Does recognition of God make a difference to a country? Some Christian organizations think so. The (South) African Democratic Christian Party (ACDP), for example, appeals to Deuteronomy 28 and sates:
All authority and law originates from God, therefore obedience brings blessing to a nation and disobedience brings cursing
If obedience comes from following God’s law, what might encourage disobedience? The Christian website Frontline Fellowship argues that secular humanism is the factor that has caused societal decay in South Africa since the adoption of democracy:
In 1994 the African National Congress (ANC) came to power and established a human rights culture. It has been busy replacing laws founded on Christian principles with humanistic laws. . . .The social decay is such, that, according to the police, 2,5 million crimes are committed in South Africa every year, an average of 7000 a day.
Before the adoption of democracy in 1994, South Africa was ruled by the apartheid government that adopted Christianity as a state religion. Have things really worsened, as Frontline claims, since the Christian God was removed from the constitution?
Frontline Fellowship fails to mention the fact that the “Christian” apartheid state was responsible for mass forced removals, torture, cross-border raids, death squads, detention without trial, and dehumanization on a grand scale. Crime may be a problem in post-apartheid South Africa, but it was much worse during apartheid because crime was state condoned.
The 1983 constitution declared that the country was “to uphold Christian values and civilized norms”. Apartheid’s leaders believed they were accountable to no-one but God, but they also believed that what they did was condoned by God. Without being accountable to those they governed, they could do as they pleased with what they thought was divine backing.
Frontline also ignores the great improvements that have occurred since South Africa adopted “humanistic secularism”. Not only has the economy boomed under democracy, but great strides have been made improving fiscal policy, GDP growth, protection of human rights, and access to basic services. There are still problems, but these can be better tackled under a forward thinking democracy than under the backward mind-set of the apartheid state.
I’m not blaming Christianity for apartheid; in fact, there were many Christian organizations that fought effectively against the system. Rather, I am arguing that having a religious foundation for a country does not guarantee a moral system of governance, or a prosperous nation.
Part 2: A global view
Part 3: Idealising the past