This is an excerpt from the talk given by John Scheepers, director of Isiphambano at our vision night.
During the 1963 march on Washington DC, Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. We are of course very familiar with parts of that speech but one lesser known excerpt says this:
“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now,” “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. . . . Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.” 1
And that friends is the word for us today in the evangelical church in South Africa. We must reclaim “the fierce urgency of now”. For too long in this country we have weaponised the gospel to serve as a panacea to aid oppression and racism. It was our good evangelical theology which created, aided and allowed apartheid to flourish in our country.
It is time to confess that is not only our lack of courage, our failure of will, our love of comfort or our blindness to our history which has seen us complicit in the systematic and continuous oppression and marginalisation of our black brothers and sisters in this country. Rather we have failed to act. Because our theology has failed us.
We have perhaps unwittingly, and often with good intentions promoted a gospel which has too often been the tool of white supremacy and colonialism. A theology of saving souls which denied the basic humanity of those deemed lesser humans. Worthy to have the gospel preached to them but not treated as made in the image of God.
Isiphambano exists because the fierce urgency of now is upon us. It is past time to stand up and declare that the gospel is a word which speaks to the injustice and the inequalities of our land in a way that no other system is able to nor wishes to. It is past time that we examine our addiction to power and privilege. It is past time that we begin to live like we worship a king, who is unlike any other king, a king who lays down his power to serve those wholly other to him, those who are weak, and sinful and even undeserving.
For too long the evangelical church in this country has not lived consistently with these truths. And the world has urgently and powerfully reminded us that justice is not an added extra or a hobby for the keen in God’s Kingdom.
Rise up church for the fierce urgency of now is upon us.