Reconsidering the Forces of Evil versus the Forces of Good

Explore the battle of good versus evil with Steve Anderson's ban from South Africa. Reflect on conformity, tolerance, and the evolution of religious beliefs.

Steve Anderson is now banned from entering South Africa unless he repents publicly from his current views. He will claim that the Devil has control of this country and that he has the God's unequivocal blessing. This will be cited as another case of the Forces of Evil versus the Forces of Good. But what motivates people to seek conformity in others? Why can't we just get along with everyone, regardless of how we might differ. Motivated by the story of Cain and Abel, with Abel representing white Europeans and Cain, dark-skinned heathens, the prevailing Christian view by the end of the Middle Ages was that non-Europeans were inferior creatures. Based on these interpretations, the Mormons banned black men from the priesthood and the Dutch Reform Church claimed biblical authority for the practice of apartheid. As Dr Verwoerd, the then Prime Minister of South Africa said We did what God wanted us to do. But over the years, there has been a lot of eating of humble pie. Religious leaders of some of the world's most prominent faiths have had to stand on the public platform and repent for their erroneous beliefs of the past. Fanaticism is slowly being squeezed from the crevices of society, opening up new avenues for acceptance, tolerance and the celebration of all.


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I have a simple calculator on my desk which has four primary functions: addition and subtraction; multiplication and division. Not many of us have such devices nowadays as we simply use our smartphone apps instead. This device is a relic from the past and has been on my table for nearly three decades. I was reading the latest online newscasts about Pastor Steve Anderson's visit to South Africa and how the poor fellow seems to have a knack of putting his foot in it. He is seriously homophobic and ever since this radio station highlighted his hatred for gays, he hit local and International news headlines when he announced that he intended visiting this country. Because this pastor holds back no punches in his vociferous attack against the LGBTI community, the South African Government Department of Home Affairs says it "will detain and prosecute the pastor if he contravenes any of the country's laws", specifically those about inciting hatred. The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa said it regrets that Anderson's "hatred for LGBTs may be spread here." South African, Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane said, "South Africa is a society facing many challenges, including that of poverty. We don't need to have a man such as Pastor Anderson stirring up conflict and division through hate speech." So, what on earth has this to do with my desk calculator? If the pastor is to take God very literally, as I think he has with nine children to his name, he did a fine job of what God commanded of him , when he said, "go forth and multiply." Thankfully, unlike my desktop calculator, the Bible has no function for division and nowhere does it suggest that we should, "go forth and divide."

But God seems to have a quirky sense of humour too. In August, Newsbeat reported that Pastor Tony Perkins, who believes natural disasters are sent by God to punish gay people, was forced to escape his property with his family in a canoe. He showed his photographs on Facebook and discussed his experience in a podcast, saying, "We had about 10 feet of water at the end of our driveway. Our house flooded, a few of our cars flooded." Tony Perkins ran for U.S. senate in 2002 and has campaigned against LGBTI rights.

While certain aspects of these stories may seem quite humorous, the unbridled hatred that lies at their heart is far from funny. One wonders whether there would ever be a modern-day Christian crusade if preachers like Anderson and Perkins managed to twist Biblical passages to support the assassination of non-believers. One certainly hopes not! But then one wonders how the world would view a Christian crusade, given that the work of Islamic zealots is seen as acts of terrorism. Beside all our other failings here in South Africa we do have a robust constitution and a willingness to use it to protect our citizens from all forms of discrimination. Anderson's narrow minded-view of the world is not the kind of American import we would like to have here.

But what motivates people to seek conformity in others? Why can't we just get along with everyone, regardless of how the differ. We do differ greatly from each other in that we have unique fingerprints and no two sets of DNA are alike. Most of us have very distinguishable features and we all have unique thoughts, ideas and opinions. So where in our mental makeup do we find space for racism, sexism, xenophobia, religious and political intolerance and any other form of discrimination and prejudice? These are pernicious, pervasive and persistent social problems.

Multiple perspectives have been advanced to understand and theorise discrimination, ranging from those that locate the causes within the psychology of the individual to ones that emphasise the political and structural determinants of intergroup hostility.

European imperialism, slavery and colonial rule over Indigenous peoples may have created the ideal conditions for the proliferation of Social Darwinist beliefs but judgement itself seems deeply rooted within some scriptural writings too, like the racial overtures of the stories of Adam and Eve's sons, Cain and Abel. Abel raised livestock and his older brother tilled the soil and grew produce. When it came to making offerings to God, both brothers brought what they could and offered it to God. Abel slaughtered an animal and Cain brought along some produce from the land. The Bible does not explain why and nobody really seems to think that God was being a bit pedantically mean when he favoured Abel's animal sacrifice and snubbed Cain's vegetable offerings. I might have felt a bit offended like Cain did. He felt rejected. Cain, filled with jealousy, murdered his brother Abel and hid his body. When God found out, he removed Cain from his people and banished him from the land. God of then placed a mark on Cain so that others would recognise him and not kill him. Cain forever became a cursed, aimless wanderer.

Through warped interpretation of scripture, religion is quick to find justification to support many of its heinous and disgusting acts of cruelty. Motivated by the story of Cain and Abel, with Abel representing white Europeans and Cain, dark-skinned heathens, the prevailing Christian view by the end of the Middle Ages was that non-Europeans were inferior creatures. The Roman Catholic Church debated for a long time whether newly discovered peoples around the world were even human. The problem was that there was no way of establishing whether or not they possessed souls. Indigenous peoples of the Americas were a particular problem because they clearly had a high culture of their own, and the Roman Catholic Church debated with itself for a long time over their exact nature.

Joseph Smith was an American religious leader who, at the age of 24, founded the Mormon religion, otherwise known as the Church of Latter Day Saints. Brigham Young was the church's second president and it was he who established Salt Lake City as the church's base in the state of Utah. Young said that, "Joseph Smith had declared that the Negroes were not neutral in heaven, for all the spirits took sides, but 'the posterity of Cain are black because he (Cain) committed murder. He killed Abel and God set a mark upon his posterity.'" Young then added, "It was well understood by the early elders of the Church that the mark which was placed on Cain and which his posterity inherited was the black skin. The Book of Moses informs us that Cain and his descendants were black."

As a consequence of their lack of valiance, these spirit children of God would be banned from holding priesthood authority when they finally received their mortal bodies here on earth. This sanction would make it impossible for them to enjoy the blessings of exaltation. In other words, they would not be allowed to become Gods in eternity, nor would they have the ability to procreate in eternity. In Mormon doctrinal writings, Joseph Fielding Smith noted that, "The negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom… Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race."

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Ham, one of the sons of Noah, committed some unspeakable sexual crime against his father. For this crime Noah cursed Ham's son Canaan. The narrative was interpreted by Jews, Christians and Muslims as an explanation for Canaan and his descendants being inferior beings, having black skin, and being suited to lives of slavery. The Curse of Ham was frequently cited as the biblical justification for imposing eternal slavery upon black people, and black people alone. Thus, the buying and selling of black slaves was always perfectly acceptable to Christians, since the Bible specifically permitted it.

Founded in 1866, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) extended into almost every southern state by 1870 and became a vehicle for white supremacy in the southern States of America to suppress and victimize newly freed slaves.

It was not just religion that supposed that black people were inferior, science played its part too.

In the 1800's the eugenics movement was initiated by English Scientist Sir Francis Galton, who believed that humanity could be improved through selective breeding. Galton created the first tests of cognitive abilities and proposed a system of improving the general intelligence of people by advocating the reproduction of only gifted individuals. The eugenics movement became negatively associated with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

By the early 1900's Social Darwinism, with its emphasis on the survival of the fittest in society, was widely held by psychologists, anthropologists and biologists. It sought to justify the domination of strong individuals, races and societies over the weak.

Social psychology and religion had conceptualised racism to be a normative, often invisible system of social practices, cognitions, emotions and discourses that are perpetuated through all levels that privilege one social group and disadvantage and marginalise other social groups.

Africa in general and South Africa specifically, fell into deep racism once the missionary outreach of various colonial superpowers had subjugated the continent. Nobody knows who said it first but it was either Jomo Kenyatta, President of Kenya, or Archbishop Desmond Tutu that said, "When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible."

Through the 1960s the Dutch Reformed Church claimed biblical authority for the practice of apartheid, and no other Church seriously opposed it. As Dr Verwoerd, the then Prime Minister of South Africa said "We did what God wanted us to do." But this supposition began to change in the 1970s. The Dutch Reformed Church held out on its own against other Christian denominations but the pressure became stronger as the chorus against it became louder. Eventually the Church gave way. By the 1980s it was assuring us that God did not approve of apartheid after all: in fact, He disapproved of it entirely. Within a generation the Dutch Reform Church went from supporting apartheid to condemning it as "the antichrist."

Here's Prof Nelus Niemandt, a Dutch Reform Church Moderator of the General Synod, speaking on a South African Broadcasting Corporation TV show on 6 Dec 2013, giving tribute to a man who was once believed to be one of this county's biggest threats.

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So there is strong evidence that situations can change when religion chooses to review its doctrines. In June 1978 the Mormon Church made a huge about-turn over the fate of black people inside the church, when its President announced a divine revelation that reversed the Church's position. God had spoken and black people were now allowed to become full members of the Church.

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Matters of uncompromising conscience were suddenly overturned. Had the Bible changed? Certainly not! Dogma had…

One may readily understand how contemporary liberal thinking creates social reform, which leads to celebration of diversity. Unbiased thinking is bound to find its way into law but one is sometimes flabbergasted by the way churches find new ways of interpreting god's will in order to stay current. Almost the entire world opposed apartheid and it is understandable how religions like Mormonism and the Dutch Reformed Church would have reconsidered their stance on racism. In October 2015, Nelis Janse van Rensburg, another Dutch Reform Church Moderator, was interviewed on the Expresso Show regarding the Synod's decision to sanction same-sex marriages. Here is a snippet from that conversation, demonstrating that God's will is open to monumental pivots in belief.

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Over the years, there has been a lot of eating of humble pie. Religious leaders of some of the world's most prominent faiths have had to stand on the public platform and repent for their erroneous beliefs of the past. Fanaticism is slowly being squeezed from the crevices of society, opening up new avenues for acceptance, tolerance and the celebration of all.

Pastor Steve Anderson
Pastor Steve Anderson — Founder of the Faithful Word Baptist Church

Pastor Steve Anderson might believe that he has God's blessing, like Julius Malema may have believed that he had the ANC's backing when, as its youth league leader, he brazenly chanted, the struggle ballad, "Kill the Boer." But the South African Judiciary decided that Malema had gone too far. The singing of the struggle song had overstepped its mark and on 12 September 2011, nearly 5 years before the Home Affairs ruling over Anderson, Judge Colin Lamont, in the South Gauteng High Court ruled that Malema's singing of the song constituted "hate speech." Here's what he had to say, "I find the words uttered by Malema constitute hate speech, "The words of one person inciting others," Judge Lamont said, according to South African news reports, "that's how a genocide can start." He added, "No justification exists allowing the words to be sung. "People must develop new customs and rejoice in a developing society by giving up old practices which are hurtful to members who live in that society with them," Judge Lamont concluded.

Here is an edited version of a YouTube clip posted by Steve Anderson regarding his visit to South Africa:

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If the words of the historical struggle chant "Kill the Boer" constituted hate speech, then it is not too farfetched to understand that "Kill the gays" could easily fall into the same genre. One chant was used as a battle cry by a post-liberation-struggle politician, the other by a self-proclaimed soldier of Christ.

After Malema's first day under cross examination in the courtroom, he emerged and sang the song to his supporters outside the courtroom but this time with the modified words, "Kiss the Boer." If Pastor Anderson is to successfully obtain a visitor's visa to South Africa, he according to the Home Affairs Minister would need to "repent publicly from such views."

I doubt that we shall ever hear Steve Anderson singing the revised form of his war cry, "Kiss the Gays."

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