Saturday, December 27, 2008

Afrikaner theocratic totalitarianism

My uncle, a pastor in the Reformed Church in Johannesburg, told me today about a batshit crazy and seemingly growing movement among Christian Afrikaners: the Ezra Movement. (Note: the website is in Afrikaans, although there are several English documents available if you click on "Esra Verslag" at left). The mission of the movement is "To contribute to the reformation of family, church and civil government in South Africa, through education in, and defence of, the Biblico-Christian worldview in every sphere of life and thought" (my translation). Their basic doctrine is theonomy, the belief that the Bible, literally interpreted, is the only souce of human ethics. As a consequence, these guys quite literally and unselfconsciously advocate religious totalitarianism. The following, from "Covenant and State" (English pdf) by University of Free State law professor Andries Raath (pdf), is particularly hair-raising:
The State is instituted by God to exercise His wrath upon evildoers, and to praise and protect those who live righteously. We see that the State is called upon to administer righteousness in society. (p. 43)
According to Raath, then, the South African constitution should be set aside, its liberal freedoms severely curtailed, and the government should "demand obedience to both tables of the
Ten Commandments" (p. 52). Chillingly, Raath goes on to say that he "rejects the ridiculous idea of the right to life, according to which the right to life for evildoers is guaranteed" (p. 57) and thus apparently advocates the death penalty for blasphemy, homosexuality, witchcraft, adultery... As I said. Batshit. Crazy.

Incidentally, an unprovable but highly plausible argument I've heard a couple of times is that the divergence between Dutch Calvinism (which became far more liberal over time) and Afrikaner Calvinism (which until recently did not) is due to the Enlightenment. Holland, of course, has long been an important intellectual center, and Dutch culture was thus strongly influenced by the Enlightenment. South Africa, on the other hand, was isolated from these developments and could thus not benefit from them. The result? The enormous difference between South Africa's shameful, intolerant and illiberal political and cultural history and Holland's mostly tolerant and liberal political history. Of course... this claim is untestable and speculative and, given that I'm a fan of the Enlightenment, I could be suffering from confirmation bias. But, it's certainly interesting and plausible.


  1. um how exactly do you follow the bible word for word? I think you would need to be schizofrenic...

  2. Yeah... totally agreed. Anyone who's actually *read* the Bible (a minority of Christians, it seems) just can't be sane AND be a fundamentalist.

  3. These people have obviously never read the Bible properly.