Family Matters: Lennon was a dreamer, ours is to build families

2012-09-01 12:09

In a democracy, there is a legitimate contest between different views, ideologies and faiths as they seek to shape our society.

So it is to be expected that those who bemoan the dominant role religion has played historically in shaping the South African family, will dismiss government’s Green Paper on Families as “staid”, “unimaginative”, “pretty conservative” and “reads like a religious doctrine”.

I refer to an article “Zuma’s new family plan sparks debate” (City Press, August 26 2012).

In their view, and without furthering their argument, religion is a swear word. It appears that they prefer a world purged of religion.

With late pop icon John Lennon, they would have us sing that hauntingly beautiful song Imagine (Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people, ­living for today. Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people, living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.)

Lennon was a dreamer, inviting all of us to ­experiment with his dream.

According to the last census that included religious affiliation, more than 80% of South Africans do not agree with him, and find it more reasonable to believe that God exists than that He doesn’t.

The paper correctly points out: “There are different types of families in South Africa which are products of various cultures and social contexts.”

It seeks the strengthening of the family institution, and such an endeavour is a welcome focus on people, their values and beliefs.

Many South Africans hold a conservative, even religious, view of the family.

Either in practice or aspiration, they seek the stability that many of them may only have a faint memory of.

They cherish the idea of a family that, for thousands of years, has been the bedrock of stable societies worldwide.

They seek no postmodern family ­experimentation with their children.

This must be irritating to those who share Lennon’s dream, who would like to impose a vision of society in which, for all practical purposes, godlessness is the dominant doctrine.

Democracy requires government to listen to the people in whose name they govern.

So when ­people like Melanie Judge of the Triangle Project make startling comments such as: “We need to connect the dots around conservative forces’ ­anti-democratic claim on families,” referring to the paper, we must be concerned.

Judge’s dream, like Lennon’s, is an attempt to convert us to her doctrine of disbelief, a doctrine that seeks the marginalisation of public religious influence.

Thankfully, the form of secularism in our Constitution, as opposed to European models, takes serious the account of African religion and cultural context.

It welcomes the contribution of all South Africans in building a new society, including the religious.

The problem with Lennon’s dream is that it is not harmless, otherwise we would just laugh.

It has spiritual consequence to South Africans who are desperate to build a democracy different from the atrocities of the past, and redefine what ­freedom might mean going forward.

We have seen the bitter fruit of the dream in our schools, where prayer was once cherished.

Now, with prayer all but ejected from most schools, satanism has replaced it, and is beginning to confound educators and parents who are asking themselves what has happened to pupils today. And the answer: they stopped praying.

»Ntlha is general secretary of The Evangelical Alliance SA

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