Following my thoughts shared on Sunday morning about the Commission for Human Right's proposed recommendations to Parliment, allow me to share some further perspectives with you.
Firstly, I think as Christians living in a secular world we should be informed and engaged. It is easier to be ignorant but that is just not helpful and dilutes our witness in the world. But we must be accurately informed. All too often Christians or the church go off about some issue without the facts and end up looking foolish. We tend to over react when threatened and when the threat is more perceived that real it further erodes our efforts. So please read the bill, it has been widely circulated and available of the Commission's website, under the heading 'Commercialization of religion'. Also be careful of emails doing the rounds that are making inaccurate statements like the government is trying to stamp out religious freedom in South Africa.
Secondly, most evangelical churches and denominations hold to a separation of church and state, meaning that the the state should not meddle in the church's affairs or any other religion for that matter. Enshrined in our constitution is freedom of religion, and we should protect that carefully. we should be aware of what is going on and so I think this is a good thing because it has stirred up the church to engagement. The struggle Christians in politics have is always the silence of the church on critical issues. We help them by raising our concerns.
Third, separation is good and well as long as there are no issues, but what happens when a pastor is expecting people to swallow snakes and more recently spray doom in their faces? What about the millions of rands often taken from the poor with no financial integrity and accountability. The chief concern of the commission based on their findings is that there is no regulation or accountability for religious practitioners in South Africa, especially for independent operators outside mainline denominations or movements. For example, I subscribe to a code of conduct laid out the the Baptist Union and if I violated that I would be suspended, even if Lighthouse thought it was ok...ie if I decided to spray doom on any of you, even if the church did nothing, BU leaders would hold me accountable. This is a good thing, but the problem is that anyone can start a church or any religion and teach what they like and there is no framework available to address these violations of human rights....that is what the Commission is trying at address....and it's difficult and complex.
So what should we do? If this interests and stirs you, I suggest read further and get all the facts you can. Make a submission if you want to. a good website to look at is ForSA, for example that will help you clarify your thoughts. The BU have submitted a response, of which we are part, so at this stage we are not adding one form Lighthouse. Let's stay engaged, and alert, honouring our governing authorties, while praying for our land and speaking up when we need to.