Science in Christian Perspective
James 0. Buswell, III, M.A.
From: JASA 6 (September 1954): 21-22.
Malan publishes statement on
for U. S. Reformed Fellowship
In December, 1953, a group of ministers in the Christian Reformed denomination in Grand Rapids, through the editor of the Reformed Fellowship magazine Torch and Trumpet, sent a letter to Dr. Daniel F. Malan, Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, himself an ordained minister in the Dutch Reformed Church, inviting him to write a statement on the apartheid policy. Since the United States and Canada press have been so against apartheid it was felt that by this means both sides could be fairly evaluated and better understood by those of Reformed persuasion.
It is to the credit of the Editorial Committee of the Reformed Fellowship that they have thus achieved what, it seems, no other publication in this country has been willing or able to do, namely, to publish Dr. Malan's own views on apartheid.
Malan's response, a letter to the editor, John H. Piersma, is published in the April-May, 1954 issue of Torch and Trumpet.1
Hardly any explanation need be made regarding the description and present significance of the apartheid policy since our newspapers have been continuously reporting the social and legislative details of the program ever since before Dr. Malan became Prime Minister of the Union in 1948. Nevertheless, in order to better appreciate some of the complexities of the problem, it is necessary to examine, however briefly, some of the details relevant to an informed, Christian appraisal.
The Dutch settlers arrived in South Africa in 1652. When the British finally took over the Cape in 1814, they found themselves the newcomers amidst a population of about 30,000 predominantly Dutch natives with a tradition of over 160 years already behind them. The second generation citizens had no more idea of Holland as their homeland than the descendants of the Pilgrims had of England by the time of the Revolutionary war!
This is one of the vital aspects of the picture in South Africa today: the nationalistic and linguistic division between the Europeans themselves.
The rest of the picture of racial complexity in the
Union is better known. Of its more than twelve and
one-half million population, the racial composition,
according to a recently published survey,
The Peoples of South Africa,2 is
Cape Malays .......... 62,602
Coloured (mixed) 1,016,019
Let us look at a few of Dr. Malan's statements upon which the thinking of the administrators of apartheid are based. He speaks of the "fundamental difference between the two groups, White and Black." The criterion of skin color is the crux of the whole matter. What modern anthropological science regards as racial differences can not be considered "fundamental" because "race" is a strictly biological term in this sense, and all races of mankind are biologically "fundamentally" alike.
What apartheid philosophy considers "racial" dif ferences, anthropology has been teaching for the last fifty years to be socio-cultural differences with no possible correlation with skin color or any other morphological criteria. Nevertheless, Dr. Malan's position is as follows: "The difference in color is merely the physical manifestation of the contrast between two irreconcilable ways of life, between barbarism and civilization, between heathenism and Christianity, and finally between overwhelming numerical odds on the one hand, and insignificant numbers on the other."
If, then. skin color is to be the sole criterion for all economic, social, political, and physical considerations, where does this leave room for the African who is not a barbarian but civilized; who is not heathen but a Christian? Let the European in power make any standards or qualifications he desires as to education, intelligence, ability, language, manners, bodily hygiene, - " civilization"-or religious affiliation; let him apply them as strictly, or make them as relentlessly exacting as he pleases, and the world will take but passing notice of a unique sociological stringency. But let him designate skin color as the "physical manifestation" of such standards and, it would seem, he has at once lost all sociological, not to mention all spiritual perspective in the matter.
One of the things that seems to us to be the most unjust in the present Government of South Africa is the repeated attempt to gain idealistic ends by means of legislative manipulation. The records both of the educational policies and of the Ministry of Native Af f airs in the past three years f requently conf licts with certain idealistic claims of the apartheid program . For example, Dr. Malan lists as the "spiritual basis of apartheid" seven principles enunciated by the Missionary Council of the ' Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. Among them it is stated that ". . . it does not begrudge the non-White the attainments of a social status commensurate with his highest aspirations." However, the program of apartheid seems to be attempting very definitely to legislate just what those "highest aspirations" shall be. The theoretically defensible (if it had been put into operation two hundred and fifty years ago) Group Areas Act, designed to separate the business as well as the residence communities of the non-whites from the whites, is economically and socially disruptive to say the least. In the cities where the Indian business establishments in many cases outnumber those of the whites, its intended implementation and any calm commercial continuity or survival are mutually exclusive. It would simply disintegrate the economic balance of scores of communities. And it is always the nonwhites who are to be moved, and must seek their own social and economic reintegration in designated localities.
Other legislation aimed at defining those "highest aspirations" involves the complicated and endless attempt to manipulate the racial political representation in order to assure a winning margin in crucial voting.
Still another example is that of the recent legal measures taken by Dr. Malan to restrict Negroes to certain occupations and levels of employment. It was reported by the Minister of Native Affairs that this legislation would "determine the categories of employment and occupations that would be permitted for various races." He also "insisted that Negroes now in industrial and urban employment must be regarded as temporary, even if long time residents."3
Further examples could be cited: Jim Crowism with, now by law, expressly, no intention of providing equal public facilities-f rom park benches to post of f ices ; a recent amendment to the Native Land and Trust Act. empowering the Ministry to make Negroes homeless wherever they are f ound living on white-owned farms in excess of the number permitted the farmer, without providing any alternative accommodation or means of livelihood4; and the actual limitation of certain academic programs for Negroes for fear they might develop aspirations for things higher than they could ever hope to reach.
Even through the study of the history of South
Africa, of its peculiar and complex problems, one can
not hope to fully understand the apartheid point of
view unless one has lived there, and then not unless
one is really conversant with the Afrikaner philosophy.
By this standard, I confess, I am unqualified to express
an opposing opinion. The only excuse for such expressions is that the pattern of policy and publicity, not of
the press alone, but. of the publications of the Union
and its representative offices in America, is so clear
in each succeeding statement. that it is not at all diffi
cult to isolate and assess the underlying ideology against a background of principles, sociological as
as theological, which are applicable over a much larger
portion of the globe than the Union of South Africa
alone. Dr. Malan's letter to the Torch and Trumpet
unique, for an American publication, in its authorship
is, disappointingly, anything but unique in what it says conforming to the basic pattern not only in ideology
but in organization and content as well.
The subject deserves a more lengthy analysis, rather than one of such brevity as this is, in order to distortion. However, it is something that needs to be reported to Christian thinkers so that considered opinions might be formulated, and the frequent error of associating critiques of the Malan regime with Communism might be also avoided.5
What of the position of the missionary in Africa? What is the church's stand on apartheid? What position should our own denominations and councils take? Should they put themselves on record as taking any position at all? What is our responsibility toward the churches in South Africa who have taken definite sides in the matter? This type
represents another phase of the problem too big for the present discussion, but which has far-reaching implications for all Christians about which we should think and pray.
1. It is noted that "The position here taken and the statements made are wholly those of our distinguished guest, and should in no wise be construed as reflecting the editorial
opinions of this magazine."
2. Issued by the State Information Office, Pretoria.
3. New York Times, February 19, 1954
4. New York Times, February 23, 1954
5. Conservative Christians criticize religious liberals for unnecessarily stirring up racal problems. A policy like apartheid however, advancing in the name of religious conservatism gives liberals as well as Communists their opportunity.
Ringwood, New Jersey
August 1, 1954