I’ll post more tomorrow on the results, and my own experience walking down to our local polling station at Emily Hobhouse Park to see the voting process unfold, but for now would love for you to click on these links and spend a few minutes learning about the complex process of ‘liberators’ (the ANC) becoming those who in the eyes of an increasing number of South Africans, have dramatically failed in delivering the promises they were hailed for back in 1994 when Nelson Mandela led them to freedom and the dismantling of the apartheid system.
We have seen this disillusionment play out within our own community, as my roommate Johannes had to be talked into voting by Curtis, a fellow South African apprentice who highly values the political process and has had many good things to say about the political season concluding (as governing prepares to begin!) here in South Africa. Johannes lives in Soshanguve, the local township I’ve been speaking about recently, and has witnessed the ANC fail to deliver on its promises of housing, improved infrastructure, and other forgotten things. And yet there seems to be such a deep-seated loyalty to Nelson Mandela and the freedom fighters who served selflessly, that many older South Africans continue to believe that a vote for the ANC is a vote for Mandela’s legacy.
Complex to say the least.
To the links:
The ANC is expected to win a fourth consecutive term in South Africa’s parliamentary and presidential elections on April 22. But for the first time since it came to power with the end of apartheid in 1994, that result is not guaranteed, and by any measure — popularity, membership, moral authority — the party is in decline. Its leaders are embroiled in a series of scandals involving both corruption and ineptitude. As a government, it has failed to stem raging violent crime and the world’s largest HIV/AIDS epidemic. It has presided over an economic boom that has made millionaires of a well-connected élite but left countless lives unchanged. As a party, it is accused of politicizing the police and the bureaucracy and showing contempt for the constitutional democracy for which it fought so long.
A Gospel Reading
Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:24-29, NIV).
Dayna Cermak asked me to read this passage near the close of our Easter morning sunrise service a few hours ago. As a dutiful follower, I was reading with emphasis and PASSION(!), that is until I came to the last line, which I promptly stumbled over in its profundity. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Why would Jesus end his famous encounter with Thomas with this throwaway line? Referencing those who were to come after him, and calling them blessed for not having seen what Thomas experienced? Honestly, statements like that often leave a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth, and are one of the many reasons Scripture is difficult to swallow at times. My cynical side screams “See! There is no experiential reality to this Kingdom Christ has established. You are as empty as ever!”
And yet I hold on, for in the mixed nature of those words is a gritty reality that confirms just how deeply Jesus knows me (and by extension, the nature of all human beings, it seems). That he would extend himself to me–Chris Kamalski, a 29 1/2 year old man full of hopes, doubts, despair, questions, strength; a man who has in some ways leapt off the deep end this year pursuing a life he thinks he wants (hoping all along that those secret, buried desires are spoken too as well)–and speak to me as well as Thomas in that moment is too much for me to take in.
I am remembered. I am valued. I am loved (called blessed even!). I don’t know how to take this in. My overwhelming feeling at this moment is a mixture of exhaustion and relief.
Exhaustion because our community has deeply entered into these past 8 days, truly seeking to walk with Christ in his final hours prior to death. And we have succeeded in a manner of depth, passion, and creativity that I have never before known. It has been a long, emotional, deep, shifting week. I identify with Christ in ways I have never known, and it is because of this week walking with others. Exhaustion because we have been moving from one thing to the other these past 4-5 weeks, and I am spent. Exhaustion because moving willingly to one’s death (whether real, or those many small deaths of denial or hoped for sacrifice) are HARD.
And yet: Relief. Relief because He has come, and is coming again. Relief because my burdens have been shouldered by Another, even as I am unwilling to release them. Relief as freedom is around the corner, momentary and forever, even if I am not always desiring to enter into it. Relief, whether I receive it or not.
He has brought relief. Hallelujah!