Monday, February 11, 2013

a peek into Afrikanerdom: candle snuffers

This is the Huguenot Memorial in Franschhoek, surrounded by western Cape mountains and open sky. It is a testament to the spirit of those escaping oppression in France, determined to worship freely. The woman (liberty) of the statue holds a book (truth) in her right hand and a broken chain in her left.

On the underside of the globe, earth, on which she stands is the southern tip of Africa. Engraved are symbols of Huguenot cultural values: the harp signifies music and culture, the wheat and grapes, agriculture, the spinning wheel, their industry, the book, their faith and dedication to Truth.

We visited Franschhoek last week, it was a moving experience. This week I began a book by one of the descendants of those Huguenots, a Malan, who comes from a long line of true Afrikaners. His commentary is disquieting. He tells of people who fled persecution to become persecutors; those who demanded liberty for themselves and deprived others.

Here he describes the mindset towards the European Enlightenment which brought into question the traditional mores and which led to humanitarian reform. (This is not a defense of the Enlightenment, it is a reminder of the danger of a closed mind.)

...when rumors of the Enlightenment penetrated their wilderness, the Afrikaners considered them, consulted their Bibles and preachers, and finally reached a consensus: These new ideas presented a threat to their survival, and should be suppressed--not only in the world at large, but in their own hearts. Soon many Afrikaners were calling themselves Doppers, after the little metal caps with which they snuffed out candles. They called themselves Doppers because they were deliberately and consciously extinguishing the light of the Enlightenment, so that they could do what they had to do in darkness.

Where does this leave us? It is easy to look back and see what a dangerous path they chose. We all know the power of Truth: it sets us free. But sometimes the process can be uncomfortable or threatening. So we tell ourselves half-truths, or rationalize, and that way goes the game.

Phil and I work in the aftermath of this Giant Cover-up being blown. There are ramifications in every community and every family. It is an on-going process and the more I see how it has ravaged those at the edges of society, the more convinced I am that only the Spirit of God can make a change. Oh, I knew that, intellectually, but then a part of me set to work to try and solve the "problems." Alas. 

To come to the knot at the end of the rope and know that in me there is no solution: that is terrifying or freeing. I'm in that process now and will share as I catch glimpses. I pray that I will not choose the safety of ignoring uncomfortable Truth.

There are many truths about Afrikaners, but none so powerful and reverberant as this willful self-blinding.

(Bold quotations taken from Rian Malan, My Traitor's Heart, 1990, Vintage books.)

1 comment:

Neverending Story said...

Very interesting Karen, I didn't know this.