With protests happening around South Africa at the moment, it seems as if the ‘cool new thing’ for everybody to do is share their views and opinions on the matter (uneducated and irrational as most of them are) on social media and blogs. Obviously that means that I also need to do this in order for my blog to be seen as cool and worth reading. So here goes.
Let me first say that this is actually less about the Fees Must Fall movement and more about our response, as Christians, to the movement and to the protesters themselves. In the next few hundred words you will not be told whether you should support the movement or not, and you will not be given a lecture on how white privilege actually does exist (even if you don’t want to believe it). Instead you will be told that the response of Christians on social media to these protests has been, quite simply, disappointing. I have read comment after comment, Facebook post after Facebook post and, while some of them have been enlightening and God focused, I have read too many that make me question the faith of those who wrote them. I have seen people calling the protesters ‘animals’, ‘swine’, ‘savages’, and ‘monkeys’, effectively removing their humanity, ten minutes before sharing a Bible verse about loving people. These people claim to know God but their hatred for others is so clearly not from God. 1 John 4:8 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
In Acts 10:9-16, Peter has a vision of animals which were considered ‘common’ and unclean by the Jews. God tells him to kill and eat, to which he responds that he cannot do this because they are unclean. The response from God, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” was not only referring to the marvellous gift of bacon, but it was actually a reference to the Gentiles. God was telling Peter to stop neglecting the Gentiles and to go and preach to them as well as to the Jews. He was telling Peter to stop being a racist asshole.
The unashamed and unapologetic racism that so many ‘Christians’ have proudly displayed to the world makes me angry. The act of calling the protesters (most of whom are black) savages, monkeys, and animals falls into this, but one of the more obviously racist statements that I have seen is the claim that ‘things were so much better during apartheid’. I don’t even have the time or the words to explain to you how disgustingly wrong this is. I like to imagine that this would be the sort of statement which would drive Jesus to respond in the same way that he responded to people turning his Father’s house into a ‘den of robbers’ (Matthew 21:13). Maybe that’s a bit much, but it is certainly how I want to respond when I see those comments (either that or shouting, “Get behind me Satan”, at them). All I can think when I see ‘Christians’ degrading people of other races and saying that they wished they could be segregated from one another is that they are going to absolutely hate Heaven (if they ever get there). The Bible paints beautiful pictures of people of all different nations, tribes, and tongues worshipping God together in Heaven and on Earth (Revelation 5:9-10, Revelation 7:9, Revelation 10:11, Revelation 13:7-8, Daniel 7:14). If you can read these and still believe that only people with your colour of skin will get into Heaven then maybe you should go pray for a few hours (or days) that God will show you just how wrong you are.
Having said all of these things (and gotten my rant out for the day), I feel the need to also address the Christians on the other side of the coin (myself included). I find myself struggling to hold my tongue in these situations, wanting to rebuke people in the comments section of Facebook posts, but I realise that this is not a loving or helpful response and I know that I will say something which I will eventually regret. Even in this post I have implied multiple times that I struggle to believe that these people are truly saved, but this is an unfair assumption because only God can truly know their hearts.
Yes, what they are saying is wrong and it does not, in any way, represent the God that they claim to be a picture of, but that does not mean that they do not know him. We all do and say stupid things from time to time (granted, some are more stupid than others), but the grace of God is bigger than all of those things combined. It is true that when a brother or sister sins and causes division we should rebuke them for it, but telling someone on social media that they do not actually know God is not the correct way to rebuke them. The Bible gives us guidelines on the correct way it should be done (Matthew 18:15-17) and calling them a disillusioned idiot on Facebook is-somewhat unfortunately-not in there.
It is easy to do to them exactly what they are doing to the protesters, by calling them names (such as ‘disillusioned idiots’; sorry) and saying that we would be better off without them, but when we do this we essentially remove the power of the grace of God. We say that God’s grace can only save the people that already have their lives together and are already good, and in doing this we accidentally negate our own salvation. The Bible doesn’t say that “racists have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, it says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and when we realise that we also fit into the category of “all” we have to understand that our own salvation is just as miraculous as the next persons.
Our response to these protests, whether we agree with them or not, should not be the harsh criticism that has been thrown around from all sides. Our response should be dedicated prayer for all the people involved (police, protesters, and bystanders alike), that they might see that hope for the future does not lie in any government or education but rather in Jesus. We cannot afford to have division in the church at a time like this. We need to rise up as one body, with Christ as the head, and demonstrate to the people of South Africa the radical love that God has given to us.