Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Community Psychology as Socio-Missional Entrepreneurship

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Community Psychology as Socio-Missional Entrepreneurship

Article excerpt

As an Afrikaans-speaking South African living in South Africa under apartheid, it was easy to remain ignorant of the enslaving power of our cultural programming. We were living in a cold war bubble where the "Christian civilization of the West" was supporting our fight against the "communist forces of liberation." The boys of my generation were conscripted to go and "fight on the border" to repel the onslaught of "terrorists" who were threatening our Christian way of life. We were on God's side because our forefathers settled on the southern tip of the Dark Continent in the loOOs to bring Christianity and civilization to Africa, and we felt that we were called to execute that mandate "from Cape Town to Cairo." In the 1950s we established what we considered to be a Christian governmental system that prescribed Bible cksses for all children in school, that mandated that Parliament should open in prayer, that legislated against abortion and gay rights, and that prescribed that you could not pky games of rugby or cricket on Sundays because it was the Sabbath Day. Our National Intelligence Agency cooperated with the CIA and the Israeli Mossad, and behind the scenes, we were developing nuclear devices.

Our cultural programming made it almost impossible for us to acknowledge that apartheid was a sin. I spent seven of my teenage years in the US and often had to defend my nation. Mandela was a terrorist. He plotted to overthrow our government. His organization, the African National Congress (ANC), received funding from Russia and China and Gadhafi and Castro! Why couldn't people understand that we were Christians? We support the West! We are the "good guys!" By the mid-1970s, I was pasturing a small congregation in Cape Town when the opposition to apartheid became particularly violent, and I found myself at an emotional crossroad. I had made myself available one day a week to train a team of young people from the Coloured1 community in psycho-spiritual issues as they prepared to deploy as the first full-time youth team in our denomination. The way that our denomination was structured, I belonged to the White District and they to the Coloured District, even though we lived in the same geographical area and all of us ckimed affiliation to the same denomination.

One day toward the middle of 1976 during our time of prayer together, the girls started weeping inconsokbly. They expkined that the police had raided a prayer meeting at their church the previous evening and had beaten the pastor when he protested and arrested him under the new Emergency Legisktion which made gatherings of more than 10 people a crime. All over South Africa, young people had been taking to the streets in non-violent protests against being forced to take all their schooling in Afrikaans (my beloved home language). The police, vastly outnumbered, responded to the protests with live ammunition and hundreds of young people were killed. When I innocently tried to recount the gutwrenching story that the girls shared with me the following week during our regular (White) pastoral prayer retreat, my District Superintendent berated me and warned me angrily not to mix church and politics! Social activism is not only frowned upon in my culture; it is associated with theological liberalism and a complete antithesis to my conservative Pentecostal tradition.

From Psychology to Community

I did not consider myself to be a "community psychologist." In fact, I had no clue that such a designation even existed. To be honest, I simply found myself in the midst of a period of cataclysmic changes in our society while simply trying to minister holistically to God's people. My studies in the fields of psychology and social work increasingly frustrated me because we bifurcated spiritual issues from emotional ones. It made no sense to me that people could consider themselves "spiritually mature" while their interpersonal rektionships and emotional maturity were at an infantile level of development. …

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