Buthelezi was certainly not alone in asserting that his nationalism had a sacred origin, followed a divine destiny, and held the promise of a collective redemption. Christian millenarian themes have pervaded political rhetoric in South Africa. During the 1940s, for example, D. F. Malan articulated the basic doctrines of an Afrikaner religious nationalism that specified that this white tribe was a "chosen people with a divine destiny in Africa (see Thompson, 1985). Anton Lembede, the driving intellectual force in the Youth League of the African National Congress, formulated the creed for an African nationalism, or "Africanism," premised on the divine destiny of nations, that had to be "pursued with the fanaticism and bigotry of religion, for it is the only creed that will dispel and disperse the inferiority complex which blurs our sight and darkens our horizon" ( Gerhart, 1978: 62). On the political horizon, therefore, African as well as Afrikaner nationalists saw the prospect of entering a millenarian redemption.
Certainly, a political assessment is required. Malan's nationalism was an instrument of oppression; Lembede's nationalism, picked up and mobilized by African political movements, served as an impetus towards liberation from oppression. Nevertheless, Christian millenarian themes have permeated all nationalist movements in South African political history. Even failed nationalisms, such as the Ciskei homeland nationalism of Lennox Sebe in the 1980s, drew upon such Christian redemptive symbolism. Claiming a divine origin, a sacred history, and a manifest destiny for his Ciskei nation, Lennox Sebe proclaimed himself as a new Moses leading his "chosen people to an imminent, this-worldly, collective redemption in a nation that was recognized by no other nation in the world except for the apartheid regime of South Africa ( Chidester, 1992: 208-10). Therefore, millenarian themes have been thoroughly diffused through the political rhetoric of contending nationalisms in South Africa.
Accordingly, the legacy of Christianity in South Africa cannot be found only in the European missions, mainstream denominations, and African initiated churches. It also lingers in complex and conflicting ways in political discourse, social programs, and popular culture. Perhaps in the future the salience of this diffused Christianity will be assessed as more important than the organized Christian churches in shaping South Africa.
Anderson Allan R. ( 1993). "African Pentecostalism and the Ancestor Cult; Confrontation or Compromise?" Missionalia, vol. 21, no. 1: 26-39.
Callaway Henry ( 1868-70). The Religious System of the Amazulu. Springvale: A. J. Blair.