Constitution and COVID-19 (16 May 2020)

Introduction and Welcome

Good morning to you all.

A special welcome to you as we initiate the first of our ARF get-togethers within the confines of

coronavirus and Internet communication.

Particular introductory welcome to new visitors:

Mpo Vogalegu

Grant Gunston

Clive and Kathy Hill

Matthew Courtney

Over 14 years ago the Purpose and justification for the establishment of the Augustinian Reform

Fellowship (ARF) was to provide and occasion opportunity for people, dedicated to the Christian faith to share and question in fellowship, opportunities and challenges facing Christianity in the modern era.

The Nicene Creed, the Incarnation and Atonement are the basis of the ARF statement of faith.

We thus address the need to consider, and even suggest, deeply entrenched attitudes\cultures and traditions that are seemingly at variance with the teachings of the Gospel and Bible.

Past examples of such God driven transformation being:

  • The Reformation,
  • Outlawing of slavery.
  • Out lawing of Witchcraft.
  • Removal of Apartheid law in this country.

Jesus Christ together with Biblical prophets of old clearly served to give warning and direction, when faced with the waywardness of the People. Some pray for the same providential evidence of such intervention in these times?

The current, almost cataclysmic disruptions could well, occasion a vivid means of effecting Divine

intervention. In many ways Transformation is with us. Christianity has its role to play.

It has always been the concern of the ARF that Christianity cannot be seen to be resigned and accepting of being “out of tune with contemporary culture” and the often very apparent needs of the modern era. (JR W Stott)

 

This could render Christianity to become “extinct and a relic of history” (JRWS)

Gospel based transformation must thereby occasion a greater sense of credibility and relevance to facilitate our claim of seeking to further God’s Truth and Salvation of mankind. To do this we must

continue to resolve, Inter alia:

  • Gender and Sexuality issues,
  • Structural injustice and corruption
  • Atheistic Communism,
  • Nationalistic Populism
  • The Transcendental Human Predicament.
  • Disease and the pain of poverty and suffering.

 

These Require our serious attention and Spirit Driven resolution.

The faith driven fellowship and endeavours of the ARF seek to address the above within the confines of:

Exercising the strong and necessary disciplines of:

Love,

Prayer,

Study,

Enquiry,

Hope.

 

We trust that this brief background on the business of the ARF will give some insight to “newcomers”?

The spirit of fellowship at our Saturday morning get-togethers and the need for enjoyment and the energetic pursuit of The Truth will hopefully not be lost by having now the electronic facility to continue our ARF   meetings.

Apologies for not being able to arrange the usual early morning “Saturday muffins!”

Mark Kirby is to be thanked for assisting in the electronically linked set up.

He will explain to you during our proceedings the way in which you can initiate your

participation this morning.

 

Obedience or Resistance

 

The significance and appropriateness of the title of my introductory devotion as been occasioned by some of the rigours and challenges of the present lifestyle caused by the COVID-19 restrictions. This is the common experience for all of us!!

 

Proximity of living in limited and very constrained circumstances often poses questions about what constitutes doing or behaving in an acceptable way of. “Doing the right thing?” This is a challenge that arises out of dealing with requirements of Government, Provincial Government, municipal authorities and even, often more importantly, the local domestic in-house government! I sometimes call her “The Government!” For she is the much loved “Muffin Maker”.

What need, or must one do, or not do, to avert the possibility of being the victim of reprimand, criticism or being the cause of people getting annoyed or Grumpy!

Does one show Obedience or Resistance?

The outright solution is of course is to categorically disregard the problem, block any criticism, or attack with Contempt.

Such a reaction is not always advisable or appropriate.

Avoiding the danger of triviality, It is therefore fitting to consider this issue of

“Obedience or Resistance”

To assist you with such reflection I have put together the following thoughts:

You may have read in last Sunday’s newspaper under the headings :

  • We want to avoid Covid 19 panic”
  • “Presidency confirms information is kept from public for fear of stigma, causing alarm”.

 

In that article Witwatersrand University health economist Alex van den Heever said “Data can easily be skewed. Our entire response to the COVID-19 is too dependent on government acting on its own.

The danger with not releasing data properly is that there is no verification of the level of the outbreak”.

This illustrates the opportunity that government and other authorities often have in effecting and implementing often harsh measures that can be used to suit their own purposes and not those of the people they are committed to serve.?

In contrast to this and referring to the passage from Matthew chapter 5 , that was read to us by Daniel Simango this morning, it gives rise to questions about the message on the passage from a recent church sermon. That being that “We are not to resist the one who is “evil” or using the words from another translation passage, that someone who is a “wrongdoer”.

In my early Christian life and high school years, I was brought up to believe and accept, using the words of St Paul;  “The powers that be   are ordained of God” “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

(Romans chapter 13)

Some of you may have had the same understanding experience in your early religious education.

This theologically based upbringing was for me, the origin of the lack of an early awareness for the need for questioning governmental authority and or justified civil disobedience. Often complacency arose.

In the time of Apartheid , opportunity for protest and resistance was outlawed.

There was no broad concern for Activism by those mostly white South Africans, whose earlier family background was not exposed to oppression and the persecution in eastern Europe, under the Nazis and communism. These folk taught their children strong lessons. This offspring became some of my student colleagues.

You will remember how in the middle part of the last century many privileged white South Africans calmly and graciously resigned themselves to the comfort of their circumstance.

The local broadcast radio announcer John Berks coined the phrase “Go with the Flow” Despite the hardships and injustices of Apartheid there was no serious or broad active awareness in those privileged, often Christian communities, for the need to: “Defend Human Rights”.

Our Lord’s subjection and endurance of the pain and brutal suffering of his Crucifixion was a further reinforcement for some, for the need for acceptance of “bowing to authority.”

It took the example of persons like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, together with, pursuers, and supporters of the Struggle in my student days, to realise that maybe there is a need for a change of mind?

It finally became clear then that regimes who perpetrated injustice- as with the persecuting history of the Nazis- and the then present-day South African National Government – were corrupt and continued to be so.

So it became belatedly apparent, to me and my many colleague students, that the Government of the day in South Africa was a long-standing Evil. It was, therefore, necessary for it to be Resisted.

I suggest therefore this morning, in the face of these COVID-19 regulations, that there is an important need to apply careful judgement about the intentions and integrity of the powers that be, and their part and intentions concerning COVID-19 in effecting their interpretation of what is required as part of the “order of the day”.?

Advocate Paul Hoffman has kindly offered to enlighten us on this matter today.

You will have, possibly read Paul’ Hoffman’s view in the material that was circulated to you in respect of impugning the extension of COVID-19

Quote: “The extension was not a necessary step and in the absence of necessity the minister had no legislated or other power to take it and is accordingly in breach of C1(c) in that she has not upheld the supremacy of the rule of law which ought to be regarded and defined in the same way as The World Justice Forum defines it.”

It is also appropriate to remember then that in giving vent to our understanding and possible objections of the present COVID-19 restrictions and controls, we need to be very mindful of the fact that there has been “a complete failure of public participation in the decision-making in our participatory democracy as required by C195 (PH),

Alternatively, however, please also note, that by taking something of a possible supine attitude to these perpetrations of our Constitution, some could argue that we need to leave the outcome of such wrongdoings to God!

Here are the words of St Paul:

“We shall all stand before God’s tribunal; for we read in Scripture, “As I live, says the Lord, to me every knee shall bow, and every tongue acknowledges God “Romans chapter 14 verses 10 to 12. We are all thus “answerable to God.” “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay” Romans chapter 12 verse 20 Vengeance, recrimination, and the need for retribution could correspondingly be considered to fall beyond our jurisdiction?

We must leave the need for further enlightenment to our much regarded  Augustinian brother and advocate Paul Hoffman.

Bear in mind however that Irrespective, therefore, of the outcome of the forthcoming trial again Jacob Zuma, our previous President still has something very serious to worry about if he is to be, faced by God’s vengeance.!?

We, however, this morning must deal with the immediate question of “Obedience or Resistance”? and its relevance to COVID-19 here in South Africa.?

Over to Paul Hoffman

JA   15-05-20