Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Guest Lecture

I went tonight to hear son M lecture on elephants (pictured). He spoke about three families of "elephant" -- mammoths, mastodons, and elephants -- of which only the elephants still exist today. He also spoke about the reasons why (as best we know) mammoths and mastodons are gone. He is now close to completing a doctorate, on elephants. OBSERVATION: A woman at the door said to me: "The speaker is permitted to have one free guest. He designated his girlfriend." His father ignominiously had to pay.

My Delusion So-Called

In 2013 I was attacked in my robes in the Church vestibule. I went to see a doctor with my injuries, a kind and capable man, who duly wrote them up. But somebody said to me afterwards: “Get the doctor’s notes. Now!” Which is, his clinical notes. I went back, and he opened his file. From here on, I shall describe it from the doctor’s point of view. I was mad. To be exact, I was “delusional”. I had been seeing things. Above all, I saw clinical notes, then I saw changed clinical notes (the date, the reasons for the consultation, and so on). So then, in my delusion, I reported the doctor to the Health Professions Council. And the doctor, in his defence, sent the Council a statement that my complaint was “born [borne] of delusion”. But I sent full details, too, to the Human Rights Commission (HRC), saying I was embarrassed that they had to read this. I said it looked like religious discrimination to me (delusion is something that vicars suffer from, as in the God delusion). Last month, after (very) long deliberation and “careful assessment”, the HRC wrote no, not religious discrimination. Crimen injuria. They concluded: “You can therefore lay charges.” This confirms earlier opinion I received, but I would think it carries more weight. The point of this post, however, is that I needed to decide what to do with the HRC’s advice (a previous time I received such advice, I laid criminal charges). I prayed over it for the last month, then registered the HRC’s findings with the parties directly involved, and this morning visited the police and made a statement – but I did not bring charges. Instead, I requested that Church elders take a pastoral approach to the matter, to seek to resolve it. OBSERVATION: “Deluded” people, though, do not see things. It is not a symptom of delusion. As part of my training, I studied psychology.

Aspirations Of A Theological College

This is the chapel of Tangintebu Theological College -- the remotest theological college on earth, but also the most central in the Pacific. I am in the foreground, far left. The college was established by the London Missionary Society. My father, behind me in the photo, was a chaplain there. This chapel has been expanded since. Anyway, the college wishes to offer a doctor's degree from 2019. For this purpose, they want to fund a local minister, Berenike Biiko, to study for a doctorate. I myself recently helped Berenike by commenting on her Master's thesis. You may read this post and realise that you can help with funds. If so, the Academic Dean of the college is Rev. Soama Tafia (soamatafia@gmail.com). OBSERVATION: Personally, I am astonished at the progress of the college. Many thought they wouldn't get this far.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Township Scene

I forget now where I took this photo. I rediscovered it today. It is a South African township. One sees the typical mast lighting, some chaotic fencing, and the smoke of evening fires rising. It was taken with a Leica, in 2013. OBSERVATION: It is bound to have been a noisy scene, too, with spirited voices, thumping music, and dogs barking. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Points Of Contact

All through my ministry, I have sought "points of contact" with Church members. Church life is chaotic from a minister's point of view, people make all kinds of remarks in the tumult, and so often one cannot really reply meaningfully in the moment. So it has been my custom to note people's remarks, then get in touch later. Recent examples: a young woman asked me how my week had been. I sent her a note afterwards. A young man said he was studying Church history now. I sent him a note, too. OBSERVATION: Elsewhere on this blog, I describe how I have made photos a point of contact. I love taking photos, and if I have a good one, I give away a copy -- or more recently, "share" it on the Internet.

Test Chapter Published (In Part)

I had some "traditional" philosophy published this morning. It is a test chapter, or rather one-third of it, of my 2nd-edition philosophy, which is now well advanced. Test chapters have been read 4000+ times, and have given me a lot of useful feedback. Behind the scenes, the rest of the chapter (not published this morning) answers the problem or question that this first part  poses (I hope). It is about one of philosophy's most fundamental and enduring problems, the fact-value distinction. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Kinship Terms

I was reading, this afternoon, the linguist Geoffrey Leech on kinship terms, or kinship semantics. In my wife's family, while I am somewhat confused (they mix African and English kinship terms), it seems to me that the more traditional kinship terms are these:
• (the older generation) mothers, fathers
• (the younger generation) sons, daughters
• (the same generation) brothers, sisters, and
• brothers-in-law
In the more traditional scheme of things, there seem to be no uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces. Brothers and sisters are those of the same household. Uncles and aunts may sometimes be differentiated by calling them "small" mothers and "small" fathers. I am not sure whether there are "cousins". The photo shows (in English terms) a niece and a cousin of my wife's. I myself am a son of the older generation. OBSERVATION: It is interesting that family members actually treat each other in terms of what they call each other.


People have asked me several times what happened to people afterwards who were involved in criminal acts at the end of my city ministry. I could make various observations, but here is what happened to the two police officers who threatened me in a police board room. Both of their careers ended soon after. I do not know whether I had any influence on events. I have spoken a few times with one of the officers since. We talk as friends would do, and leave alone what was past. OBSERVATION: Personally I think that anyone's future is in jeopardy who opposes the Church, from without or within. It is not because the Church or its ministers have any merit in themselves, but because the Church is a part of God's purpose on earth. As such, one opposes God when one opposes the Church.

Historic Prayer Meeting

Something extraordinary happened in South Africa this weekend, which seems worth mentioning for foreign readers. News stands this morning announced (presumably correctly) that one-million people met for a prayer meeting yesterday in our central city of Bloemfontein. South Africa has less than a fifth of the population of the USA. The farmer who led the event said: “Today we are witnessing history. ... This gathering is a prayer meeting, it is not a gospel concert. It is not even an evangelistic outreach, it is a prayer meeting.” OBSERVATION: The background is political crisis. Thanks to GoodThingsGuy for the photo.

Issues Of Confidentiality

This post is about my biggest quandary, my biggest awkwardness, and my biggest disaster in connection with pastoral confidentiality. My biggest quandary was when someone informed me he was hiring a hit-man. I did not reveal it. Afterwards, he told me that our session had changed his mind. My biggest awkwardness was when someone revealed to me who had ransacked my vestry, and requested that I inform no one. I broke confidentiality -- a rare breach. My biggest disaster was when someone revealed massive embezzlement in a para-statal organisation, and I passed on the information. It opened a Pandora's Box of terrors.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Backwater South Africa

South Africa is a backwater, and the way that foreign companies deal with South Africans may be dismissive or "unlettered". I wanted to find out more about Kickstarter today, the international crowd-funding platform. The interaction was a classic (my input underlined):
How do I get in touch with questions?
You can reach out with your questions through this contact form. Log in.
I don’t have an account.
Okay, let's get started.  Please select the issue you’d like us to help you with.
Starting a project.
What is your question about?
Requirements. Creator eligibility.
Project creation is currently available to individuals in [a list of countries] ... Did this answer your question?
Thanks, got it!
And I am booted out.

Vanishing Compassion

Many years ago, I visited the island of Vanua Levu in the Pacific. At that time, someone stepped up to the chief to inform him that a few of his subjects had been found to be HIV-positive. On receiving the news, the chief broke down in tears. This week, I read reports of farmer suicides in South Africa. They could not take the strain of the severe drought. But I didn't find any compassion. Times Live, for instance, reported on the economics of it, infrastructure, production, policy, psychology, and so on, but I could not find definite signs that anybody cared, for them as people. OBSERVATION: Coming as I do from the pastoral angle, this is striking. And it is not only such farmers who could do with compassion, but people who go by many different descriptions. Farm labourers, to begin with.

ANC Rally

I recently took this super wide angle shot of an eTV reporter at an African National Congress (ANC) rally in Cape Town. It was an ill fated rally, because the president, who was to address it, was greatly delayed by heckling -- which was transmitted to giant TV screens at the rally. By the time he got there, most people had left. OBSERVATION: But that may not matter to the president. He seems to live in a parallel world.

Friday, April 21, 2017

City Council Plaza

Inspired by a photo I saw on a forum yesterday, I took this one this morning, on exiting our City Council building. The building, together with this (raised) plaza, seems typical of the clumsy architecture inspired by apartheid. Thankfully someone broke up this space with the "work of art" on the man's right. One sees Cape Town's major theatre, too, on the right, and cranes in the harbour in the background on the left. OBSERVATION: It was a manual shot, unaltered here except for a crop. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Congregationalism And Worldly Governance

A Congregational Church is, by worldly standards, a very strange set-up, and people often misunderstand it, even within the Congregational Church. Here is the incident which most stands out in my mind: we had just dismissed an employee, for severely abusing his wife on the Church property. Among other things, he slashed her with a whip (a sjambok). Next thing, an official from the Dept. of Labour demanded to speak to me. He shouted at me that the Department would have me up before a tribunal because I was the minister and chief executive (we had dismissed the man for behaviour off-duty). I tried to explain to him that, in a Congregational Church, the minister is not a "chief executive", but rather it is the very opposite. There is an executive body which is, well ... everybody. OBSERVATION: Something similar happens with regard to anyone who holds office in the Church or expedites something or stamps it or signs it and so on. People easily assume that, for example, the stamp-bearer is more than someone who uses a stamp. But in the Congregational Church, everybody is just humbly obeying orders, which come from the Lord Himself. A typical Congregational constitution may say something like this: "Where the full Church meets in the Lord’s name, their findings are those which He Himself imparts." That is a radical statement. And outside of that meeting of the Church, there is no authority and there is no one who bears it (as it affects the Church).