On 16 December 1949, the majority of Afrikaners and a few others in South Africa inaugurated the Voortrekker Monument on a hill overlooking the city of Pretoria. A group of these South Africans continue to gather there annually, in a large constructed amphitheatre, to hold a secular ceremony in celebration of a day of remembrance, which they call the Day of the Covenant or Day of the Vow. They hold the belief that, years before, on 16 December 1838, a group of Voortrekkers had made an Old Testamental type of covenant with Almighty God. They believe that this covenant had moved God to empower them to defeat a large army of black Zulu warriors at the Battle of Blood River, in what is today, Kwa-Zulu Natal.
To the contrary, man does not have the ability to influence God’s plan for history. The Voortrekkers won the battle against the odds, not as a result of the covenant they thought they had made with God, but according to the eternal will of God. God was not taken by surprise by the events of that day, He was not waiting to see what the Boers or the Zulu Impi would do, He caused the events to happen exactly as they played out, from eternity.
The 40m wide, 40m long and 40m high construction of the Voortrekker monument, which is modeled on and resembles an Egyptian monument, has a cenotaph as central focal point. Through an opening in the domed roof, a ray of sunlight shines at midday on 16 December annually, falling onto the centre of the Cenotaph. The ritual surrounding this certainly seems to have deep-seated pagan undertones and is Biblically contradicted in many ways. Although this group of Afrikaners have long laid claim to being of the Christian faith, their man-made idols, attitudes and practices certainly pose questions as to the authenticity of those claims. Even in my own family, there are some who hold to these same beliefs.
On 16 December 2013, now known as Reconciliation Day and 64 years later to the day, a 9m high statue of the late former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was unveiled at the Union Buildings in the same city, Pretoria. Nelson Mandela was best known for his lifelong struggle against racism, against the Apartheid system and for the equality of all people. The racist apartheid laws were devised, implemented and imposed on all South Africans, including my white skinned self, by the very same group of Afrikaners who gather to celebrate what they regard as their unique superiority, on the very same day, 16th of December, at the Voortrekker Monument.
The Voortrekker Monument is clearly visible from the Union Buildings where the statue of Nelson Mandela has been erected in an amphitheatre, not unlike the amphitheatre at the Voortrekker Monument. The press has dubbed the statue as one which will likely become the focus of future annual secular pilgrimages of those who wish to celebrate the life and remember the passing of Nelson Mandela. There are many people in this group who also profess to be Christians.
The Voortrekker Monument and the rituals surrounding that idol, which take place annually on the 16th of December, is an attempt to immortalize and glorify the men and events of a particular era in South African history. It is not Biblical. The statue of Nelson Mandela is an attempt to immortalize and glorify the man and the events of another era in South African history. It may give rise to the very same idolatry and type of ritual being practised by the other group of South African people, on the opposite hill. It will not be Biblical.
On the very same day in the future, in clear view of each other and separated only by the skyline of Pretoria, two groups of people will be religiously and enthusiastically embroiled in what they might believe, brings glory to themselves, their forefathers, their race, their efforts, values, or their nation. While they might even believe that cultural or racial differences have set each group firmly apart, in fact, they will be united in their efforts at the glorification of evil and in their opposition to God.
Statues and monuments are acceptable and even necessary art forms, and can be beautiful instruments in preserving history. Statues and monuments are not idols in and of themselves, idolatry is what people practice around those things. People make them into idols by particular association. Even the slightest form of idolatry, or the willful glorification of man, is an abomination before Almighty God.
I love South Africa and its people very, very deeply. I am filled with awe and gratitude when I consider how fortunate I have been to be able to share this wondrous place, with all its people, for the entire duration of my life. I truly believe it has been the greatest country to live in on planet earth, for many different reasons. I would not exchange this Africa for any other place on earth.
At the same time, I hate the lies which continue to force so many of my people’s lives into bondage, fear and loathing. Lies we have told our children, lies which destroy faith and friendship, lies which destroy lives, lies which glorify evil. Irrespective of those who prefer to live in self-inflicted bondage to their ill-begotten pride and historical ideologies, God has caused the efforts of South Africans such as Nelson Mandela and millions of like-minded others, to achieve a small sense of freedom for South Africans. But, that freedom is not spiritual, and it is not eternal.
We need Jesus Christ, we need the only the Son of God to make our freedom real and eternal, we cannot bring about true freedom without His presence. As long as we continue to worship idols such as our monuments, our cultures, our own will, our history, our pride, our wealth, our skins and our false religious beliefs, the spiritual bondage will continue for many of my beloved people. I pray it will not be so.
SOLI DEO GLORIA!