before apartheid, there came the idea of separate development. in essence, it’s the idea that people will do better if left to develop within their own groupings.
The architects of apartheid used this philosophy to justify the separate development of tribes and peoples within the country of South Africa.
what became abhorrent was the systematic oppression of some peoples and tribes, while others were given special benefits. This systematic separation for the purpose of ensuring the control of power and resources is what made apartheid so unjust, hurtful and ultimately violent - because the majority was not happy to continue to be controlled and restricted, allowing a minority to benefit from the wealth and resources of the country.
That system has been dismantled. People are no longer restricted in the way that they were under Apartheid laws.
But what has not changed - and this is to me far more significant! - is the idea of separate development.
I had naively thought that the “liberation movement” would deconstruct both the systems AND ideology of apartheid. But it seems that only the systems have been addressed. Further, it seems to me that very few are actually even interested in addressing the ideology of separate development.
When apartheid determined where people lived, church life was defined by apartheid boundaries. development happened separately. Now that those boundaries have been taken away, church life still resembles the separation that apartheid enforced. It seems that even church people are not sure about whether they want to deconstruct separate development - only the systems that enslaved. so the result is two distinct communities, worshipping in the same building on a Sunday, but having almost not contact with each other at all.
As we think about the future, few are imagining a time when this will change. The personal cost would be too high. For a new, united community to be formed, one would need both communities to relinquish some of their much-loved traditions and ways of doing things, for the sake of being together. Compromise would be required. Most communities would much rather continue to meet apart for the sake of comfort and familiarity.
When contemporary Christian music began to get the attention of younger people, some churches acknowledged the need to make space for this music. So many churches allowed their evening services to become “contemporary” with bands leading music with drums and guitars. The rationale was that we needed to make a place for “both”. But the method was not to encourage the worshippers at existing services to compromise and embrace other traditions or ways. rather, the ideology of “separate development” was employed to avoid conflict.
the result is that we are a church that has embraced separate development to such an extent that we have multiple communities meeting in the same building on a Sunday who have very little to do with each other.
I want to question the ideology behind these expressions of community that avoid conflict by adopting an ideology that is not biblical. the biblical witness is a journey, painful sometimes, always costly, that leads to one faith, one baptism, one father of all, one people, one nation, one Lord!
I feel we have forsaken our prophetic witness and conformed ourselves to the world (Romans 12:2) - it’s fears and ideologies - and I wonder when we will stop.