a weak and tender thing

[Wondering about the contemporary relevance of these words by Alan Paton, spoken in 1949 in the context of South African apartheid…]

But one must not imagine that this white settler is motivated solely by fear. He, too, is a human creature. He has not lived upon the earth without being influenced by the great human ideas, notably by the ideas of Christianity. Therefore, he too is a divided creature, torn between his fearsĀ  for his own safety and his desire for his own survival on the one hand, and on the other, by those ideas of justice and love which are at the very heart of his religion. We are witnessing today a struggle in the hearts of men, white men, between the claims of justice and of survival, of conscience and of fear.

It is my own belief that the only power which can resist the power of fear is the power of love. It’s a weak thing and a tender thing; men despise and deride it. But I look for the day when in South Africa we shall realise that the only lasting and worthwhile solution of our grave and profound problems lies not in the use of power, but in that understanding and compassion without which human life is an intolerable bondage, condemning us all to an existence of violence, misery and fear.

  • Alan Paton (from a speech quoted by Lewis Gannett in his introduction to Paton’s famous novel, Cry, the Beloved Country)

survival for the oppressed

[Dr. David Moore, visiting from California, stressed the importance of Howard Thurman’s writing for a contemplative basis to activism. If you’re near St. Stephen, come on out for public lectures Nov 1 (7pm) & 2 (6:30pm) on “Standing Up to Domination and Violence with a Calm Soul”]:

The basic fact is that Christianity as it was born in the mind of this Jewish thinker and teacher appears as a technique of survival for the oppressed. That it became, through the intervening years, a religion of the powerful and the dominant, used sometimes as an instrument of oppression, must not tempt us into believing that it was thus in the mind and life of Jesus. ‘In him was life; and the life was the light of men.’ Wherever his spirit appears, the oppressed gather fresh courage; for he announced the good news that fear, hypocrisy, and hatred, the three hounds of hell that track the trail of the disinherited, need have no dominion over them.

– Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited