Sunday, July 17, 2011


It is hard for me to think of another man whose dedication has spared more bloodshed than any single other person other than Nelson Mandela.  His 93rd birthday is a triumph for the principle of reconciliation and forgiveness in the post-apartheid era of South Africa.  He, along with Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu (and, less famously, Catholic Archbishop of Durban, Denis Hurley),  established the idea that retribution (aka, a bloodbath) was not the way of the future for their nation.  No better recipients for the Nobel Peace Prize could be found.

Here is a vision that could have been turned into hatred during the years of imprisonment he endured; instead, he became a statesman in the fullest and best sense of the term, making a State of his country that people could admire.

Is everything perfect in South Africa?  No--it is not "paradise" by any stretch.  Unemployment, rampant HIV/AIDS and other social ills plague the country.  But it is also the country that created and modeled for the world the "Truth and Reconciliation Commissions" that allowed the people there to side-step the evils of the kind of violence that erupted, for example, in Rwanda (and in a different way in Sudan). 

What Would Jesus Do?" (WWJD) has been a popular mantra for many who (honestly) never had to face a life-threatening challenge to their faith.  Nelson Mandela showed us in practice what Jesus would do:  he led his nation in the ways of the Sermon on the Mount--turning the other cheek, loving one's enemies, going the 2nd mile, doing good to those who persecute; forgiving "70 times 7 times" (yes, I'm aware that this last example isn't from Matt 5-7; it still applies).

Do politics and religion mix?  Should they?  Here's a powerful answer, as well as powerful challenge.

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