Sunday, October 10, 2010

Me and Mandela

I just finished reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography.  It called ‘Long Walk to Freedom”.  I’m late to the table on this read.  It was published in 1995.  It was profoundly thought provoking.

Mandela was on a mission.  He once said: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”  To be willing to die for that which you live is a riveting testament to a life well lived.

Mandela spent ten thousand days in prison. He was a political prisoner. ‘Free Mandela’ became a rallying cry as Black South Africans struggled to overthrow the oppressiveness of apartheid.  Awarded the Nobel Peace Price Mandela eventually became the leader of South Africa and a spokesperson for the marginalized and oppressed world wide.

Ten thousand days in prison.  That’s a fair amount of years, closing in on three decades.  With a compromise here, an accommodation there, a wink and a nod at the right times Mandela could have become a free man at just about any time during his incarceration.  Yet he chose not to nod, wink, accommodate or compromise.  The price of doing so was too great.

Mandela was fighting a ‘system’ that was unjust.  Until that system changed and was in fact eradicated there could be no accommodation in his eyes.  The only option was to stay the course and allow his imprisonment and the imprisonment of other like minded men and women to speak loudly about the tyranny of the ‘white’ South African regime.

Imprisonment became a source of power and influence.  It reminds me of the upside down kingdom strategies of Jesus.

We live today in world where there are unjust systems.  How many times have I adjusted to and accommodated those unjust systems?  How many times have I chosen to remain silent instead of using my position of influence to speak against injustice? How many times have I chosen to remain blind to the marginalization of people within a short driving distance of my home?

John F. Kennedy once wrote a book called ‘Portraits of Courage’.  I didn’t make it in.  And the truth of the matter is that my accommodations and indifference are not the acts of a courageous person.  They are the acts of someone who is indifferent.

I want to be courageous.  Not indifferent.  But all too often I cower in my corner of the universe failing to challenge ideas and systems.  And yet I’m not comfortable with my indifference.  It smacks of the ‘apathy’ I truly appall but have adapted to.  I want to be a difference maker.

To be a Christian means that I can’t wink and nod at those things that are wrong in today’s world.  Yet, some would persuade me that hiding in a little religious corner and doing exactly that is the ‘way of God’.  Maybe.  But what God.  Certainly not the ‘God in the flesh’ I’m committed to following.

A self serving  faith gives me permission to sit still, stay complacent, and find some Kumbaya friends to make nice with.  I have a hunch that complacency, sitting still, and holy huddles weren’t what Jesus was talking about.  How many of us have settled for a faith that has very little to do with what Jesus was all about?

Tonight, I’m asking myself “Am I fighting for those things that are worth dying for?”  And if I’m fighting for something noble can I win the battle if I’m willing to wink and nod my way to make easy, thoughtless accommodations?  Something worth pondering.

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