Tag Archive: morality


A small part of the South African cyber space, the religious corner, is abuzz. Usually some or other dominee (minister in the Dutch Reformed Church) or other religious leader creates this type of hype by sharing a thought (via Facebook or Twitter), sermon, or book that can be labelled “liberal”. Think of, amongst others, the recent sacking of Jean Oosthuizen or “Om te mag twyfel” written by Julian Muller. This time it seems the table is turned. A dominee, Stefaan de Jager, whom can be described as more conservative shared a thought on Facebook which simply got the blood boiling. I quote (via Kletskerk):

“Dit moet tragies wees as jy `n ateis is en jou kind deur die dood verloor. Jou kind is so dood soos `n hond. Niks meer en niks minder nie. Troosteloos.” and “lyk my as jy `n ateis is is dit dan dalk nie so `n slegte plan om jou kind te laat uitsit as hy/sy ly nie. Daar is immers ten diepste mos nie vir hulle `n verskil tussen mens en dier nie. Albei bloot biologiese wesens. Huil dan na die tyd so `n bietjie oor jou kind soos oor jou dooie hondjie en kom dan daaroor en kry `n ander kind.”

(Short paraphrase: If you are atheist then it seems that your children and dogs (pets) should be equated to each other, if a child suffers, put him/her down like a pet and get a new one, as the child is merely a biological being.).

As Christians we should shudder at the callousness with which anyone, let alone a spiritual leader, can throw stereotypes and generalizations about with so much sincerity and conviction. This seems to fly in the face everything Jesus stood for and commanded his followers to be, a group of people who reaching out to the marginalized in care, understanding, and love.

It seems that Ds de Jager forgot that the loss of any life is tragic, be that the life of a child or the life of an elderly person, the life of a woman or the life of a man, the life of a Atheist, a Muslim, or a Christian, the life of a human being or the life of an animal, domesticated or wild, the life of an individual or the life of a species. The loss of life is always tragic. However, death is indeed a natural process; living, by definition, means that we will die. And with every death something, at least in this reality, is lost of the image of G-d, not the complete image but a certain snapshot of G-d’s image. Indeed we are all created in the image of G-d; we are all creature-ly.

At the same time I must wonder about the way that Ds de Jager uses the term “atheist”. The origin of the word, in Greek atheos [a- not + theos – god], can be translated “without god”, a translation that opens a number of possibilities, which I don’t think Ds de Jager entertained.

Firstly, if we translate atheos as “without god” is it not possible to say that there was and always will be only one true atheist, namely Jesus Christ; although only for a short time on Good Friday. Do we as Christians not hold that only Christ was truly G-d-forsaken in order for us, and all of creation, to live? Do we not profess that it is only by the care of G-d, through G-d’s own breath that creation is sustained?

Secondly, if you do not want to go that far and translate the Greek as god-not-existing; does the word not refer to a very specific understanding of G-d? Specifically a theistic understanding of G-d, a G-d that lives somewhere above, but close to our known Earth/Solar system/Universe and that has direct control every aspect of our daily lives, that can see, hear, and known everything at the same time whilst simultaneously be everywhere. It seems that, if this is Ds de Jager’s approach, everyone that does not believe in G-d or understand G-d like he does, is included in his pronouncement. The conviction thus, believe like I do or get over the death of your child, even more so, put them down when they suffer and get a new one.

Thirdly, is it not possible that by using the term atheist Ds de Jager forgets his own history? Can it not be argued that the first Christians were some of the world’s first atheists? Indeed, they did not believe in god as described by Judaism nor did they hold to the understanding of the Greeks and Romans with their plethora of gods. From the perspective of the Jews and the Romans the early Christians could indeed be classified as atheists, today Christians might be classified as the same by any pantheist, still by the Jews as well as the Muslims.

However, the statement is not only problematic because it only contributes sanctity to the lives of those who believe like Ds de Jager and the dubious use of the term atheist, it also puts on the table the importance of making public statements in the social media-sphere. Some commentators on the Kletskerk-post would like us to believe that Ds de Jager was justified in making this statement as a summary of the opinion of atheists themselves (Henk Zeeman and Mauritz Coetzee amongst others). The trouble is that, firstly, it is quite arrogant to turn the argument of another into a caricature like this and, secondly, social media hardly every respects context. The way that Ds de Jager formulated his response in conversation with others exposes something of his underlying worldview and intolerance to those who believe or not-believe differently than he does. I would like to argue that such a position flies in the face of the compassion that is the heart of G-d’s love for us, creation as a whole, and our mandate as Christians to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

Over above the theological implications of this statement and the responses it generated on the Kletskerk Facebook wall, is my personal reaction to it. Week after week I, together with a number of other young, unemployed theologians, send in application after application for jobs in the church. It so often happens that it is the Ds De Jagers of this world that receive our applications and CV’s. The result; we are lucky to make it though the first, brief evaluation onto any kind of a short list where we are bound to come face to face with an early judgement if we do not toe the party, read conservative, line.

It seems what we believe is still more important than the faith that stokes the fires of our core, it seems we are still holding on to precise dogma, whilst we are failing to realize our own brokenness and the call to be the healing to others which we so desperately seek. The time has come to realize that a believing and non-believing world are not interested in our pseudo-philosophical, metaphysical, and religious speculation but are hungry and thirsty for those who profess any kind of faith to start living accordingly.

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Written by Frank Bruni

Having exhorted Americans toward six-pack abs and schooled them in 15-minute orgasms, the personal improvement guru Tim Ferriss turned his attention more recently to travel advice. It appeared in The Times on Sunday, and it said a lot about what’s wrong with our country.

Ferriss is the self-anointed superhuman who hawks not just the possibility of perfection, as defined by gobs of dough and a godly physique, but the speediness of it. Just heed his mega-selling books and you too can attain “The 4-Hour Workweek” and “The 4-Hour Body,” thus having quadruple or quintuple that time left over for self-adoration.

And for trips! Ferriss apparently jets around a whole bunch, a guru being only as good as his frequent-flier status, so his dominion extends to the heavens. He is master of air as well as earth. One of the tips he shared in The Times was this: if you must a check a bag, pack an unloaded starter pistol in it, so that the Transportation Security Administration will flag the piece of luggage, thus diminishing or altogether eliminating the possibility of its loss. It’s extra work and fretting for them but, hey, you get peace of mind. Isn’t that what counts?

To Ferriss’s thinking, yes, and I fear he’s not exotic in this regard. While I doubt there will be a rush on starter pistols by airline passengers — it’s just too much trouble, and too bizarre — his overarching interest in gaming the system at hand is mirrored in other Americans’ behavior. So is his emphasis on personal advantage over the public good, which would be undermined if every traveler did as he counseled. There’d be bedlam in airport security operations and a ludicrous number of people carrying around what could be mistaken for lethal weapons.

Selfishness run amok is a national disease (and, to judge by Greece, Italy and a few other European countries, an international epidemic). Too many people behave as if they live in a civic vacuum, no broader implications to their individual behavior.

They game, connive, cheat. Sometimes it’s small stuff: the perfectly healthy man who presents a sham doctor’s note so that his 60-pound pooch can be designated a “service dog” and thus accompany him into a lounge where pets aren’t allowed.

Sometimes it’s more consequential: perfectly (or at least mostly) healthy people bilking the government. Over the last four decades, the number of Americans drawing Social Security disability insurance has more or less tripled, by some estimates. That well outpaces population growth and reflects not just a liberalization of the requirements to apply for such insurance but the readiness of some people who don’t truly need it to finesse the criteria nonetheless.

I’ve known a few of them. I bet you have, too. Making a mockery of all the Americans who rightly depend on such aid, they exaggerate impairments, pressuring doctors to validate their conditions, on the theory that no harm is really done, not when they’re suckling at a teat as elastic and amorphous as the federal Treasury.

But that treasury is the sum of us — of our deposits and withdrawals — and to cheat it is to cheat your neighbor. It’s really that simple.

You wouldn’t know this from the way people approach taxes, which are what the federal Treasury must take in if it’s going to spit out anything at all — for the military, the highways and a whole lot else. Americans most frequently boast of how little they manage to pay, crowing about accounting gimmicks exploited, tricks successfully tried. I’m all for cunning, but we’ve gone beyond that.

Looking out for No. 1 is the pox on our politics. No industry wants to let go of a loophole and no constituency acquiesces to a significant sacrifice without being assured first that other industries or constituencies are doing as much or more. And even then they hesitate.

I’m ceaselessly surprised by how many older people of means push back against necessary changes to Social Security and Medicare. Some of them are grandparents, maybe even doting ones. And there’s a crucial disconnect between their impulse to safeguard their slice of the American pie and the concern they should feel for the crumbs their grandchildren may be left with.

A few of them are surviving members of the “greatest generation,” which we justly lionize for its sacrifices. Where are our sacrifices today? Our investments in the greater good?

In ourselves we invest plenty. Ferriss’s success speaks to that. Advocating what amounts to an epic narcissism, he has ruled the best-seller list and become rich.

Still he schemes.

Don’t pay for airport parking, he advised in The Times, if the accrued tickets from leaving your car on the street won’t be as expensive. Sure, you’re unlawfully hogging a space someone else might make legal use of; maybe you’re thwarting street sweepers, too. Not your problem. A conscience is for chumps.

This article was originally posted on the New York Times website.

Geskryf deur Fourie Rossouw

 Jy moet regtig lief he.
Delete jou junkmail folder gereeld.
Opgradeer jou anit-virus program.
Hou jou besig met goeie goed.
Nooi jou buurman oor vir ‘n braai.
As jy die sypaadjie voor jou huis se gras sny, sny jou buurvrou s’n ook.
Moenie opgee nie. Byt vas. Doen wat God van jou vra.
Wees opgewonde oor al die nuwe moontlikhede.
As dinge rof gaan, staan sterk.
Praat gereeld met God.
Help waar jy kan.
Deel uit wat jy het.
As iemand iets lelik aan jou doen, moet dan nie dink jy het ‘n rede om te skinder te nie.
Sommige mense is hartseer, ander is gelukkig. Leef altyd met deernis en empatie.
Moenie so windgat wees nie.
Luister vir ‘n slag.
Moenie jou swembadwater in jou buurman se groente tuin laat afloop nie.
As jou buurman ‘n poepol is, moenie jy dan ook een wees nie.
As dit vir jou moontlik is, probeer om van almal te hou.
Laat God worry oor hulle wat jou te na kom. Laat jou woede staan.
Maak vrede. Vergewe.
Wees ‘n geniunely nice teenoor hulle wat nie van jou hou nie. Niks is meer irriterend as dit nie!
Moenie dat die donker jou baas word nie.

Wees die donker se baas deur in die lig te lewe.

We’ve got no fucking idea! My choice of words might upset you, somehow I don’t care. I am aware of the harshness of the language, maybe even the inappropriateness of it. And yes you are welcome to take me to task about it, but only if and when you seriously engage with the following. The invisible children of Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda. The stolen generation of Australia. Children in the global sweatshop. The starving in famine-struck Somalia. The people of Kiribati. The people who work and live in the Mine, Guatemala City. The oil sand exploitation of Athabasca and similar areas. The oil fields of the Niger delta. Any of the active genocides that are taking place in the world. And don’t just read about the above on the internet, run the search on Google Images with safe search off, the latter is a cop-out; even better, visit one or two of the places if you can.

But you don’t need to travel that far and “exotic” to see, hear and experience how really clueless and irrelevant we have become. Take a drive through the far flung reaches of the North-West and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa. Visit city centres and prominent harbours. Talk to the youth in South Africa and then to a few drug addicts, prostitutes, homeless, jobless and oppressed. Spend a day at an animal shelter or at any underground dog-fighting ring. Walk a day next to a workhorse in Khayelitsha. Open your eyes and ears to your own comfort and privilege. Open your eyes and ears to the very real suffering in the world. Open your eyes and ears to the call of Jesus. Really step out of your comfort zone for a moment and experience.

And whilst at it, remember the words of Jesus, and ponder it for a little while.

“Then he spoke: You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all. God’s kingdom is there for the finding.  You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal. You’re blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning. “Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – skip like a lamb, if you like! – for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this. Give Away Your Life But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made. What you have is all you’ll ever get. And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself. Your self will not satisfy you for long. And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games. There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it. “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests – look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.” (Luke 6:20-26)

And once you have done that, then, but only then, you are welcome to challenge me on my choice of words at the beginning of this reflection.

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

 

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others – even our enemies – is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

 

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings, even those regarded as enemies.

 

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

I found this version of the Charter on the official website for the Charter for Comapssion

Reduce, Re-use, Recle.

Eet minder! Ry minder! Koop minder! Upgrade minder! Vergeet om as maatstaf die Geldenhuise (Jones’s) te gebruik. Bou kleiner! Sit ligte af! Sit die radio af as niemand luister nie! Dra klere langer! Begin ‘n wurmplaas en groentetuin. Gooi die swembad toe!

Verraai jou ego, spyker dit teen die kruis. Ons ego’s verg energie en energie veroorsaak ekstra CO2 wat die toekoms van ons kinders en verseker hulle kinders bedreig. Raak deel van die gesprek!

Hou op om dwars te trek om jou eie gemaksone te beskerm, die planeet is in die gemors en ons is die oorsaak. Rook minder! Eet minder vleis (moeilik vir ons Suid-Afrikaners!). Moenie met die 4×4 die kinders by die skool gaan haal of inkopies gaan doen nie, ons paaie is nie so sleg nie!

Maar nou ja, die goed kom te naby aan ons lyf; so wie stel belang? Ons gefokus op ons self, te hel met ons kinders. Wanneer hulle swaarkry is ons al dood! (‘n Argument wat meer as een persoon al actually teenoor my gebruik het).

Ons bely Christus, self-opofferende liefde is ‘n waarde van Hom, maar vir is dit een te veel gevra. Dit is mos maklik, se ek glo en dan kan ek maak wat ek wil, leef soos ek wil, want ek glo en is deur genade alleen gered. Ek wonder of Paulus of Jakobus sou saamstem? A person is not defined by the cover but by his actions (Megamind). Is it possible that our faith is also defined by our actions? (James of te wel Jakobus)

En ons keuse is? Onthou dit word bely deur ons dade!

People, especially those of faith, are strange. With the number of people on the Earth; trying to  catalogue the strangeness of them all will probably fill enough books to equal all the books written in the same place to date. I will therefore cast a cursory focus on the strangeness of people of faith, especially Christians.

Christians proclaim a faith which centres on grace, given freely by the Father through the working of His Son and enacted by His Spirit. The Earthly example they are bound to follow is that of Jesus the Christ. A man who walked the Earth approximately 2000 years ago; caring for the sick, dining with the outcasts, forgiving prostitutes and other sinners, whilst creating enough disturbance to justify his execution. (So much for a brief confession of faith.)

What gets me, is the way that Christians seem to forget the very example they proclaim to follow; the very core of what constitutes their believe. It seems that more often than not this liberating truth is traded in for a stagnant dogma, which it seems, is more concerned with discriminating between those who tout the party line and thosewho  upset the apple cart.

Christians, instead of embracing the simple life, loving their neighbour, caring for the down and out, spreading grace and dining with the Divine, seem to be on a modern crusade of identifying the cardinal sins, stringing up homosexuals, crucifying those who disturb the gravy train and ignore the marginal.

It is somewhat of a revelation that the sins identified are always those that points the finger at the Other, rather than looking at the Self. It seems you can abuse the Earth, as long as you are not gay; you can covet everything with greedy eyes, as long as you keep the “consumer” faith, and you can love the self at the cost of others as long as you drive by with darkened windows.

It seems that we, (wo)mankind as a whole and especially the faithful, are in serious need of a conversion. It is time that we turn from our torpid laws, on who is in and who is out, to lives filled with mercy, grace and love.

Our ability to celebrate the mystery of life seems to be severely affected by the occurrence of crime. Our freedom is limited, our horizons filled with walls and barbed-wire fences and our movement impaired by locks. In the quest to regain our freedom, it is important to define crime, what does it really mean? I propose at least three approaches.

The first and probably the most audible is the use of the word in relation to damage suffered by upper and middle classes. The damage suffered by the poor in this regard might be less in terms of money but definitely not so in terms of dignity. A person or persons unlawfully enters another person’s space and take what does not belong to them, be it a car, applications, money, dignity and sometimes even a life. The focus seems to be less on those without a voice but rather on those who has both things and a voice. It is crime in this sense of the word that is the proposed source of society’s problems and flows mainly from poor to rich or richer.

Of course crime can be used in another, legally valid way. One example will have to suffice; whenever someone drives at 80km/h in a 60km/h zone, it is a crime. Although it is technically true that by speeding one is breaking the law, and thus acting in a criminal way, very few people allow this to influence their behaviour. The opposite seems to be true. When someone is caught speeding, the person involves often get irritated with the police and tells them to go and catch real criminals or stop real crime. Almost everyone is guilty of this type of criminality and thus in some ways are deemed acceptable.

The third way to use the word is very unpopular and seldom used. It might be argued that the exploitation of people and nature is criminal in essence, thus a crime has been committed whenever either people or nature are exploited. The problem is that the paradigm of unlimited growth seldom acknowledges the fact and that federal law upholds this growth paradigm and does little to protect either people or nature from such abuse. The criminal flow in these instances is from rich or richer to poor.

While it is therefore true that crime is a problem of limiting life. It is however very one-sided if we reduce the meaning of the word to a specific form of crime; that form we are not guilty of ourselves. Where we refer to as society as criminal; it will serve us well to remember that we are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

What is the solution? I would argue a life lived intentionally within the boundaries of a moral and just society. One where we respect each other’s personal spaces together with the acknowledgement that all people are equal and that exploitation in any form is a crime. This acknowledgement starts with the I and do not, primarily, refer crime to the other.

Genocide in Action

Genocide in action! This is the judgement from various groups, individuals and even some academics in regards to the violent situation in South Africa. In support of this; farm murders become the standard bearer. I hope it is possible to take a step back and ask a few critical questions? Does the crime statistics support such a view? What is the emotion behind the statement? Can we live from another perspective?

South Africa has an unnatural high occurrence of murder. Annually an approximate 26 000 people are murdered of which up to 200 is farmers. It is difficult to find the number for white people being murdered, but I venture to say that the vast majority of these cases are black people, especially woman and children. A question that begs to be answered: What is the relation of murder on black people to white people (country demographic is 9:1) and how is this influenced by the race of the murderers.

It is unfortunately also true that South Africa has an unnaturally high occurrence of extreme poverty and that the gap between rich and poor is constantly growing. This source of this reality cannot be put squarely on the shoulders of white South Africans, as the poverty levels among them is also on the increase, nor are they innocent bystanders who is completely innocent. It would also be irresponsible to claim that all crime stems from poverty or to claim that there is no link at all.

The context of South Africa therefore is one where murder per capita is high and poverty per capita is high. It is also a country where white people, in general, are still (percentage wise) much better off than black people. It would also seem that crime, in general but not conclusively, flows from poor(er) to rich or in some cases just richer.

It would therefore seem that people who have more, is more likely to be targets of crime irrespective of their race, colour or creed. This realization leads to a certain amount of fear. Fear then becomes the foundation from which such persons live, rationalize and argue. Instead of focussing on one of the real issues behind crime, poverty and an unjust socio-economic system, race is used as the explanation behind all crime experienced by one group and at the same time limiting the perpetrators to one “opposing” race. Critical questions are left untouched for example how many white people are murdered by other white people, how many children are murdered by their parents etc.

Fear also features in another way. It might just be that there exists a collective fear that the black people of the country will attempt (and succeed) in something that some white people wished for in days go by; domination and possibly even the eradication of the other. Coenraad Scheepers said in 1852 “[Whites] and blacks cannot live together, unless the black man is in a state of subjection to the white”. Hendrik Verwoerd echoed this in 1948 when he referred to South Africa as a “white man’s country where he must remain the master”. I am certain that at various birthday parties everyday Malema-type pronouncements are being made by both extremist flanks of society.

It seems to me the time has come that we look our brother and sister South Africans, across the racial and cultural boundaries, in the eye, ask what is really wrong, start addressing these wrongs, acknowledge our feelings and ask for forgiveness where necessary and start to live from the promise that is our land and diversity, and not from the prejudices of the colour of our skin or formulation of our creed.

Food security: A crisis

“Worthless people live only to eat and drink; people of worth eat and drink to live.” – Socrates

One of the biggest challenges facing us today must be our ability to secure a balanced and healthy food supply to everyone. The combined challenges of population growth, climate change, political upheaval and economic growth put more strain on an already taxed system.

The planet is straining under the burden of 6.7 billion people, all of them needing to be fed, clothed and housed. This is all depended on the ability of an economic system to supply these things based on energy created wealth. With the advent of bio-fuels more food producing lands are converted into fuel producing fields in order to satisfy the “green” energy needs of growing economies.

Economies are dependent on the governance, which in itself, becomes a lucrative place to be. The ability to dictate policies and agendas often have the spin-off that he or she that dictates benefits financially. In order to be in government land is often repatriated from one and shared with the other; resulting in further loss of food producing area.

In a time where the burden keeps on getting heavier by the second, the ability of the diminishing agriculture surface to produce crop successfully takes another hit by climate change and weather anomalies.

Many of these challenging factors are not going to change. Those in power will always act in their best interest, even if those who elected them suffer, economies will keep on demanding more and more energy, change will stay the only constant in climate and people will keep on procreating beyond mere replacement.

With a crisis on hand it is time to respond, but how? Creating and maintaining food security will depend on a segmented solution, a combination of micro and macro approaches.

Individuals need to look at their own diet and start to follow a more frugal approach. This is counter to the over-consumptive approach of the day; which is seen in the obesity pandemics in the United States and China and rising occurrence of obesity amongst young people in South Africa. It is not justifiable to pig out just because you can afford it. Try doing so with the picture of a starving child on the table facing you.

Government need to realize that before you take a farm, train a farmer of equal ability. As a country we cannot afford to lose the productivity on any farms. The stability of a country depends on the satisfaction of the basic needs of its citizens, but not on the satisfaction of their greed.

Government and individuals need to find a way in becoming more energy efficient. The goal will be to use less energy or produce more while using the same amount of energy. We cannot afford viable land producing lands being converted into bio-fuel plots.

Families need to seriously think about limiting family sizes. We cannot claim an inalienable right to procreate if this right pushes our and mankind’s future to the brink of disaster.

We do not have a lot of time left to act; we need to act now!