South African Universities are burning and where is the church?

Well, we are there. i actually spoke a little about this in my previous post, titled ‘Where is the church?’

As part of the PJW team in Cape Town we are there. Pastors joining in/leading marches in Joburg [including being shot in the face with rubber bullets as has happened to countless students and is as shocking and deplorable]. Friends who are part of the church in Stellenbosch, Free State and KZN all there. And i’m sure other groups and congregations and individuals i’m not aware of. The church is definitely there.

But not all of the church. And this is my question today – and i would honestly LOVE it if you’re a church person for you to take up this question with your leaders if it’s not obvious to you whether you’re involved or not – should every single church in South Africa be involved in this issue.

What causes me to pause and question myself and hesitate a little on this one is the tendency for my issue [with me being you as well] to feel like the most important issue. So if my heart is for the youth then everyone’s heart should be for the youth. If i’m all about animals then everyone should be about animals. If i hate raiSINS then everyone should hate… okay, THAT one is true… but in those other cases i’m not sure it’s always the case, and that’s something i’ve had to learn as i’ve grown older…

But this one… this one to me feels different. There can be absolutely no doubt that the mission of the church involves looking out for and reaching out to those considered ‘the least of these’ and that includes the marginalised and those pushed to the sides.

And this particular moment – which has the face of education and university students but is not exclusive to that [this is all part of a much bigger story of injustice, poverty and inequality playing out] – feels to me like one that the whole church needs to be involved in.

Maybe not in the same ways. There are some churches that are better equipped with resources or personnel to be able to have teams out there on the ground. But in terms of prayer and i believe also in terms of speaking about it from the pulpit on a Sunday and maybe even in small groups during the week. Asking the question, “Where should the church be in all this?” and answering it in action.

i don’t for a second believe that if Jesus was around today in South Africa He would not be on the university campuses. He might not be doing what we would assume He would do, saying what we would like Him to say [whether condemning the protesters or supporting them] or engaging only with who we would expect Him to engage with. He tended to get around. And so i expect Jesus would have something to say to the student leaders as well as the masses of followers. I expect Jesus would have something to say to the members of SAPS and the private security. i imagine Jesus would have something to say to the staff and cleaners and Vice Chancellors and even perhaps the government officials that showed up.

But Jesus isn’t here, i mean not physically, in a way that maybe we’d like, cos then we could follow His lead.

Although His body IS here. i mean, that’s us, right? The body of Christ? Living and speaking as if Jesus was alive on the earth today.

This stuff is not easy. It is complicated. Most of it feels overwhelming. And i definitely don’t have so many of the answers on this one [and grow tired of engaging with people who don’t even seem to be trying to have an understanding beyond their own]. But i have a deep-hearted belief that we need to show up. And keep showing up. And try figure it out as we do so. Led by the Holy Spirit who after all is Christ in us, the hope of glory?

If your church has not yet been part of these conversations and actions and if they haven’t said anything from the pulpit at all yet and you’re okay with that please try to give me some kind of answer as to why you think that is? What makes you okay that they are continuing with business as usual or perhaps see other issues as more burning than this? And if you’re not okay, then ask them.

Come on, church. Let’s get out there. Faith, hope and love. Those seem to be three things the university campuses and everyone on them could use a little bit more of right now…