does the mistake of Apartheid still make me sceptical of Dutch Reformed truth?
February 21, 2008
It is a common perception that members of the Dutch Reformed Church are weary when the church claim to have the truth, because of the mistake made with Apartheid. The DRC said that Apartheid was right, that it was biblical and Godly and whatever else you might want. And then in 1986 they said sorry, we were wrong. It is commonly said by the so-called postmodern theologians that people don’t trust the church because previously, when the church said that “we have the truth”, the church was wrong. I again found this in an article by Julian Muller, but he surely isn’t the only one saying this.
But today, when again I read this, I stopped to ask myself: Is this true? Is this why I don’t trust the DRC? Suppose (and this is nearly impossible to imagine) that the DRC were always the church that was against Apartheid, would I trust them more? Would I trust them less? I was born in 1984, I didn’t even really know about Apartheid until well after it was over. I never heard a sermon defending Apartheid, never in my life. And in all honesty, I don’t think most of my friends who isn’t studying theology have ever stood still to really consider the fact that once upon a time when we were still being breastfeeded, our mother church said that Apartheid was Biblical.
I have found more people younger than 25 who claim that the Dutch Reformed church cannot be trusted because we are not strong enough against homosexuality than those not trusting the DRC because of the Apartheid issue. Or what about those that don’t trust the church because they feel they can’t ask the really burning questions. Also so many that don’t trust the church because some pastor didn’t know how to handle some pastoral situation, didn’t follow up throughout the crisis etc.
While typing the previous paragraph, ons of the youth from our church came in, so I asked her whether she knew that the DRC said Apartheid was right; she didn’t. She was shocked when she did find out, because she think Apartheid is wrong, but in her mind she think that the Afrikaner is to blame, never occured to her that the church was supposed to be blamed.
I think Muller’s paragraph on this is highly oversimplified, although I must admit it was partly his teaching that helped me to notice this. I think you’ll find a general mistrust of institutions with people under 25, a general mistrust of churches, no matter what their history, and natural knowledge that truth is relational (a word I think closer resemble the epistemological viewpoint of an emerging generation than relativistic).
Maybe the Apartheid story is something church leaders are more scared of than the young people of the day. More scared that they make the same mistake than young people are that the church would make the same mistake. But then again, I might be wrong…