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and newspaper columnist Langston Hughes wrote his epic poem “Dream Variations” in 1926 in which he penned these words:

“Not my dream alone, but our dream.

Not my world alone,

But your world and my world,

Belonging to all the hands who build”

You have an obligation to advance the ideals of these great leaders and to push back the crushing darkness of fear and to reject and cast aside the notion that you are small, scared and of no consequence.  You have to learn that this achievement today confers on you the privilege to imagine again and give meaning to the dreams of those great dreamers.  You have the privilege today to see fulfilled in your lifetime the better world and the greater union your forefathers foresaw and did not shrink back from.  You today are the beneficiaries of the world of the great American initiators, inventors and innovators.  How dare you shrink back from this moment which your dreamers and inventors and innovators so longed to see?

In every era there will be challenges of Place and Position.  Your role as a participant in the vanguard of the global 2016 post-graduates community, will be to recognise that in this year there will be some 50 000 post graduate degree recipients globally from countries all over the world. You are not alone. From the West Coast to the east Coast, North and South of this country, through to universities in Nairobi and Delhi and Berlin and Moscow and Perth and Osaka and Morocco and Warsaw will be those who, like you, dream of a better union.  They are not your competitors, ladies and Gentlemen.  They are your partners in the pursuit of a better union – for all the citizens of the world.

You, along with your global compatriots who share this same qualification, will be our new global corporate leaders, political leaders, social activists, inventors, designers, innovators, game changers and global shapers.  You have to take your place as one among this global community. Don’t fear that Place or Position.  For when you cast aside your fears you will begin to see a new reasoning, the reasoning that brought men and women together in 1787 to believe that collectively they could be better together than individually and apart, the reasoning that put a young black South African on a plane to the US in 1982, the reasoning that allows you to bend the course of history because you encountered and responded to a moment that had your name written on it.  You have to fuel the imagination of a world that has become fearful and dark, to once again see the light.  To once again see a rising sun instead of a setting sun.

When the Constitutional Convention was drawing to a close in September 1787, Benjamin Franklin said, after reflecting on the painted image of the sun on the back of the chair of George Washington “I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun.”

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2016, you have before you a rising sun.  You have to imagine a better union of world leaders into which you bring your greatness, your brilliance, your courage and your name and take your rightful place in order to cement your position.

You have to fill our old damaged minds with the fresh ideals of your imagination.  You have to take your blackness and your whiteness, your religious and non-religious orientations, your brilliance and your bravery and you have to shine a light on the better union for all of us.  For in you, black and white, and every other colour, and from every other social determinant and persuasion, lay the hope for all of us.  Let your brilliant imagination show us the way and let its brightness light up all our paths.

It was the artist John Lennon who called on us to keep imagination alive.  I was privileged to commemorate the death of John Lennon on 8 December last year in my home town of Cape Town South Africa.   John Lennon died on 8 December 1980 in New York.  What many don’t know is that Lennon travelled to South Africa very frequently during the latter years of his life to meditate on a particular rock on Table Mountain.  He had over the years of visits to Table Mountain carved his initials “JL” into a piece of the rock on the mountain.  And this past December 2015 ten of us, business leaders, students, academics and workers all climbed that mountain to sit on that rock and for a moment we imagined a better world.

Those prophetic words of Lennon’s still rings true today

“You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one …

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people

Sharing all the world

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will live as one …”

Ladies and gentlemen, to this class of 2016, your name is inscribed upon brilliant opportunities deeply disguised as insurmountable problems.

We the people of the rest of the world, need your greatness and your imagination … towards a better union – for everyone.

Congratulations and God bless.

 

END

 

 

 

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The Message of Stephen: Why Economic Justice is the true DNA of the Christian Gospel

At the heart of Christianity’s most potent design lies not its salvation message but its transformation message and more particularly its message of economic justice. For centuries the brilliance of God’s deep care and concern for justice has been hidden by a church and its elitist leadership, which made followers of the Christian faith believe that as long as they prepared for the afterlife, little else mattered.  In fact, hardship, pain and injustice were taught to be preferable to the riches and revelry of this world. And for centuries the cannon fodder of the church, its members and adherents believed this, while being willingly blind to the ever increasing opulence, power and riches of the clergy and its political and economic enablers.

Whilst throughout Scripture God is proposed as a God of Justice, a God who heals the broken-hearted and a God who hears the anguished cries of the poor, in practice He is experienced as a God who asks the poor to accept their fate, to be thankful for small mercies and who does nothing about the economic injustices perpetrated by the wealthy and by the clergy against their own members, followers and adherents. The Church became a place comfortable with rich and poor in worship together – and remaining like that: rich and poor.  And so over time we have developed a gospel which is non-offensive to economic exploitation and which allows economic need of its most vulnerable adherents to go unmet.  Its most visible role is one which pacifies the poor with messages that their treasures are laid up in heaven.

All of this is a far cry from the founding of the early Christian Church.  The Book of Acts shows that the early Church naturally embraced economic justice as its most visible expression of the unity of their new faith – and made it it’s most potent message to both the State and the watching religious community.   In Acts 2 it is recorded that:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Acts 2 is clear that the early church saw human equality and economic justice as two fundamental expressions of their faith in God.  Their economic trade was subjected to the principles of advancing and enabling economic justice and not to accumulate personal wealth.  They gave on the basis of need and opposed a culture of supplying continuous greed.  In fact, in Acts 5, when Ananias and Sapphira lied about their economic intentions with the sale of their property, it was deemed to be an act worthy of death.  The DNA of the early church were set out clearly by the Apostles:  you either act consistently with the principles of economic justice or you face the consequences.  The early church were unwillingly to accept that you can pretend to support economic justice but in fact engaged in self-enrichment practices at the expense of the message of transformation.  That was regarded as a deed worthy of death.  And in fact, the Apostles were so intent on preserving this message of economic justice that they called it out.  Not just with Ananias but also with this wife. Peter, the clerical leader of the group, used strong language to address this deceit. He said to Ananias:  You lied about your true intentions. To Sapphira he said:  You conspired to see if you could get away with this.

1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. 7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” 9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

 The message by early church leadership was clear:  We will call out those who attempt to deceive and conspire against the principles of economic justice we are committed to upholding.

As people streamed to this new found civic life, the clergy of the day, the religious and political powers that ruled the city and public life were outraged.  They were jealous. They were angry.  So they did what all outraged clergy and politicians do:  they had the apostles’ arrested on false charges.  They stirred up the crowds.  They fueled riots in the streets.  And they imprisoned the Apostolic leadership for periods without trail.  They were very aware that the practices of these new leaders threatened the exiting power and economic relationships in the city. In fact, they were so angry that they wanted this group of church leaders executed.

33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.

Often people who speak out on issues of economic justice, or on any of the issues pertaining to universal human rights, are regarded as “left”, “weak”, “immoral”, etc.  However, is it not obvious that the text shows us that these people where in fact the Apostles themselves, people close to God and many signs and wonders were practiced by them:  people being healed, people sharing possessions, no one with any need, the slow building of a new inclusive, outward facing, serving and sacrificing community.  These were indeed the inclusive signs and wonders of the early church.

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”

It’s clear that this economic justice mission was not accidental nor was it occasional.  It was central to the early church.  The text in Acts 4 states:

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

The early church sold property – and it’s safe to conclude it was property and land many of them had in excess – in order to finance the development of this new economic model – a model led by the Apostles, premised on faith in God and rooted in justice for all.  What also appears over and over in the text is that the early church was designed around the fact that needs within their faith community were addressed.  Needs were not allowed to be ignored or to linger. This is the DNA of the church.  They did not worship God and simultaneously ignore the needs of the very people they were worshiping God with.

So as this fledgling church with its new DNA arises it is seen as a community with an orientation towards deeper truth that does not consider the beacons of race superiority, cultural dominance, economic advantages, ancestral purity and educational privileges as values to be protected within the Kingdom of God.  In fact, on the contrary, they are identities and practices to be sacrificed and not notions to be espoused or examples to be pursued. The early church designed an economic system that held assets in common so as to build the collective strength of their new community and “gave to anyone who had need”.

As this new Church grew, the manner in which they continually ensured that the economic justice model was core to their mission, was to make it a part of leadership conversations.  This model was held by the leadership. They led it.

In Acts 6 it is stated that some tensions arose within the economic justice model.  Given the human frailty of even the best of humans, it appears that some unfair practices were taking places within the food distribution system.  Now note, they did not complain about housing or health or others services.  It appears that the economic justice model was working great in most other areas.  But in the one area of food distribution to widows from a certain group there were signs of injustice.  So the Apostles held a leadership dialogue.  And the outcome was:

  1. We’re going to keep teaching people about this new faith and how it works.
  2. We’re going to be praying – including reflecting, meditating and making sure our thoughts are aligned.
  3. We’re going to asked the group who complained and brought this to our attention to recommend who could fix this problem and who could oversee that this injustice did not occur again.
  4. The only requirement was: These men and women had to be spiritually aligned to our message (full of the Spirit) and had to be wise.

6 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[a] among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

I recently saw something interesting in this passage:  They chose a guy called Stephen and 6 other guys to head up this issue.  How radical is that as a leadership practice?  Let the people affected by the problem design their own solution.  So note:  Stephen was part of the group who pointed out the injustices. He is described as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”. So Stephen and his team of 6 is tasked with working out a justice model to ensure economic fairness to both groups of people. I think it’s revolutionary that you appoint the people who complained about injustice to lead with fixing the injustices.  Who better?  In this way the Apostles demonstrated how much they valued this issue – and how far they were willing to go to ensure that this issue is addressed and the DNA is protected.

It is clear that Stephen is no frail thinker.  After referring to him as a man “full of faith and the Holy Spirit”, it refers to him as a man “full of God’s grace and power”.  This economic activist, who protested the fact that there were economic injustices creeping into the life of church, is reported as a man performing great wonders and signs among the people. But it is clear that Stephen, along with his team of 6, was busy designing an economic model that would deeply entrench the principles of Justice, and especially economic justice, within the early church.  But it is also clear that beyond the immediate Jerusalem community this message of economic justice was not as popular.  Some of Stephen’s new ideas must have reached the far flung regions of the then known Church world. So Christians who had cultural identities based in Egypt and Libya and Asia, which were strong economic hubs at the time, and who were probably traders in the city themselves, were in opposition to this notion of economic justice.  This is business reacting to the church’s prophetic challenge of a system that is based on low wages, large profits and bad labour practices.

8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.

 I am not surprised that it happened. I am glad it happened. It shows how deeply intentional the Apostles were.  And how deeply intentional we must be if we scale our work.  We cannot assume that others will embrace everything we have within our DNA.  And our point must be to state our message “full of the Holy Spirit, graciously with power and wisdom.”

But the threat that a gospel of economic justice held for those who had great wealth was enormous.   So the opposition is not surprising.  It still is today. Many will embrace Christ and turn a complete blind eye to economic injustices and to needs within their own Church. So Stephen too faced the common charge all activists face:

13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

Stephen faced:

  1. People making false statements against him. “They produced false witnesses, who testified”
  2. Him being accused of speaking against the country. “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.”
  3. Him being accused of trying to destroy the place. “For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place.”
  4. Him being accused of trying to change the way of life they are accustomed to. “will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

Doesn’t this just sound like what Donald Trump does every day of his life as President of the USA?

When Stephen is finally brought to trial his speech is filled with economic justice ideals as his defense:

Stephen’s Speech to the Sanhedrin

7 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?”

 He highlighted the issue of land:

2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’

 He highlighted the issues of inheritance, land, migrants, slavery, maltreatment, economic justice:

4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even enough ground to set his foot on. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.

 He highlighted the issue of slavery and the practice of goodwill towards foreigners:

9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.

 He highlighted the issues of famine and food security:

11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.

He highlighted the issue of oppression and enforced infanticide by the State:

17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased. 18 Then ‘a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.’ 19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our ancestors by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die. 20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child.[d] For three months he was cared for by his family. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.

 He highlighted the issue of economic and labour injustice, and the brainwashing of the oppressed:

23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’ 27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’[e] 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.

 He highlighted the issues of mission to release people from injustice

30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’[f] Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look. 33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’[g] 35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness. 37 “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’[h] 38 He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us. 39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.”

 As this court case unfolds it’s clear that Stephen is no religious, economic or political slouch. His defense is about access to land, food security and the need to release people from structures that impoverishes them and brainwashes them.

When the clergy and political leaders heard this they were furious:

54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.

Of course they would be furious.  This new gospel message challenges the very heart of their power and exploitation of people:  the hold they have over economic assets that will empower people towards equality. And this they resisted.

This man Stephen, as a result of this political and economic defense delivered at his trial is found guilty of treason and is ordered to be stoned to death.

” … they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.”

The verdict thus:  The practice of the economic justice and equality ordained by God and announced by the Apostles becomes an act of treason – and the sentence was death.

Now hear this:  It’s very interesting that the first martyr of the Christian church was not one who was from the core of the disciples tasked with prayer and the teaching of the Word, but a man who protested economic injustice. 

This man Stephen was the man chosen to be in charge of ensuring equity and economic justice in the early church.  He is described as a man full of faith, grace and wisdom.

He gave a passionate speech of how the poor needed land, food security and release from slavery and exploitation and how God is ordaining all this. 

The Church’s first martyr was a fighter for economic justice. 

And this question pains me: Would Stephen and his team of 6 perhaps have designed a future economic system for the church that would have been a counter to the rampant capitalism of his day and ours? Did the system or the devil (however you see it) target this young economic social activist and remove his potency from the early church – an act which set us on a pathway to centuries of economic exploitation and economic injustice?

Post the death of Stephen and the Jerusalem persecution, the deep truth (of economic justice) and core DNA was finally brutally marred when Christianity converted the Roman Emperor Constantine and he made it the official religion of the State.  He essentially managed to neutralize its functional dynamism by incorporating it into the dominant Roman system which was driven by four things:  self-enriching trade, exploitation, conquest and slavery – the very things Stephen spoke out against. The collapse of the early church’s fledgling economic model was due to conquest.  Constantine did not just convert to Christianity – he conquered the leadership of the movement by giving it opportunities for self-enriching trade in Rome and thereby exploiting and enslaving the future model of church as a business enterprise, and reinstated everything the early church fought against:  race superiority, cultural superiority, economic superiority, ancestral superiority and educational superiority.  And today we still have a church determined by these things – race, culture, economics, ancestral standing, education – the things Paul said should be garbage – of no determining value – in our human engagements.  And the justice issues of land, labour, equity and food security which Stephen raised as part of his defense at his trial as central to God’s mission in the world, still remain outside to the message of the Church.

“Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul … while they were stoning him …”

Lorenzo A Davids

October 2018

 

Who Will Lead Us? Reflections on leadership in 2018.

innovationPosition, title and social media has basically turned fairly ordinary people with typically selfish materialistic and poor moral orientations into a bunch of populist leaders with huge followers.

You could do absolutely nothing but post pictures of yourself and your food – worth nothing on any Community Transformation Index – and still be a popular sought-after leader. This is the depth of the populist toxicity.

In addition to the huge followings they command, most of them – religious, social, political and economic leaders – showed us the depths of their selfish urgings during 2017 and that no amount of power, money or fame will satisfy their unquenchable lust for the 2017 “word of the year”: more.

Getting “more” defined the epitome of the leadership crisis. Despite losing court cases, clear racist associations and corrupt practices exposed, no court, no bad associations and no corruption exposed could stop the cravings of these leaders for more.

More. Unlike the Dickensian quest for more which implied the call to address the desperations of the poor, these Barons of More gorged themselves at the trough of ego, pleasure and corruption because their doctrine allowed them to say “it’s my turn”, as if Leadership was a doorway into a banqueting hall of selfish indulgences and personal corrupt enrichment.

More. Each day they woke up thinking about how to get more. And once they got more, their selfish and corrupt brains figured even more ways to get more.

And there was not court, no review, no moral judgement which they feared.

At the next level of leadership this disease became toxic – the virus infecting millions of people and communities. Everyone – from school governing bodies to civic formations to sports clubs to NGOs to kids on the play grounds – all infected with toxic selfishness, self-righteousness and self-aggrandizement.

And so slowly we saw the erosion of a leadership class who led and the spawn of that leadership class being turned into a leadership class who fed. We watched, as leadership-emaciated citizens, a toxic leadership who gorged themselves on every available pleasure and sauced it with our vulnerability, our gullibility and our poverty. And while they fed themselves, thousands died. Of preventable diseases. Of violence. Of poverty.

If we need anything in 2018, we need to see less social media pictures of pleasure – less pictures of every meal our leaders ate, every restaurant they visited, every flight they boarded, every new piece of clothing they bought – for these feed the narrative of the corrupt self-aggrandizing leadership class.

The 2018 leadership class must show us what they are fixing, what they are building, what they are healing, what they are giving – so that our national and personal recovery from this toxic drunken and overfed stupor of self-enrichment can be removed from our biological, governmental and mental systems.

For my own journey I have read the words of Jesus in John 10:11. Others may read from other moral, social, religious and inspirational texts. But we must find a new ethic to guide us. What ever your moral compass is – use it to lead us.

I am also careful of those who claim a new moral compass but who use it as veil to continue the pillaging of the land. Not everyone is going to seek a new morality – not after all that they have gained through corruption and all that they will stand to lose through this new morality.

From Marcus Jooste to Jacob Zuma, from Donald Trump to Harvey Weinstein, how do we begin again as a global community to urge each other along a new pathway with the phrase “it’s not about more for ourselves, it’s about more for others.”

Who will lead us?

Jesus’s said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

The overthrow of righteous governance and ethical leadership is a subtle inside job. It began subversively. A long time ago. Led by its own. Slowly. It began as “a lot of good stuff” taught by its own teachers. Stuff that would make us “better off”. And this is where the subversiveness became invisible. Becoming “better off” invited people into the room who did not share the moral commitments and guidelines of a “collective better off”. Slowly the doctrines of progressive and collective transformation were replaced with an enrichment narrative that read: the leaders must be the richest people. In government. In the church. In the economy. And the doctrine of progressive and collective transformation were crucified by the narrative of personal enrichment. And so radical people were replaced by immoral zealots who did the thinking for lazy, corrupt self-feeders. And while they kept them rich and corrupt, they also made sure that the rest of us would believe that this was radical transformation.

In the Christian community, which has an obligation to stand up for Hope and Transformation, a dimming of the transformation concept was also underway. Language was the weapon. Instead of dying for a righteous cause we rather arranged seminars on time management. Instead of laying down our lives we spoke ad nauseam about living a balanced life. Instead of dispensing hope we fed off the toxicity.

And thus the great themes of God were replaced by the poor schemes of men. Men who sought not a willingness to die in the cause of building a progressive and transformative society but to live off every possible enrichment available to them. Men who sought not to sacrifice – but to gain. Men who sought not submission to God, but men who sought to be gods themselves. And so instead of teaching men how to live and die for the ideas of a moral and transformative society and leadership culture, we taught them non-moral, non-radical muted principles of self-enrichment. We became known, not for how many communities we transformed and helped or for how many students we helped through school and university but for how many deals we made and how many people liked and shared our posts.

Yet the ancient message stands: true inspirational and transformative leadership and discipleship always begins with a willingness to live and die for what you stand for while preserving the lives of others.

The corrupted version of this leadership call portrays the opposite: a lifestyle of self-preservation, self-promotion and self-aggrandizement while watching others die.

Who have you watched die?

Who will lead us?

Lorenzo Davids
January 2018

Leadership: Optics or Intelligence

Here’s a truth: An impactful performance is far more valuable than an impressive appearance.

The word on the street is bold watches are in. The word on the street is bold suits and sleeves protruding beyond the jacket is in. The word on the street is that millions can be made by being in the right place at the right time with the right connections.
All it takes are some smart looking optics. Because optics is everything. Look good and it becomes the short cut to success. Do good? Well, yeah but it’s going to take a while. And without the right algorithms, you know, no one may even pick up you’re do good stuff. And no one’s really got time for the long route. Everything requires quick action these days. And besides, if you can get success done quicker, everybody benefits. After all, doesn’t it say, work smarter not harder?

Most of the current system is force-feeding us pleasant optics as the leadership panacea. Look good, dress good, feel good has somehow become the replacement of do good.
Irrespective of whether its main street or back street, corporate types or gangster types, everyone believe that clothes, looks and accessories will be the ladder they climb to traverse the success mountain they have in sight.

It is said that Presidents must wear dark suits to indicate power and seriousness. That white shirts indicate clear mindedness. A certain height is considered ideal for leadership. Short people are portrayed as comical and lacking serious composure. Large people are portrayed as ill-disciplined. If your social media accounts show you in fast cars it increases your desirability. If it shows you in foreign destinations, you are portrayed as mystical and magical. The list goes on and on.

In the United States folklore states that the candidate who is taller tends to win elections. Since the advent of television it is believed that television networks who have a preferred candidate in a presidential race will ensure that the camera angles of their preferred candidate portrays him in a more favourable way so that he looks leaner, taller and “catches his good side” whilst casting his opposing candidate in several non-complimentary angles. This ultimately is done to influence the optics the voter sees so that height and appearance becomes a deciding factor in who wins the election.
In the 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, when the characters talk about the US Presidential elections, they talk at length about the attractive appearance of the winning candidate. They comment: “You just don’t go running a little short man like that against a tall man.”
The 1997 book called “How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You” states the following: “What about height? One assumes the taller the better, because our culture venerates height.”

Height and appearance has been the passport to leadership in the modern world. Put another way: Good looks and snappy dressing opens the door to success, supposedly right up to the presidency. So an entire nation, at least over 50% of the people of a country, will use looks and dress sense as the reason they choose a leader.

And then the Christian Scriptures drops this bombshell in the middle of the main street and the back street:
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1Sam 16:7-8
Boom. Bang. Nuclear. Just like that.

In modern day leadership so much focus is placed on appearance: clothes, body shape, hair and social circles. In our body-shape obsessed society, any form – and I mean any form – of excessive weight, or an awkwardly protruding, shaped or formed body part, or an unpopular dress sense becomes an immediate disqualifying factor for leadership. From school leadership, to sports clubs to social leadership in extra-curricular associations, children get bombarded by body shape criticisms and dress sense challenges as the pre-determining factors as to whether they may even enter the leadership race.

And from that platform they get catapulted into a constantly orbiting stratosphere of body shape and appearance data as the most essential elements in their acceptability for leadership armour. Advert upon advert from every media platform analyses your girth, bowl contents, grey hair, loss of hair, nails, face shape, shirt type, suit quality, shoe size, chin, hips, legs and the list goes on as part of the leadership suitability package. And the presence or absence of these attributes will haunt them or hallow them for the rest of their lives. Modern civilization has bequeathed this curse as a legacy to its children. The most knowledgeable society in all of modern history, endued with millions of years of history, architectural designs conceived by brilliant minds, inventions that could solve most modern challenges and leaders who have led countries, armies and economies that involved complexities unknown to past generations have stooped so low as to tell our children that their contribution to the world will be determined by their height and their dress sense.
How did we get here?

Well, social media partly. We sought optics instead of intelligence.

Social media is the first thing people wake up to and the last thing they go the bed with. The sub-conscious mind embeds those images in your brain which later, through constant visualisation, form neural pathways in the mind: Images which makes you feel good and images which makes you feel bad. Those neural pathways will influence what kind of clothes you will buy in future, who you will seek to befriend in future, who you want to be seen with in future etc.

People scan social media for another reason: Everyone wants to know who you’re connected to. Everyone checks out what kind of car you’re driving or what kind of watch you’re wearing. People check your social media to see which places you hang out in. They want to know who’s in your friendship circles. And they will seek to copy that behaviour of yours or enter those same circles you are in. Nowadays unfriending, blocking or deleting someone from your social media profile is regarded as an insult of epic proportions. It is as severe as not being invited to the party of the most popular person in high school or in the company.

In political classes, alliances and wealth are at a premium. Commitments to justice, the rule of law and the constitution are often sacrificed on the altar of silence, corruption and illegal financial gain.

During the last century, at times of war, political leaders often donned military uniforms to show strength and leadership. Church leaders who are the head of their denominations often wear elaborate robes to signify their leadership and role. We have evolved over time to where clothes are indicators of position and success. In the 21 Century clothes and body shape have come to determine your image. The issue is that business, religion and politics – as communicated through the media – have embraced the clothing and body shape doctrine as its leadership mantra and the determinant of human culture.

Here’s a note you must make for yourself: You and your political party and your church and your bank account will be destroyed by the slow march of time if you become obsessed with appearance instead of performance.
All of that is: Stupid. Silly. Of no value.

God says to Samuel that he is to ignore the Height or Appearance criteria in his assessment of finding the next leader for Israel. Samuel is to pay no attention to that and not allow it to enter his determination of selecting a leader. He must avoid the optics.

We can’t afford such obsessive weaknesses in leadership which judge people on how they dress or how they look. And especially in a global context with huge development challenges, where the calls for intelligent leadership remains vacant whilst the popularity contest to fill such vacancies goes on unabated. A person may have published nothing of note and have made no major intellectual contribution to the improvement of the world, but have 2 million followers on Instagram or Twitter who will vote for him or her to be the next president of a country or the head of a global body. In midst of a world filled with poverty, hunger and instability can I ask: Will you be willing to stop wasting money on clothes or unnecessary body altering surgery to determine your acceptability?
Stop flashing watches, cars, jewellery or your restaurant food or vacations as signs of your leadership. It’s a foolish mindset. It’s says more about your inability to lead than your ability to lead.

What really matters is how you perform and what you deliver to your people and to your country as a result of occupying the position and carrying the title. Is there a better deal for women, for children, for the poor, for the sick, for the vulnerable, for the small business, for the development sector when you are in power?
How tragic that we are now a society, with all out technological advances, which has made watches, cars, clothing, food, vacations and theatre shows the number 1 determinant of coolness and social relevance.

If you are serious about leadership, stop showing us your watches and your vacations and your cars. Show us your leadership that makes a difference in the world. It’s that clear and simple.

To identify God’s approval of someone, God says he looks at the “heart”. Not sure what this means? The reference to the “heart” as the thing God looks at for leadership suitability means the following: God looks at the inner emotional, intellectual and moral maturity of the person. Basically its means: Is he as emotionally and morally mature and intelligent as his clothes and his body suggests?

Crises at both the local and global level and a deep seated wisdom must propel us to not settle for looks and clothes as the trusted bearers of the future of our world, our planet and our faith.  We must seek leaders who are diligent and intelligent instead of leaders obsessed with optics.

Lesson 1: Always know: a character of integrity, backed up by impactful and wisdom-filed performances are always far more valuable than an impressive appearance. If you must choose: choose intelligence over optics.

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Constantine or Christ? Currency or Community?

“In a time of universal deceit — telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
(Traditionally attributed to George Orwell but original author unknown)

As we currently live in a world of growing and glaring inequalities, the Kingdom of God cannot have a system which perpetuates these devastating inequalities between an ever growing rich elite – of all cultures, races and traditions – and the continued impoverishment of a poor bastardized class within the Kingdom of God. Religion cannot be a brother to exploitation.

Within the global community of God’s creation, we now live, and especially within the context of the Church as a spiritual geographic space, with the most extravagant extremes of wealth and poverty under the same roof, singing worshipfully from the same song sheet but different economic platforms to the same God and praying deeply to that same God. These wealth contrasts – of opulent wealth and extreme life-threatening poverty – exist within the context of one spiritual geography. If the Kingdom of God was a country, its leaders would be hard-pressed to explain the reaping of taxes from its mostly poor citizens to feed the opulent wealth of its shepherds and their households.

There are nearly 2.2 billion Christians in the world today, according to the Pew Research Centre. Of that number, 860 million live in the Global North which are made up of North America, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The rest of the Christian population, some 1.3 billion people, live in the Global South, which are basically all countries defined as not part of the Western world. The non-Western Church is larger than the Western Church. It then becomes clear that the Church is made up of a few hundred thousand wealthy people – and this is not a critique of those who have become wealthy through their hard work and industrious ingenuity –  and over a billion poor persons, who generally are referred to as living in the Global South. The wealth gap within the Kingdom of God as a geographic location could, in fact, be one of the largest wealth gaps in the world and in human history.

The continued embracing of a prosperity theology by especially black churches globally, flowing from patterns seen from largely Western churches, is a worrying sign that points to a copying of models of wealth instead of embracing the transformative power of Biblical economics.

The patterns of wealth in religious leaders – pastors and lay-leaders – have crossed the racially confined boundaries of the 1980s and now have embedded itself in the African-American, Indian, Asian and African religious traditions. Black and other religious leaders of large mega churches, both in and outside the USA, now have copied the extravagant life-style standards – multiple multi-million dollar homes and properties, private planes, first class travel,  excessive life-style requirements – comparable to the white evangelicals mega-church leaders (which was disgusting at the time) at the turn of this century, and completely out of kilter with the poverty of many of their congregants.

How do caring and concerned Christians begin to undo this entrenched and perpetuated inequality in the Kingdom of God? As stated earlier, if the Kingdom of God were a country, it would have serious political and social unrest due to the starving billions and the opulent thousands. The basis for the future social unrest with the Church as geographic space will be due to that fact that most of the power and control in the Kingdom of God resides with those who are the few wealthy thousands who make the decisions for the starving billions.

Isaac Watts’s great hymn, “When I survey the Wondrous Cross” which he wrote in 1707, contains these lines in the first verse:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Mr Watts certainly had a sense that the greatest wealth in the world paled in comparison to the act of embracing the liberating message of the Christian Gospel. The Gospel writer Paul referred to a similar idea when he wrote about his historical religious, political, ancestral and economic benefits and advantages which his birth and education afforded him and compared these to his encounter of becoming a follower of Jesus, which resulted in him saying in the Book of Philippians Chapter 3: “7 But whatever were gains to me – my culturally induced superiority as a religious Jew, as an educated Jew, as a legally trained scholar, as an exemplary citizen, as an outstanding countryman, and culturally and ethnically pure as I can be, and as an economic asset to my people, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Phil 3:7-8

So within the DNA of the early church resided a radical orientation towards a deeper truth that does not consider the beacons of race superiority, cultural dominance, economic advantages, ancestral purity and educational privileges as values to be protected within the Kingdom of God. In fact, on the contrary, they are identities and practices to be sacrificed instead of notions to be espoused or examples to be pursued. The early church designed an economic system that held assets “in common” so as to build the collective strength of their new community and “gave to anyone who had need”. When Christianity converted the Roman Emperor Constantine to its fold and he made it the official religion of the State, he essentially managed to neutralize its functional dynamism by incorporating it into the dominant Roman system which was driven by four things: trade, exploitation, conquest and slavery. The collapse of the early church’s fledgling economic model was due to conquest. Constantine did not just convert to Christianity – he conquered the leadership of the movement by giving it free trade and honoured status in Rome and thereby exploiting and enslaving the future model of church as a business enterprise, and reinstated everything Paul said should be treated as garbage: race superiority, cultural superiority, economic superiority, ancestral superiority and educational superiority. And today we still have a church determined by these things – race, culture, economics, ancestral standing, education – the things Paul said should be garbage – of no determining value – determining our human engagements.

Stepping into the post-Cold War world as determined by Ronald Reagan and the crude system of Reagonomics, one of the most popular concept that economists have suggested to address economic reform is the economic trickle-down model. It is a traditional hierarchical economic model that believes that the more money that is made by the wealthy, largely through tax-cuts and free trade agreements (always in favour of the rich countries), the more some of those funds would trickle down to lift the poor out of poverty. If you have lived long enough anywhere in the world, you will know that trickle-down economics is a myth and fantasy sold as sound theory to the ill-informed.

The Kingdom of God is anti-trickle-down economics. It is anti-trickle-down in the story of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan paid for the recovery of the victim of violence – as much as it would cost. It is anti-trickle down in the story of Zacchaeus. He gave a 400% “admission of exploitation” payment to those he exploited. It is anti-trickle down in the story of rich man and Lazarus. The rich man’s disdain of Lazarus saw him ending up in hell. In fact, trickle-down economics is the exact opposite of the Doctrine of Generosity and the Doctrine of Contentment which the Bible espouses.

But to further address this issue, the account of Jesus’ words in John 10:10 (NIV) is helpful here.
In contrasting His message and His presence against the exploitative practices of other (religious) leaders (shepherds), Jesus said the following:
“10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
In this verse Jesus introduces the doctrine of a “full life” – a vehemently great life, as the Greek expresses it – for all. The word “vehemently” is used by the translators and lexicographers to mean “forceful, with intention, deliberately” in order to show that this “full life” that Jesus refers to here is not to be something that was subject to negotiation or treaty or exception or circumstance or deal-making – it was an intentional and forceful right of everyone in the Kingdom.

Jesus wants everyone to understand that His Presence in the Kingdom results in a full life for everyone. It’s a promise for every human being and the desired state of equity for all of humanity – and is a constitutional principle of the Biblical Kingdom. All people are His sheep. They belong to Him. And within the Kingdom system, everyone has the right to this full – vehemently great – life. And for centuries, instead of upholding the Pauline Principle of having a disdain for race superiority, cultural dominance, economic advantages, ancestral purity and educational privileges and treating it as garbage, we have embraced the Constantine Creed of using race, culture, economics, ancestry and education to trade, conquer, exploit and enslave people within the Kingdom of God.

Let’s rephrase John 10:10 so that you can get the point:
Jesus said: “There are people – I choose to call them thieves even though they will act like shepherds – with seditious motives whose main aim is basically to destroy your life. In fact, most of the stuff they will do to you will kill you – the information they give you is designed to destroy your mind and kill you; the help they pretend to offer you is set to destroy your access to a God-ordained intentional non-negotiable vehemently full life; the foods they offer you will be days old and probably not worthy of consumption anymore and in that way, make you sick and end up destroying you, the circumstances they will put you through – the questioning, the suspicion, the guilt trips they will send you on, the sense of unworthiness you feel around them – are set to kill your sense of self-worth; the way they treat you, the ideas they have about what’s good for you, are all designed within the mindset of a thief – for that is what they really are – they are not shepherds – they are thieves. And slowly they work at taking your life away from you – in fact they want to end up totally destroying you. Every time you’re around them you will feel like you are just not good enough. You will notice their fake smiles, their fake welcomes, their fake conversations and you must know that these are all designed to destroy you – to destroy your potency, to kill your spirit, to neutralize your value and to make you feel unworthy. Their entire aim in life is not to add any value to your life or your purpose on earth. They want you dead and destroyed. I, on the other hand, want each of you to have a vehemently non-negotiable full life – a life in which you are able to live out a vehemently great life with the assured understanding that my engagement with you is designed around one thing and one thing only – you experiencing a God-full and resource-full life. No voices of unworthiness, no voices of assumption, no guilt trips, no voices of prejudice, no voices of fake care and love, no voices of casting aspersions, no voices of hate or rejection are allowed to access this vehemently full life I want to give you.” John 10:10.

The Kingdom of God – alternatively the reign of God – the Church – made up of everyone – rich and poor – who claims to believe in Him, is a God-designed construct that is premised on a boldly proclaimed Intentional Development narrative that allows all of humanity to experience a full life based on the fact that this Development narrative is John 10:10 centric. The Kingdom of God cannot be true to its “full life mandate” if it embraces practices which protects the rich from the full impact of their wealth upon the poor as well as the full misery of what poverty does to the human condition. The Kingdom of God betrays its origins if it continues to parade Pauline Garbage as Constantine Currency. It must allow the rich to see what the lack of a full life looks like for the brothers, sisters and other residents in the Biblical Kingdom. This is what John 10:10 is all about. The Father, through Jesus, comes with a stated intention that He desires to stop the thieves from destroying and killing people and states that he wants humanity to experience the full life – the vehemently great life. This is for everyone. Not in some trickle down system, but in an intentionally designed system to equitably give everyone an intentionally and vehemently great life.

Now there is a common narrative within the Kingdom of God which goes something like this: It is what I call the Lazarus Syndrome. It is a narrative that shows that the poor in the Church are wealthy in other ways and that only in the after-life do they somehow enjoy a vehemently great life. The wealth of the poor on earth is described in non-monetary or non-resource rich ways: that they have no food or clothing and suffer diseases and yet they are somehow shown to be rich in kindness and faith and rich in generosity. And this then makes the poor somehow survive. And this exploitative narrative receives validation by thieving shepherds who proclaim this poverty as acceptable unto God and yet never challenges the inequity under which they live, serve and die. They validate this narrative as acceptable within the Kingdom by using optics of the “faithfulness despite trial and suffering” of the poor as commendable. Yet they and some within the church could have changed the economics and suffering of that person – but chose to do nothing. They chose Constantine over Paul. They chose the Constantine Church over the Jerusalem Church. This Lazarus Syndrome – based on the story of the poor man Lazarus who ate the scraps meant for dogs from the tables of the wealthy and lived in absolute squalor all his life until he died in this state is not a story to imitate but a warning to avoid. Jesus tells this story to warn the kingdom people of repeating this injustice. Yet most people – largely shepherds – believe that if they can theologically brain-wash the poor to be satisfied with their poverty and be further discipled that such poverty sets them up for a future reward in the after-life, they would have discipled them correctly. There is nothing as destructive, as dehumanising and as betraying of the dignity and glory of the creation narrative as educating and discipling people to accept their own dehumanising existence, the injustice and inequity they live with as a state of normality and as approved by God. The Lazarus story is not a practice to be embraced, it is a warning to be heeded. The Constantine Church is not a model to be emulated.

As part of the Lazarus Syndrome, the rich without God is condemned as being foolish, building their houses on the sand and warned that no material wealth can be taken with to the grave. But here is where the narrative becomes problematic. When rich people, and I’m particular to point out here – of any race, culture or country – become believers in Christ and enter the Kingdom, they are welcomed for their wisdom for now transferring their “houses from the sand to the Rock Christ Jesus”. And then nothing changes any further. Post the entry of both rich and poor into the Kingdom of God, no change to their economic status is discussed. The one continues to live off the full life model and the other continues to live off a hand-to-mouth existence, missing massive chunks of the full life model. This inequality is maintained within the Kingdom. And the tragedy is that the well-trained poor of this Lazarus Syndrome are used as apologists for this system of Kingdom inequality.

The John 10:10 narrative refers to those who allow for this massive inequality to continue within the Kingdom as thieves and not shepherds. They are lumped with the same exploitative thieving group who existed in the life of the poor prior to coming into the Kingdom of God. Both the rich and poor in the Kingdom of God have been subjected to a weak discipleship narrative which lacks courage to address injustice and inequality. Let’s be clear: Church leaders – and I think most religious leaders of all faiths in general – fawn over the wealthy and tolerate the poor and keep both worlds well shut away from each other.

The poor in the Christian Church have been trapped in a doctrine of trickle-down economics which teaches them to welcome the rich as brothers and sisters and to accept that the one will live a vehemently full life and the other will eke out a poverty existence in the same Kingdom as a normal state of being – as brothers and sisters. Discipleship will teach all manner of Biblical doctrines other than equity. And that on the odd occasion, the trickle-down economic model will be employed to be portrayed as Biblical generosity. Trickle-down economics is not Biblical Generosity. The trickle-down economic model does exactly the opposite of what the Bible teaches: Imagine a set of glasses stacked in a triangular hierarchy – a pyramid. As the top glass gets filled, whatever that glass can no longer hold, flows over to the next row of glasses just below it. But the top glass stays full. It will never know emptiness. And then as that next row of glasses begin to fill up, the glasses below those begin to get the overflow of the second set of glasses as they fill up. And so it goes on. The principle here is: Only once the first glass gets totally filled up does it trickle down to the next set of glasses below it. And the contents in that set of glasses will only trickle down to the next when it is overfilled. So essentially you don’t share or give generously in trickle down economics as the Bible commands. You only allow to let that which your already overfull glass cannot hold, fall over the sides. Nothing can be more anti-generosity than that. And here’s a further problem with the trickle-down model: Even though the top glasses are now full and overflowing, they continue to get more and more, even though they can’t hold any more and don’t need any more. Meaning the wealthiest will get more and more and only what they can’t contain will trickle down. There is no deliberate and intentional generosity or equity. They give away what they can no longer contain by default and not by intention. This is not Biblical generosity – what it is, is the practice of making sure my own cup is never empty and watching with a degree of envy how what I could have used, had I more space, fall over the side to those who are poor.

This is not the full life – the vehemently great life – that Jesus referred to in John 10:10.

Biblical fullness of life is not to be a life of where the cups of the wealthy are continuously being filled first and whatever they cannot contain trickles down to the poor. The Good Shepherd wants his natural resources to fill all the glasses – to feed all the sheep. The other aspect is that the poor get a fraction of what falls over the brim of the glass – because there are more glasses at the bottom than there are at the top. So the effect of the trickle down system is dispersed because the greater need is at the bottom but less is flowing down towards the bottom due to the greater numbers there. Its an anti-equity model.

The Kingdom of God is not about wealthy cups overflowing continuously and elaborately and whatever the rich cannot contain flowing to those lower down. In the Kingdom, all the glasses are equally filled. This abundant life is for all. Not excessive for some and measly for others. In fact, the narrative in John 10:10 is that the thief, the folk with seditious motives are right there, talking to the sheep, persuading the sheep that this is right. But Jesus is clear: The sheep who have been correctly discipled will recognise that this is the voice of a thief and not a shepherd. And they will not follow him. Could it be that we have a Kingdom narrative within the Church that perpetuates trickle-down economics, thus robbing the people at the bottom end of the pyramid of ever experiencing the vehemently great life Jesus said He is bringing? Could it be that the shepherds have, in fact, been thieves, destroying the lives of millions of people, because they have allowed for gross inequity instead of generous equality to be the doctrine of the Kingdom?

In my many journeys of dialogue I have met amazing people who have shown me what this true discipleship looks like. I sorrowfully add that most of them – yes most of them – have very little time for the Church and have chosen a life of meaning to embrace the truth of a better world for all, outside of the Church. One of my dear friends engages with people who live on the street as his permanent house guests. He pays for their medical bills if required. Another wealthy individual ensures that each year very large sums of their personal income is given away to help good causes so that people who are poor can be lifted out of poverty. Another rescues people needing to break out of prostitution and brings them into their home. Another drives long hours to the Karoo to help children in vulnerable situations. Another ensures that their own children have friends who are poor and engages in meaningful dialogue with their children about poverty. The list goes on. The sad truth is that most of these people exist outside of the Church. Some are Christians and others are not. But every single one of these people represent the values of the Kingdom of God. Better than most of what I have seen inside the Kingdom.

The true church is for Christ, not Constantine. The true church builds equity into its discipleship models. The true Church does not parade garbage as assets and inequality as community. The True Church seeks a full life – a vehemently great life – for every one of its citizens. Irrespective of the uncomfortable truths that will have to be told to achieve this. Then, and only then, can they begin to proclaim, “the Kingdom of God is within us!”

Written by Lorenzo A Davids  15 October 2017

 

 

 

Who plans on ruling the world?

The Global “Trumpvirate” of Power: Israel, Saudi Arabia and USA

The Global Dominators – political, financial and religious planners – have long ago strategized to design a future world that conforms to their views of power and control of resources – financial and natural.

The future of the world will be in the hands of the USA, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Every nation that challenges that hegemony or poses a threat to it will be attacked by what is now commonly known as false flag operations. When you see war being waged or threatened, then know that it’s the energy resources and financial resources of these global dominators that’s the agenda. They won’t allow any other country to become an alternative power house. Thus Iran and North Korea – who are both emerging as independent global powers, are being threatened with annihilation.

Around 2001 I was in the USA and invited to listen to a presentation by a local NGO who then showed me through very large screens on the wall how they could change the government in a specific African country (name withheld) through staged false flag operations. This would provide them with a government that was friendlier towards their causes. It filled me with trepidation.

False flag operations are the way the public is led to believe things that may in fact not be true. If a NGO had that technology around 2001, think of what the governments of the major countries of the world have today.

President Donald Trump is fixated on stopping Iran’s growing super power status in the Middle East because his two most important allies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Israel, feels threatened by the resilience and ingenuity of the Iranians.

As an energy rich country, Iran does its own thing, without the usual deference to either the USA, Israel or the Saudis. Trump has strategically chosen Israel for its global financial influence and Saudi Arabia for its global energy influences as his partners to build a new world order.

The “Trumpvirate” of Israel, the USA and Saudi Arabia is opposed to the threat that a strong Syria, a strong Iraq, a strong North Korea or a strong Iran poses to the control of energy and banking in the world. Those countries which threaten the power, energy and financial systems of the “Trumpvirate” are threatened with attack and destruction. Iraq and Libya are prime examples. This Trumpvirate philosophy existed long before Donald Trump became president. The DC financial and energy lobbyists made sure that this Trumpvirate doctrine was shaped over decades to now have the full backing of a globally unintelligent president.

This secret “Trumpvirate” plans on controlling both the majority of the world’s energy and major finances/banking systems in the world. They used – and continue to use – Russia as a prostitute to bomb their collective enemies. Putin is simply a call-girl to the real centre of power. China on the other hand has no major natural resources and also has no appetite to rule the world.

This is what Saudis did to Qatar a few months ago and what Donald Trump is doing to North Korea and what Israel did to it its neighbours. They cut off the economic survival of countries with sanctions and then threaten with war.
The new world as Trump sees it – the true world domination – is a world best governed with US values, Israel intelligence and Saudi Arabian natural resources.

Trump disposed of his traditional Western Allies as of no consequence – because they have no real money, power or resources.

The Saudis watch their region with eagle eyes to see that no other country threatens its dominance there. Iraq, Libya, Syria and Qatar all paid heavy prices for threatening the Saudi dominance.

Israel is protected by the USA and inadvertently by the Saudis as well, by weakening the countries and governments around it who may threaten Israel’s existence.

If you wish to know how Trump sees the world, look at his strategic view of money and power: Israeli control of banking power and Saudi control of natural energy. Those are the future world powers. And anyone who threatens that will be blown away by Trump – literally.

The future world Coalition of Power? Saudi Arabia, Israel and USA. And anyone else will simply be fodder. This is the world governed by the Trumpvirate.

#StateWhatYouStandFor

Be Brave. State What You Stand For.

#StateWhatYouStandFor

In the deepening global crisis of ambiguity, where its unclear what people and politicians stand for, it’s become important that we state unambiguously what we stand for.

If Presidents and politicians wish to advance their convoluted agendas with deepening moral ambiguity, we the people will state what we stand for.

In the public role I play, I take my responsibilities as deep obligations to civil society. I don’t have political agendas. I take the building of a safe, prosperous and caring society as a very serious obligation of mine.

In the spaces where I engage, whether through giving talks, lectures, dialogues or meetings, these are the things I stand for, am against and hold dearly and consider as a set of my core values and beliefs.

I consider it our obligation as leaders to disclose our opposition to racism, exploitation and things which harm the public good. These are mine, which I wrote last night. The list is not complete nor exhaustive.

Here’s some advice: instead of challenging mine, go write your own. Then let’s meet for coffee and discuss both lists.

Be brave. State what you stand for. #StateWhatYouStandFor

I am against all forms of racism.
I am pro-poor.
I am against all forms of exploitation.
I am for affordable housing in CBDs.
I am against economic privilege for the already privileged.
I am for the equality of all religions.
I am against cadre deployment.
I am for freedom of religion and freedom from religion.
I am against colonialism.
I am for decent wages for employees.
I am against all forms of sexism.
I am for small business.
I am against all forms of discrimination.
I am for the right to choose.
I am against homophobia.
I am for loving all of creation.
I am against all types of hate groups.
I am for inclusion and diversity.
I am against the perpetuation of a patriarchal leadership narrative.
I am for women in leadership.
I am against foreign interventions by private persons or trans-global agencies in determining our economic and business processes.
I am for fair taxes and subsidization by the State of opportunities for poor people to access full economic participation.
I am against race-based privilege.
I am for free education for all students from birth to university.
I am against religious-based privilege and religious-based domination.
I am for taxes on religious entities.
I am against academic and intellectual elitism.
I am for free chronic medications for all citizens.
I am against politicians driving state-funded high-end luxury vehicles.
I am for affordable pricing on foods for the poor.
I am against currency speculators.
I am for compulsory ECD, primary, secondary and tertiary education.
I am against child labour.
I am for mixed and integrated housing.
I am against gentrification that displaces people from their traditional homes.
I am for protecting indigenous traditions I am against land grabs.
I am for market related compensation for land that was forcibly taken from indigenous peoples.
I am against all forms of violence.
I am for justice.
I am against private gun ownership.
I am for the eradication of systemic poverty.
I am against an un-interrogated narrative that assumes current systems, ideologies and practices are acceptable simply because of their existence.
I am for free universal health care.
I am against the manipulative control by pharmaceutical groups of medicines and pricing.
I am against war.
I am for a totally free and unrestricted media.
I am against politicians and public servants having direct and indirect shareholding or ownership in any business or economic activity.
I am for the poor living closest to CBDs and places of economic activity.
I am for loving of ones enemies.
I am against pride, hate and corruption.
I am for forgiveness.
I am against retribution.
I am for building a prosperous democracy.
I am against burning down buildings.
#StateWhatYouStandFor

You say “But God!”. I say “But God?” A further Reflection on the Bloemfontein Gathering

So I finally had some time to reflect and process some of the responses to my recent Bloemfontein blog post.

Thank you to the many for the caring and loving way in which you wrote your response to my blog post. Then there are also those who think I am the anti-christ, a communist, ungrateful and all the other words they used.

These are difficult times in our country.

I am a Christian. I have served in ministry for many years – and regard it as some of my best times on earth.

I have a deep love for the people of this country. Its cultural diversity is its strength. We need more people who are “brave beyond Bloemfontein” to show the world what a transformed country and church will look like.

I keep hoping to see what South Africa will look like when white and black live together in a true non-racist, non-sexist inclusive fashion and to serve the ideals of a values-based democracy – which flows out of – for Christians – our faith in God and His word. We need to demonstrate what a repentant society – church – looks like, behaves like, thinks like, writes like, worships like. We need to show how a repentant society does business, how a repentant society educates its children, what they pray like and what the content of their sermons are.

Where are the Bloemfontein brotherhood who followed Zacchaeus example and post-repentance gave 50% of their wealth away? Where are the farmers who own 6 farms of which they use 2 and 4 are lying dormant? Have a plan been designed to allow unemployed people to co-operatively farm these farms? Have we voluntarily and collectively put a limit on how much wealth a church will amass to cater for its comforts and has a plan been designed to start provincial church-community funds to fund education, jobs and housing in our geographic communities?

But this is why Bloemfontein is so confusing to me: I was there at the first Newlands event. And I was one of the speakers/prayers at the 2nd Newlands event. Some of my closest friends and staff colleagues went to work in support of the Transformations SA movement. I have walked this “long journey” that some of you have referenced that I might not have walked.

These events have always been about mass repentance. And so I ask the question: What are the Bloemfontein people repenting of – again? I would like to know the very issues they are repenting of. Both Newlands and Ellis Park events had huge moments of repentance. It was moving. Deeply so. Today, I think we make a mockery of repentance and use it as substitute with regularity to cover up inaction and unwillingness. I see none of the fruits of those early repentance events. I really don’t. To that I say: ”But God? -(with a huge question mark instead of an exclamation mark) were these people not serious the last time they repented?” Therefore I refuse to further believe and embrace repentance actions at these events. Its a mockery. How are they any different?
Where is the ripple effect? Now some 3 weeks later, as I predicted, its all but gone. The repentance is not spilling over onto the streets to do good. My scepticism tells me its all really just conscience-soothing behaviour.

In our inabilities to grasp the deeper issues which require us to act in a Christ-like manner, we have rather opted for an emotional mass “get together” in order to be able to say “Ek was daar!” It’s as if we have come to believe that by “being there” we have been absolved from any further contributions to the daily grind of building a country in which 80% of the population live in dire poverty. We have a country of over 3 million children who have lost both their parents. More than a million children are part of the “skip-generation” – they have never known their parents meaningfully and are being reared by grandparents or relatives. StatsSA tells us that over 20% of the population (10 million people) live below what StatsSA calls the Food Poverty Line. The FPL is the category where people who earn less than R320 per person per month are recorded in.

When the Church repents, does it affect and flow over to impact these statistics?

When economic and race discrimination is so prevalent in this country and in the church, when the poverty and hardships of the majority is of little concern to the act of worship of the Almighty on a Sunday morning, when the Church participates in conscience-soothing behaviours, then we who love God more than our very own lives, must speak out, and harshly judge ourselves first. I always look for the log in my own eye first. I have moved beyond Bloemfontein and Newlands and Ellis Park to the streets. When the things which break the heart of God no longer breaks our hearts, then we have lost than crucial sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s conscience-pricking actions.

When we can go to Bloemfontein to pray as one, but fight like heck to live and worship apart, then Bloemfontein is a mockery.

Here’s one of my post-Bloemfontein action thoughts: If only all those people made a decision to ensure the they will lead on the integration of all schools and the publication of a booklet as to why God says we are all the same and why God says racism is wrong and made it available to every child in every school – as an outcome of the Bloemfontein repentance so that children will learn that racism is wrong, it would have taken Bloemfontein into a meaningful space.

But there are more issues:
1. How does Bloemfontein show a rejection of homophobia and allow others who are different in sexual orientation to experience the grace and love of the Church? (No I’m not asking for endorsement. I’m asking for the church to show grace which allows others to be and to recognise their right to be.)

2. How does Bloemfontein show a rejection of right-wing ideologies which continue to lurk in this very Christian arena?

3. How does Bloemfontein moderate the Angus Buchan Cowboy Style influence to show that this is more than just about one man’s need to have a mass rally?

4. How does Bloemfontein allow the poor access to this movement, which is designed purely for those who have money and cars?

5. How does Bloemfontein justify its call to make South Africa “a Christian country” when the modern world is made up of people who continually migrate and live in complex cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic, multi-creed environments? Have they learnt nothing of the dangers of theocratic dominance?

6. How does Bloemfontein show a determined commitment to Social Justice as a Kingdom response to the world around it?

7. When will Bloemfontein allow Christian Black intellectuals to address the issues of revival and justice as the two wings of one bird in South Africa? There is no revival without justice.

8. When will Bloemfontein allow for the raw pain of apartheid to be vented in such a way that its opens the way for healing to continue to occur? I am often surprised by people who will talk about the Holocaust endlessly, World War I and II endlessly, Hiroshima endlessly, the Vietnam War endlessly, the Great Trek endlessly, but black people must stop talking about Apartheid “somme net so”. Apartheid lasted longer than any of those previously mentioned events, yet any dialogue about it must cease.

9. What will Bloemfontein do to show South Africa what a repentant society looks like?

10. What will Bloemfontein do to speak to the burning issues of the day such as the call of the students of this country for free, decolonised education?

For the sake of the Church, The Kingdom and the country, I hope to one day write about the outpourings of justice and revival into every nook and cranny of this country as a consequence of a repentant church. I hope to one day have coffee with you as we celebrate the fact that we – the collective south Africa – have managed to build the most successful and prosperous country in the world. I hope to one day see a non-racial, non-sexist, inclusive, prosperous, educated and progressive South Africa. I hope to one day see the most innovative programmes addressing poverty and discrimination. I want this place to become the country of my dreams. I want to talk with Blacks and Coloureds and Whites and Indians and Afrikaners and the English and the Chinese and the Xhosas and the Zulus and the multitude of peoples in this country about EVERYTHING. Our pain, our joys, our successes, our failures, our differences and our deep unity.

But for now, I cannot watch this spectacle go on. I think we are a disobedient church. We have chosen the conformities of culture and the comforts of the faith and have avoided the challenges of the faith. We want a legislated religion but we live in disobedience to the grace, justice and love principles of the Word.

You say “But God!”. I say “But God?”

Lorenzo A Davids
7 May 2017

The Contrary Message of the Cross

The Cross is the contrary position.

All those who embrace the Cross must also embrace conviction and deep engagement and must work to curtail rampant populism. The People of the Cross are those who understand that leadership must be practiced with deep humility. Understand the rejection of popularity. Understand the unbelief of close others. The Cross rejects both the populism of Judas and the arrogance of Peter. It also rejects the front-row grabber insider mentality of James and John. The Cross bows before the feet of betrayers and deserters and tenderly wash them. The Cross rushes towards humility, feeling the tentacles of abusive power.

The Cross is the symbol of disgrace, desertion, disbelief and ultimately death. The Cross is no prosperity. It’s a place of loss. The Cross is no super charged moment. It’s a hollow-gasping-for-breath-heart-breaking-pain-that-won’t-go-away moment. The Cross is contrary to so much of what gets preached today.

The Cross was God’s way of demonstrating to us His view on leadership and love. That you love deeply, and that such love may cause you shame and your death.

The Cross is dusty, bloody, dirty and lonely. A God-forsaken loneliness. A heart-breaking sense of forsakenness.

The Cross has no magic. No quick fix. It has hours and hours of unrelenting pain and agony. It suffocates till you cant breathe no more.

The Cross is the place where we are defined. Where the character of leadership and being is moulded.

Leadership starts at the Cross. For the people of the Cross.

The Cross is the contrary position.

Lorenzo Davids
7 May 2017

When freedom fails its children – Reflections on the Protection of Children in Democratic South Africa

When freedom fails its children – Reflections on the Protection of Children in Democratic South Africa

It was a partly rainy day in Cape Town. The calendar said it was Wednesday. The date next to the day said “27 April 1994”. I woke up with a sense of mixed emotion. Fear and excitement mixed together. My wife and I and our 1 year old daughter got ready to leave our home to walk to the polling station in Mitchell Ave Woodlands in Mitchel’s Plain. With pram and umbrella we set out. All over the neighbourhood there was an eerie silence. Like someone had pressed the mute button as we prepared to do something we had never ever done in our lifetimes and within an environment in which we were not sure whether we will all be smiling the next day or face a country further riddled with the blood of the martyrs for freedom. But with a dogged determination we set out, to cast a ballot for freedom and for our children so that 20, 30 and 40 years later the young child that found herself in a pram on that day would be part of the children that our ballot would set free to never have to taste the bitterness of Apartheid and hardship of racial injustice.

Today, 23 years later, the celebration of 23 years of Democracy in South Africa brings with it the bitter sweet notion of mixed emotions. Most of South Africa recognises that the transition from Apartheid politics to a democratic political environment is a lauded and celebrated moment in the life of this country. As I reflect standing in line in 1994 with my one year old daughter and wife to cast my ballot for the first time in my life at the age of 33 – a moment imprinted on my mind for ever – I recall the thoughts which rushed through my mind on that day: thoughts of being chased by police across the UWC campus, of spending a weekend in a Warmbad (Bela Bela) Prison and of being picked up by police in Darling street Cape Town in March 1985, the day after the Uitenhage massacre – yet nothing could outweigh the joy which that moment brought on the 27 April 1994.

However, we stare an ugly reality in the face – the failure of our freedom to protect our children. Today we read on a daily basis of children between the ages of 0 to 15 who are randomly abused, burnt, sold, murdered, brutally raped and violently killed and many more dying in horrific road accidents. In fact, the research by Debbie Bradshaw, David Bourne and Nadine Nannan for the MRC shows that for the age group 9-14 Violence and Road Traffic incidents come up as the top causes of death in that age group.

In 2009 alone, a total of 1 018 child homicides were recorded across the country – 454 were fatal child abuse cases, according to a national homicide study by the SA Medical Research Council. http://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/sa-child-murder-stats-shock-1.1601137

In recent weeks we have heard of scores of children affected by violence between gangs on the Cape Flats with schools being closed and children shot dead or injured on their way to and from school. It is this ugly image – this devastating reality – that shows us how, whilst we have been celebrating our freedom, we have failed our children. No child should have to die like this – and no child should have to grow up like this – with the constant fear that a bullet or a knife or a vehicle might end their lives before it has even started.

The South African Constitution under Section 28 provides an important benchmark in the protection of children in South Africa. These principles on children’s rights are now enshrined in the highest law of the land. The section reads as follows:
(1) Every child has the right-
(a) to a name and a nationality from birth;
(b) to family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care when
removed from the family environment;
(c) to basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services;
(d) to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation;
(e) to be protected from exploitative labour practices;
(f) not to be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that-
(i) are inappropriate for a person of that child’s age; or
(ii) place at risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development;

It is important to restate these things here again – these matters are enshrined in our constitution.

When children die due to our failure to provide them with their constitutionally guaranteed protection and freedom then no celebration can be justified. The decimation of children under the watchful eye of the Constitution, parliament and all the protection agencies in the country should cause our political leadership to suspend their buoyancy and call for collective action from all government departments to urgently address this carnage. It should cause communities and religious and moral structures to refuse to celebrate anything when our children continue to be mowed down day after day through acts of unmitigated violence.

The miracle of 1994 is that a country gave its word to its people and to the world that “We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.” This was what our beloved President Mandela said in his inaugural speech in 1994.

Today, 23 years later, that hope is dashed and our children are once again subjected to violent deaths – this time not by the hands of apartheid security forces, but by the hands of family members, friends, rivals, strangers – by those who stood with us on 27 April 1994 to vote for freedom to envelop our land.

We dare not rest our heads to slumber nor dare celebrate when we cannot look our children in the eyes and says to them “We declare that you are safe in South Africa”.

I pledge, alone with thousands of other citizens, that I will not rest, will not stop working, will not stop believing and agitating for that day when we can truly celebrate our freedom – because our children have been made safe by that freedom.

Lorenzo A Davids
6 May 2017
Originally written and published as a reflection on 20 years of Democracy in South Africa in 2014. The author’s views remain the same, 3 years later.