Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Fighting the demon of Racism

One of South Africa’s coloured church leaders last year spoke, during a church meeting, about the demon of racism which is still alive in South Africa. Although I’m not someone who constantly try and link some kind of demon to every form of sin, such as the demon of alcoholism or the demon of lies, I do think that there is some truth in saying that the fight against racism is something which needs to be won in a spiritual realm.
After my post on the Angus Buchan Phenomenon, I received a lot of reaction. With the exception of one, the comments were really decent, even where people differed from me. Some of the correspondence about this post was done via email and therefore did not appear on my blog. One of my very special e-pals (an “e-pal” is the equivalent of a “pen-pal”, except that we correspond by email rather than by pen and paper), who is a missionary in Ukraine, wrote me a long letter which triggered many things in my mind. In the post I referred to, I asked the question why Angus Buchan is so popular amongst white men. But in my correspondence with my friend in the Ukraine, I asked another question: Why doesn’t God use Angus Buchan more effectively to break down racial barriers?
My friend responded by saying (my own translation from Afrikaans to English): I think that, while big meetings and prominent leaders can create the atmosphere within which believers can live differently, the coming of God’s kingdom which needs to be demonstrated by the church as alternative society, will have to start from “below”. The mass of Christians need to live and do things differently. Then the prominent leaders will merely become catalysts in processes which are much greater than their own abilities. And my heart for mobilisation tells me that now is the time to do it!
On the same day that I received his email, I was attending a small group consisting of white Christians in which I told them that I had been challenged to do something about racism in our community and that I am going to challenge them to take hands with me, to pray with me and to work with me to make a difference.
South Africa had gone through the amazing period of reconciliation after more than forty years of a policy of “Apartheid” and we have experienced great blessings in many ways since 1994. But, to use the words quoted above, the demon of racism is still alive. Or, as I often say: Apartheid is dead. Long live racism! South Africa’s problem is not Apartheid. That was just the name given to an evil policy of government. The problem is racism. And I have traveled fairly widely throughout the world and have seen that it is definitely not only South Africa which is struggling with this.
I will never forget a particular class in Dogmatics which I was attending at university. Our lecturer was the distinguished Professor Johan Heyns, who was assassinated in 1994, presumably because of his strong viewpoint against racism. (His assassin has never been arrested.) On this specific day one of the students asked him what his viewpoint was on racism. Without a word professor Heyns turned towards the blackboard, took up a piece of chalk and wrote: RACISM = SIN! This made a tremendous impact on my life and I could probably say that on that day I vowed that I would fight against racism in my own life.
One of the most popular verses used in South Africa today comes from 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
I am getting convinced that there is probably not a more wicked sin that we in South Africa will need to turn away from, than our sin of racism. Can we really expect God to heal our land while so many Christians still refuse to repent from racism?
I have been involved in processes of healing amongst people of different races and can testify that for White South Africans, there is little that can beat the feeling of liberty once they had come to the point of confessing this as sin and reaching out to people across racial barriers.
For those who had attended the Mighty Men Conference and experienced God’s forgiveness and love during the weekend: Are you willing to take up this challenge to help in bringing healing to our country?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 - Posted by | Africa, Alternative Society, Building relations, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Grace, Hope, Mission, Prayer, Racism, Stigma, Theology


  1. I agree with you. Reconciliation with God has to be contextualised where you live. In South Africa the contextualisation of reconsiliation is to fight the demon of racism. Racism is in us like a default – the natural thing to fall back on when you live in a multi-cultural context. All of us have to acknowledge it, repent and fight it.

    Let us start to name and repent the sin of racism as it come to the front in our prejudgement, stereotyping, lack of cross-cultural interaction, excuses etc.

    Comment by GAJR | Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | Reply

  2. “Acknowledge, repent and fight it.” Well said!!!

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | Reply

  3. “Racism is in us like a default”

    Sin is in us like a default, racism can take various forms, some more subtle than others. God says in His word that we are all equal, but being a Christian means more than that, it means that you should treat another person as being more important than what you are, is that not what love is all about?

    Being a racist, implicates that you think that you are better than another person, purely because of the colour of their skin or culture.

    Yes we have grown up with it, yes we have been programmed, but are we not suppose to change when we become born again?

    Do we judge when we correct someone? It is very easy to say that we should not judge, does that mean that we are not supposed to speak out when someone makes a racist comment? (That could be anything even just using a small word “Boy” when referring to blacks.)

    I think that the time has come to speak out in love, not saying something indicates tacit agreement and / or compromise

    Comment by Vince Aslett | Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | Reply

  4. Vince, therein lies our challenge. I am convinced that we cannot pray for a better South Africa if we are still bound by our racist feelings. The preachers can and should speak about it from the pulpit, but it’s the person on the street who will have to make the difference.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | Reply

  5. […] Angus Buchun post, it made me feel just slightly uncomfortable when I blogged the next day about Fighting the demon of Racism and had less than 4% of the number of hits on this post than on the one the previous day. And I […]

    Pingback by Is there a life after Angus Buchun and the MMC? « Mission Issues | Thursday, April 30, 2009 | Reply

  6. Hmm, let me share my thoughts on this. Racism is definitely an issue and it is extensive. However, often the answer is looked for in terms of politics. Other answers are seen in tolerance. The same is even in the “demoninational” divisions within the Body of Christ. It really comes down to a matter of pride of life. The answers being provided or suggested are not the answer. And while there may well be demonic forces pushing rascists agendas, ultimately the sin comes from our pride and own selfish desires. We interact not out of love, but out of pride and thinking of self as better then another. It is nothing new, it is referenced in the Bible with the Samaratins. Even Jewish views about “gentiles” came across as “racist.” They are God’s chosen people, but will be painted as villinous racists because of this fact. There is coming a time, soon when all will be againt her. Sorry, I know that is a bit of a ramble off your post, but these areas of the topic of “racism” are interconnected. And yes, controversial and even “popular” figures will draw more hits. Just remember, that God will use what you write, to touch those he draws to be touched by what you write.

    Comment by peacebringer | Monday, May 4, 2009 | Reply

  7. Peacebringer, thanks for the comments. Pride and selfishness are indeed specific sins which Christians need to overcome if they truly want to overcome their feelings of racism.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Monday, May 4, 2009 | Reply

  8. What causes racism? Can it be narrowed down to one factor? I dont think so. Surely history and how one percieves it plays an important role. People value one another and also accuse one another of racism just because of “normal human differences” and thus become racist in their own. That is why the demon of racism is still alive. Racism is “born-again” in the context of the day when people interact with one another just on face value without seeking community.

    We stop trying to fight racism by trying to define it and put it into a certain catagory. I think it can only be done by creating community in every specific context.

    Comment by GAJR | Tuesday, May 5, 2009 | Reply

  9. GAJR, well said. It all boils down to relationships!

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Tuesday, May 5, 2009 | Reply

  10. You have inspired me. Thank you very much. Good luck with your site

    Comment by expat philippines | Saturday, May 9, 2009 | Reply

  11. Blogs like this are why I use the internet.

    Comment by expat philippines | Saturday, May 9, 2009 | Reply

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