Dear Lord, I don’t understand. I was at my Alma Mater only a few years ago. There was exactly a third Black-African, a third Indian-African and a third White-African staying in my res. A white and black-subwarden; and the year before: one Coloured and one Portuguese. A Black-African warden, a White-African Hall warden and an Indian-African head of residences. Race was never an issue, we were there to study. We were there to grow. We were proud to be in a place where “Leaders Learn”; that was the point.
Now it is with a grieving heart that I read news and posts about people putting this amazing University down in all respects. Saying that it is a racist place, a place that hasn’t transformed, that hasn’t provided for every person who is there… and Lord, I cannot see how any of this is based in fact. None of my Rhodes University experiences involved any prejudice, racism or close-mindedness, in fact it was everything of the opposite. Discussions, ideas, philosophies, unity, conversation and open-mindedness were all that I experienced there. It was a wonderful space to feel at peace and integrate myself with a fabulous culture of ‘leaders learning’.
Everything in me knows that academic institutions are about learning, not about self, but about all, about not thinking you ‘know-it-all’. Lord, why are people bringing their pasts with them, when they are in a new place? Why are people being close-minded and bringing the hate, prejudice, self-righteousness, personal injuries, fears and angers they have been brought up on into a place where they are supposed to bring open minds and hearts to be the change that we need – into equality, wisdom, peace, forgiveness and all that is good?
I don’t understand why students would want to destroy such an amazing place for a political agenda? Why would they desire to take away from neutral, open ground and make it a power game? Why are such young students so deeply entrenched in the fear, anger and hate from their homes that they cannot let it go when on neutral ground? Why is their view so distorted that they cannot see the truth of the learning and growing ground that Rhodes is? Lord, how can they learn anything new, or grow, when they won’t let go of their prejudices or cast away their old ideas? Lord, you ask us in Your word to RENEW OUR MINDS, so why can’t they? Lord, why can’t they cast away the hate of decades ago to embrace the gift they have in the 21st century? Lord, everyone in this country has had to forgive, has had to let go in some way, with something, and it has been a challenge for everyone, a slow process and one that we have taken on as a country admirably. Yet now, Lord, now youth who weren’t even alive when the atrocities happened are so full of hate, fear and anger, how Lord, how? What personal experiences could an 18 year old in this country have had of apartheid, except those their homes have generated or held on to?
The 18 years olds have seen the transformation of education for all, electricity spread throughout the country, even without the means or maintenance to provide it, water is being distributed, things have been changing. I lived in both regimes Lord, I can see the good You have done, we have worked for. I don’t understand Lord, why do these students want to take Rhodes back into the nasty past that was legally ended over 20 years ago? Why can’t they see the privilege they have been blessed with, the privilege of being in an integrated culture? Integrated in that no-one group has power or preference over another, and I know that Rhodes practices equality, I was part of the culture from waitressing to residence to extra-mural clubs and activities.
Dear Lord, I am praying, I am praying that YOU would change and move in the hearts of the people who still hold onto hate, fear, anger, prejudice and all that destroys. I pray that you would take away the self-righteous, destructive nastiness of ego, resentment, self-will and desire for power and ‘victory’, that is killing the better desire to do good for ALL. Please take away the sad practice of seeing only surface colour, of seeing only one’s own agenda, of taking away all credit due to the elders who have built up every single one of the privileges that students take for granted today. Lord, I pray that people would not see surface colour, but the skeleton beneath – the bones that will return to dust – and realise how unimportant body is. Lord, I pray that in losing the shallow views, all people will begin to see what is important – mind and soul. I pray they will begin to realise that QUALITY Lord, QUALITY is what is important… such qualities as forgiveness, kindness, honesty, comradery and loving others as much as one loves one’s self. I pray people will begin to look at BIG pictures and not their own personal agendas, which are full of weakness, manipulated thoughts and constructed perspectives. Allow people to realise that University is about deconstructing the past via theory to reconstruct the present in practice. Move in amidst all the hate Lord; the “We’re right, you’re wrong” logic; the ego-desires for power and being ‘superior’. Lord, none of us can see everything, all of us are limited and we go to higher learning institutions to learn, grow and understand this. Lord, please don’t let people steer away from the fact that the more they study and learn, the more they will realise that we all know so little. The more they will realise that time will grant them wisdom. The more they will realise that being still, listening and being aware and full of attention to everything around them is far more helpful, kind, uplifting and rewarding than shouting their mouths off, making as much noise as they can and making a mockery of what their forefathers have worked so hard to achieve. Lord, I pray that Your Will, will be done, that You will have the victory in changing perceptions and mindsets: from being so bound up in an unchangeable past to being moved up into new and positive-potential-fulfilling views.
Lord, C.S.Lewis put it so poignantly with regards to “love others as you love yourself”. May others be open enough to take in his words: “Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness and affection for myself, and I do not even always enjoy my own society. So apparently ‘Love your neighbour’ does not mean ‘feel fond of him’ or ‘find him attractive’. I ought to have seen that before, because, of course, you cannot feel fond of a person by trying. Do I think well of myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I am afraid I sometimes do (and those are, no doubt, my worst moments) but that is not why I love myself. So loving my enemies does not apparently mean thinking them nice either. That is an enormous relief. For many good people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain they are. Go a step further. In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do. Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin, but not the sinner.
For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life – namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery, we ought to hate them. Not one word about what we have said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is in anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere, he can be cured and made human again.
The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that’, or is it a feeling of disappointment, even sheer determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, then white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything – God and our friends and ourselves included – as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.
Now, a step further… I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served in the First World War, I and some young German had killed each other simultaneously and found ourselves together in a moment after death. I cannot imagine that either of us would have felt any resentment or even embarrassment. I think we might have laughed over it. I imagine somebody will say. ‘Well, if one is allowed to condemn the enemy’s acts, and punish him, and kill him, what difference is left between Christian morality and the ordinary view?’ All the difference in the world. Remember, we Christians think a man lives for ever. Therefore, what really matters is those little marks or twists on the central, inside part of the soul which are going to turn it, in the long run, into a heavenly or hellish creature. We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but we must not enjoy it. In other words, something inside us, the feeling of resentment, the feeling that wants to get one’s own back, must simply be killed. I do not mean that anyone can decide this moment that he will never feel it anymore. That is not how things happen. I mean that every time it bobs its head up, day after day, year after year, all our lives long, we must hit it on the head. It is hard work, but the attempt is not impossible. Even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves – to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world, or another, be cured,: in fact, wish to do good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice, when he is not.
I admit that this means loving people who have nothing lovable about them. But then, has oneself anything loveable about it? You love it simply because it is yourself. God intends us to love all selves in the same way and for the same reason: but he has given us the sum ready worked out in our own case to show us how it works. We have then to go on and apply the rule to all other selves. Perhaps it makes it easier if we remember that that is how He loves us. Not for any nice, attractive qualities we think we have, but just because we are the things called selves. For really there is nothing else in us to love: creatures like us who actually find hatred such a pleasure that to give it up is like giving up beer or tobacco…” C.S.Lewis, Chapter 2, ‘Mere Christianity’.