How should a christian respond to Mr Zuma? Is it his job to just quietly pray for the leaders of South Africa? Should he resist the leadership and call everyone to the battle? Is Mr Zuma the Antichrist? If he is, what should the response be? So how should the christian respond?
Let us take a minute to define “christian” as the term is used loosely to include a variety of people. A christian is a person adhering to or following the teachings of Jesus Christ, an Abrahamic Monotheistic religion. A survey in 2006 indicate five types of christians ranging from Active to Cultural. The estimate was that Active group then represented about 19% of the christians surveyd. If the figure of christianity in the world is about 33%, then the Active group would be about 6% of all people. In South Africa this figure could be as high as 15% of the population if we take a figure of christians according to
the 2001 census. That census indicated that almost 80% of South Africans thought of themselves as christian. A cultural christian by definition of the survey thinks there are many ways to God and is God aware, but has little personal involvement with God. The figures may be different now as it is almost 16 years since the 2001 census, but if I talk about christians in the context of this question, I am talking about or to the 10 – 15% of people living in South Africa who believe that salvation comes through Jesus and who are committed to sharing their faith with others.
A further definition is that of Antichrist. There is so much wild speculation about who the Antichrist is or will be ranging from Mr Obama to Pope Francis. In general the antichrist is the person who denies the Father and the Son. So this definition could apply to between 70% and 94% of all people in the world in the widest sense. The term is also used is also used to indicate one particular person that will be responsible for a fierce persecution of christians in the end times. So is Mr Zuma the antichrist? In the wider sense of the word, I would say yes. In particular as the one person, I would say no.
I do not want to go into the detail of all the statements of Mr Zuma about the ANC and christianity. What is important to note though is the comment that the “ANC would rule till Jesus comes”. So after the last round of local elections where the ANC lost control in Port Elizabeth (PE) and Pretoria the picture of Jesus in a South African taxi was circulated widely.
It is also important to note that Mr Zuma told church leaders to pray for the ANC and the government and to stay out of politics. Of course this advice is correct in part. The christians should pray and there should be forgiveness for wrongs committed by everybody, including Mr Zuma. As active christian, I will pray for that and ask fellow christians to pray for forgiveness and reconciliation in the land. I will also ask the Presidency to seek justice everywhere for everyone and to focus on good governance in all aspects, to live morally (if not “christian”) clean lives. It seems to me that Mr Zuma, like many other South Africans, has divided his life in different compartments. These compartments are watertight and do not influence one another. So there is his personal life, then there is his political life, then there is his religion. He uses whatever he can get from religion to advance his political life. There is no proof in his life that he belongs to the group of christianity in the Active definition. He may be a cultural christian without Jesus in his life, but that we do not know. What we in South Africa should also keep in mind to understand better and pray more focused is that the African culture plays a huge role in certain church groupings to such an extent that people cannot find true freedom in Jesus and that their vision is distorted of what christianity is. So a person may be cultural christian and then deeply influenced by his understanding of God.
So what should the christian response be? We should pray for him. He is correct there. The prayer is not a prayer of “let’s sweep everything under the carpet” and forget that it ever happened. The prayer should be that the Father who knows everything should reveal to Mr Zuma what should be done for South Africa and in South Africa. The prayer should be that there will be a new revelation of what to do to create prosperity for all in South Africa. We do not have the answers, but God does have it. We should also pray that God would protect him. Though we do not agree that other politicians (even ANC members themselves) who disagree from him is of the devil, we do agree that protection is needed in the ANC as well. Pray that God will guide the ANC active christians to speak out against abuses in any form. We also want to pray that people will understand, accept and implement the fact that christianity is not religion that can be boxed in one compartment of your life. This prayer applies to everybody.
As christians we should also work and campaign for change. It may be the last parliamentary term under an ANC president. We should then also pray for the new leaders of the country. We should pray for a peaceful transfer of power. Above all we should pray for repentance for the whole of the country, for everybody living here. Yes, Mr Zuma need to repent of certain things that he has done and said. He and the other parliamentarians are a reflection of the South African community. When we are ashamed of proceedings at our parliament we should remember that it is a reflection of where we are, a reflection of our society.
Lastly as christians we need to be outspoken on matters that need to be addressed. The Dutch Reformed Church is still quiet about many important social issues in the country and so are quite a number of big denominations. Tony Ehrenreich of Cosatu says more about the working and travelling and living conditions of the poor than most of the christian denominations combined. Christianity seems irrelevant with the church quiet in most instances.
To summarise: we need to pray, work and address issues in word and deed whether we have a christian or muslim president.