A Discussion of the Resolutions of the 1958 Reformed Ecumenical Synod of South Africa on the Race Question
INTERMARRIAGE OF RACES
The Race Resolutions adopted by the Reformed Ecumenical Synod of South Africa (1958), designated No.ll specifically states, “No direct Scriptural evidence can be produced for or against the intermixture of races through marriage as a statement of principle. The well-being of the Christian community and also pastoral responsibility require that due consideration be given to legal, social, and cultural factors which affect such marriages.” It is this latter sentence of the 11th race resolution which the South African Christian brethren may use to indicate that it is precisely the legal, social and cultural factors, existing and differentiating the white and black races in their country, which make such marriages a social menace rather than a blessing to any country.
At this point we must consider what one of our own Americans has advanced on this phase of the race problem mentioned in this resolution adopted by the R.E.S. Our American negroes, as I have already sought to make clear, have more in common with the colored group in South Africa. The following observation is worthy of serious consideration. “In our present world, can the welfare of man and what we call civilization best be advanced by the amalgamation of all races or by their continued separate existence, with each contributing something unique from its culture for the good of all? We now have a most unhappy portion of our population of predominantly white blood but with enough negro blood to classify them as colored people. Are we willing that the American people should become light brown or a tawny white race? We are not willing, but should we be?” (Parker, American Protestantism, pp. 42, 43).
To this type of question Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Marriage is a condition which requires the voluntary consent of two contracting parties, and either side can always say no. The Negro’s primary aim is to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law” (Stride Toward Freedom, page 206). The miscegenate marriage, however, in the eyes of tho white South African, is a denial of the principle of self-preservation and of racial purity. It is for such reasons that both political parties, the Dutch Reformed Church and our own sister church in South Africa, prohibit such marriages. The question of self-preservation cannot be evaded when we consider the race resolutions adopted by the R.E.S., and the words of Dr. J. H. Bavinck as far as the South Africa situation is concerned are worthy of serious consideration when he said,…..maar elke keer, wanneer men mij de gehele situatie in het land schetste, kwam ik weI diep onder de indruk van de cis tot zelfbehoud. Die eis is zander enige twijfel cen punt dat serieuze overwegingen verdient, niet aileen in het land zelf, maar van de Kerk van Christus in de gehele wereld” (idem, page 49).
To fully appreciate the point of view of our Christian brethren in South Africa we must also consider what the immediate consequences would be if equal rights were granted to the Bantus and other non-whites. Most of the Bantus and other nonwhites have severed their connections with their original tribal groups and now live within the western civilization and culture of the white man, but are still unable fully to apprehend the responsibilities of maintaining law and order. Intellectually and religiously they are inferior, and having been uprooted out of their original tribal life accept the evils prevalent in the white man’s civilization. Bavinck has expressed the issue correctly when he says, “Terwyl binnen de starn overspel zo goed als nooit voorkomt, omdat het daar zwaar gestraft wordt, tiert deze zonde welig onder deze ontworteJden. De drank blijkt meer en meer cen ware gesel te zijn voor hun voortbestaan. Intellectueel staat de grote meerderheid van hen nog op een uiterst laag peil. Ze zijn voor een overgroot deel arme verdwaalden, die uit de eeuwenoude geslotenheid van hun hechte stam samenhang plotseling terecht gekomen zijll in een luidruchtige, dynamische wereld, waar auto’s langs de straten razen, waar aan aile kanten de mogelijkheid voor vermaak en misdaad open Jiggen, waar het geld aileen koning is” (idem, page 48). In the light of the numerical majority of these Bantu natives under present circumstances it is quite conceivable that the white man stresses his own need for self-preservation of a Christian civilization which he has built up for more than three centuries, and seeks to ward off any danger which in any way might destroy it.
Race resolutions 1, 2, and 3, adopted by the R.E.S., confront our Christian brethren in South Africa with the tremendous task of applying the principles contained in these three resolutions, especially not to misuse the privileged position which they now possess as a white race nor deem themselves superior to other races on a much lower level than their own. They must also in dealing with these Bantus and other non-whites exercise the principle of loving their neighbors as themselves. In a measure expression has been given by the white Christian Church in South Africa to apply these principles in dealing with the uprooted natives living at the very doorsteps of the white man. The white race has assumed the role of a guardian in behalf of these natives who are at the present time inferior, uneducated, still steeped in sin and in their immoral pagan practices. The role of a guardian implies the existence of the ward, exactly as a child requires the supervision and help of a mature parent to bring the child to maturity and to the exercise of adult responsibility. Especially the Dutch Reformed Church in the performance of its guardian responsibilities has been engaged for many years in bringing the Gospel to the non-whites, and in more recent years our own sister church has shown greater vitality in mission work among these uprooted natives. This guardianship has now been linked with a political undertaking known as “Apartheid,” a policy of seeking to bring the heathen to conversion without obliterating their national identity, and in establishing separate churches for various non-white groups. The Dutch Reformed Church alone budgets ill excess of 670,000 pounds per year for spiritual work among the non-whites in South Africa, and in addition maintains large hospitals, schools, industrial institutions, etc. The goal is through this mission endeavor to make independent, self-supporting, self-propagating indigenous churches capable of self-government.
In this connection must also he mentioned the much criticized and debated “Church Clause” of the Native Laws Amendment Act of 1957. In our newspapers and magazines this piece of legislation has met with much criticism. The legislation of 1957 is closely linked to previous Acts of 1937 and 1945 when the United Party was still in power. The principle of the legislative Acts of 1937 and 1945 was intended to deal with cases where Bantus possessing a church in their own locality proceed in increasing numbers to attend a church mainly intended for whites, thereby causing a nuisance either through rowdiness, or for the purpose of provocation and demonstration.
Regarding the “Church Clause,” Rev. Landman, secretary of the Synod of Cape Province, replied to Dr. W. A. Visser’t Hooft, general secretary of the World Council of Churches as follows: “We are, however, very happy to state that, especially during the last few years, mutual interests seem to bind us much closer together, and that the Coloured members of our Church prefer to belong to their own institutions and have not approached us, on any occasion in the remote or near past, with a request to reconsider our policy. Both among the Europeans and Coloured members of our Church, a growing need is making itself felt for closer cooperation in expressing our mutual faith, but our Coloured members seem to appreciate the fact that in a multi-racial society, unity in Christ need not and cannot mean uniformity in Church life.” (Monthly Newsletter No.1, Jan. 1958).
SEPARATE CHURCH SERVICES
What led to the separation of whites and blacks in religious worship services? From the founding of the Colony in 1652 baptized slaves and other non-whites; were admitted as members of the Mother Church, and the Gospel and the Sacraments were administered to both whites and non-whites in attendance. In the earlier period of the colonists no separation prevailed between the races in religious worship. It was customary to reserve seats for the non-whites. By the end of the 18th century the nonwhites were ministered to as a separate group with a distinctive religious life and possessing special spiritual needs, but they did remain members of the Mother Church. The need of preaching in the Bantu language played quite a decisive role in effecting segregated religious services for the Bantu. Ordained missionaries for the Bantu paved the way for special indigenous Bantu congregations, but where the number of converted Bantu were too few provisions were made to admit such to Dutch Reformed white congregations. No discrimination apparently was made because of difference in color. The Synod of 1857 was indeed far-reaching when it decreed, “that it considers it desirable and scriptural that our members from the heathen be received and absorbed into our existing congregations wherever possible; but where this measure, as a result of the weakness of some, impedes the furtherance of the cause of Christ among the heathen, the congregation from the heathen already founded or still to be founded shall enjoy its Christian privileges in separate buildings or institutions.” In 1881 the Constitution for the Mission Church was drafted, and separate indigenous churches of the natives soon dotted all four provinces. Professor Gerdener of Stellenbosch Seminary informs us that the founding of separate non-white churches did not arise from a spirit of racial oppression of the natives, but from a sincere attempt to minister more competently and efficiently to the non-white natives, and to reckon more fully with their cultural, social differences, and that it was rather practical considerations instead of racial principle which produced the indigenous Mission Churches of the Dutch Reformed Church (Fact Paper, No. 14, page 14).
From the above discussion it should be clear that the existence of nonwhite Christian churches in South Africa does not necessarily arise from a difference in color. Differences in cultural background, language barriers, social customs and habits between whites and non-whites in South Africa, must also be considered as a need for separate churches without in any way promoting a spirit of discrimination or implying a spirit of inferiority. It is conceivable that Bantu Christians even prefer the separate indigenous church of their own as long as ecclesiastical equality is maintained with a white group of believers. The existence of separate churches does not have to prevent the spirit of ecumenicity between churches made up of different races of Christians, nor does such separate existence of churches indicate lack of love between the white and non-white believers. Separate churches would not have to exclude close ecclesiastical cooperation, and where similarity of creeds exists between such churches a sister-church relationship can be expressed.
EQUALITY OF RACES?
In resolution number 6 of the R.E.S. we read, “The preceding paragraph neither denies nor ignores the fact of the multiplicity of nations; but in that multiplicity the unquestioned equality of all races, peoples, and manifestations of the true church must be recognized according to the Scriptures.” What is implied by the “unquestioned equality of all races…” in this resolution? In what sense can there be said lo be an, “unquestioned equality of all races”? Do the Scriptures actually teach an “unquestioned equality of all races”? Are two races ever equal? If so, in what sense then are they equal? All men are equal in the sight of Cod as image bearers, and all men are equal as sinners and worthy of condemnation. All men have forfeited the favor of God and are without merits. This is not denied by Christians. We cannot brush aside the fact that there is diversity among races and nations, and each race and nation has been endowed with its own unique gifts and talents. Whatever the cause may be, there is no equality between the white race today in the Union of South Africa and the idol worshipping and uncultured pagan mass of Bantus.
Does “unquestioned equality of all races” mean to imply that the civilization and culture built up by the Boers and the British in South Africa, in the sweat of their brows over a span of more than three hundred years, be passed on to Bantu tribes and other non-whites, and thus imperil the preservation of the white race? Should not the term “equality” be prefaced with potential? Must not the races of the Bantu, Colored, Indians, etc., in the Union of South Africa first be provided with a Christian guardianship of love and trusteeship to be capable of exerciSing a culture and a Christian civilization, and when such a potential has been reached permit the wards to exercise equality of rights and privileges? At the present stage of development and lower level of civilization the native South African is still incapable of exercising the same rights as the white man. Equality, however, does not mean to deprive the non-whites of equal opportunities and equal rights before the law. The term “equality” is often used to indicate a social objective to be achieved, a status in life that must be earned by diligent effort. The potentiality for a higher form of life, culture, civilization exists, but only through self-development is such potentiality of equality expressed.
The divine commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves can only imply at this stage of development of the numerous uncultured and pagan nonwhites in South Africa a relationship similar to that of a Christian mother to her child. Call this relationship a guardianship or trusteeship, or by some other term, the implication is plain that the more developed individual must assist the less developed, and there is the compelling call of love on the part of the greater to serve and assist the lesser, but for a considerable period of time the relationship between these two is not one of equality of association. As a mother nurtures and protects her child because of the love tie between them, so the loving Christian guardian must by the power of the gospel and by the higher Christian civilization and culture in his possession seek to lift the native wards entrusted to him as a guardian to the same level he himself enjoys.
The R.E.S. resolution number 8 (c) now specifically s tat e s that the Church has the responsibility to scrutinize the policies of the central government and other civil bodies in the light of God’s Word. This of course first of all refers to the position taken by the government in matters of race relations. TIle National Party in the elections held last April has been given another five-year tenure of power, and the National Party has advocated “Apartheid” as the only wise policy to pursue to seek a solution to the knotty race problems confronting the Union of South Africa. The United Party also favors, as I have shown, the policy of segregation, and in both parties we find a large body of professing Christians who are firmly convinced that integration of the numerous races in South Africa is impossible. Assuming for a moment that both political parties are wrong in their approach to the race problem in their country, the onIy alternative left for the Church is to convert many of its own church members and also the State to the more Scriptural solution. But the R.E.S. has not specifically stated why the present policies of both political parties are in opposition to the Word of God. The R.E.S. has left unanswered the overture presented to it by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church at Edinburgh.
To convert the large majority of the Christian whites in South Africa and also both political parties to the principle of integration would be a tremendous task. But even an influential Bantu Christian clergyman, whose grandfather was a Zulu chief, said recently in Toronto (September 16, 1958) that he is a firm believer in separate development for South Africa’s different races. Rev. Nicholas Bhengu, minister of Africa’s largest Pentecostal Church congregation in East London, said that when there are nine million African Black people to deal with (among three million Whites) a policy of separate development is the only solution at present. He said, “My personal belief is that we can build upon this policy. We must convert our people to Christianity, and then show them opportunities to trade among themselves.” If the principle of integration is the Scriptural answer to the race problem in South Africa even many Christian Bantu natives would have to be converted to this position.
HISTORY OF APARTHEID
The original overture submitted by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to the R.E.S. which met in Edinburgh in 1953 assumed that the racial policies promoted by Dr. Malan and his National Party seemingly were entirely new. This is historically incorrect. Even the term “Apartheid” was not coined by Dr. Malan. In 1944 Professor J. D. du Toit (better known as Totius) in an address vigorously opposed the policy of assimilation and parallelism and defended what he called the “apartheidspolitiek” (“Afrikaanse Rassebeleid en die Skrif,” page 16). In 1945 also Professor G. Cronje publisheu his book, N Tuiste vir die Nogeslag, and pleaded for territorial segregation. In 1946 he published the hook, Afrika sonder die Asioot, and defended Apartheid as the only solution to the prevailing race problem in his country. In 1947 Professors Cronje, Groenewald, and Dr. Wm. Nicol published a book under the titIe, Regverdige-Rasse-Apartheid, and this was soon followed by another of Cronje’s books, Voogdijschap en Apartheid.
We see that Dr. Malan did not coin a new term or advocate a new racial policy when he became prime minister in 1948. The term “Apartheid” was already in common usage. What did happen with the National Party coming into power in 1948 under leadership of Dr. Malan was to put into practice a part of enacted legislation of the United Party. The decision to develop separate areas and to bring non-whites into them at a minimum estimated cost of $300,000,000 in the following ten years, the amount to be raised primarily by white taxpayers, was seriously taken in hand. Also the purchase of 5,225,000 acres of land already approved under the Native Trust Act of 1936, making the total acreage available for the restricted Bantu areas 37,757,000 acres, was deemed capable of being realized by the Malan regime.
As early as 1912 the law was adopted “that the bulk of the two races, the Europeans and the Natives, should live in the main in separate areas.” The historical facts do not bear out the implication of the original Orthodox Presbyterian Church overture that Dr. Malan and his political party introduced “Apartheid.”
The book of Van Biljon: Grensbakens Tussen Blank en Swart in S.A., presents a historical survey of segregation as the basic pattern pursued in race relations between whites and non-whites. The extreme diversity in levels of civilization, education, culture, standards and modes of living led to a policy of no admixture between the two races, and the promotion of separate hotels, theatres, churches, sport fields, railroad trains, issuing of passes to the non-whites, etc. Economic factors played a powerful role in the segregation process. Even today under the impact of improved educational and housing facilities the number of educated natives capable of skilled labor is remarkably small. Though the National Party and its predecessor have sought to improve the status of their nonwhite wards and, assuming that the statement appearing in the Investors Chronical of London, March 7, 1958, is true, “…that no other country in Africa spends so much per head on native social service and education…”, there still remains for the nonwhites a state of inferiority and deprivation of rights.
DANGERS IN TRUSTEESHIP
The role of the trustee in dealing with his inferior ward is always one fraught with danger, especially on the part of those who are non-Christian. And even the white Christians in dealing with the natives as wards have their gross failures. Writers like HoernIe, Smuts, Hofmeyer, and Brookes, all advocates of a more liberal policy, were fully aware of the lurking dangers in the exercise of guardianship of the whites over the blacks. Smuts said, “The temptation, and a pretty strong temptation too, still is to emphasize this idea of mastery, overlordship, and dominance on the part of the trustee.” Hoernle said, “…trusteeship tends to be administered as if it were a permanent institution; as if backward people would always be backward; and as if the relation of ward to trustee would remain the standing pattern for all time of the exercise of white authority over non-white protegees.” Moreover, as everyone will have to agree, there must come a time when trusteeship ends and the ward has become mature, when the daughter has attained the status of being equal to her mother and is able to man age her own affairs.
that the South Africian policy of segregation, or apartheid, fa c e s a tremendous problem. When the ward is full-grown and mature what must be done? When trusteeship has run its course in South Africa, will the non-whites then possess the equivalent of that possessed by tho whites? In answer to this question there is the choice of two alternatives, either to remove all obstacles to the gradual integration of the natives into the society of the white man, or to pursue the course of having each race live in its own assigned territories. Advocates of Apartheid have chosen to pursue the latter course, and occupying now the role of the trustee. are seeking to adapt their wards to this ultimate goal of each race living in their own land, in a way somewhat similar to Pakistan and India, South and North Ireland. To achieve this cnd the advocates of Apartheid are willing to make tremendous sacrifices. Jt is firmly believed by the advocates of Apartheid that such a policy will be beneficial to both whites and nonwhites, that it wil l avoid racial clashes, miscegenation, and that each race will be able to retain its racial identity. In pursuit of this policy the white man in a numerical minority position feels his fears will be removed and preservation of his own white race will be guaranteed.
It may strike some of our readers strangely that a man such as Hoernle, author of South African Native Policy and the Liberal Spirit and a strong advocate of the principle of Assimilation, comes to the following conclusion when he has weighed the advantages and disadvantages of Parallelism, ASSimilation, and Separation, “Total separation should be the liberal’s choice. To choose total as simalation is to . condemn himself to utter impotence in the face of existing race feelings. To choose Parallelism is to choose a policy which wiII not in practice abolish racial domination. As long as whites and nonwhites are united in the same sociopolitical structural, the former will not consent to surrender their dominance. Parallelism will remain domination in disguise. For the native people of the Union it should be clear that there is no escape from white domination by way of Parallelism or Assimilation, but only by way of Total Separation…Separate areas of liberty for separate racial groups seem the only alternative to domination in a racial-caste society” (pages 182f.). In the light of the complex race problem existing in South Africa. Hoernle virtually accepts separate areas for separate racial groups as the road to independence and self-government for both blacks and whites as the best solution to growing racial tensions.
As the non-white.” through more advanced educational, religious, and cultural means attain to a position of greater equality, there is growing fear among the whites of losing all they have achieved as a part of western civilization. There is also the fear of losing their own white self-preservation. How powerfully this aspect of fear and self-preservation prevails in the souls of the whites is evident from testimony of Dr. Nicol, who said,
“Die sug na selfbehoud mag wei met die enigste motief by die bepaling van ons beleid wees nie, maar dit is tog ‘n gesonde Christelike beginsel” (Rev. Rasse–Apartheid. p. 21). He even fears the coming of another Bartholomew night (page 38). Even the leader of the United Party, General Smuts, said in 1933, “I cannot forget that civilization has been built up in this country by the white race, that we are the guardians of liberty, justice and all the elements of progress in South Africa. The franchise is the last argument, more powerful than the sword or rifle; and the day we give away this final protection we possess we shall have to consider very carefully what we are doing.” Since 1933 this mounting fear among the whites has been growing steadily.
As I see it the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church will have to consider seriously the scriptural ground for self-preservation as a means for the preservation of racial identity in order to pass adequately on the race resolutions adopted by the R.E.S. The Synod will also have to appraise the facts as they exist in South Africa. Can equality of both whites and non-whites be better achieved by separate territories for both races, instead of permitting the exercise of guardianship over a span of years? Is the latter not bound to lead to civil uprisings and possible bloodshed because of mounting racial tensions aimed at achieVing racial integration?