Last Sunday – after Oudoom’s sermon on The Sins of the Fathers, Gertruida said that Life is an endless circle. What has been, will be again. Vetfaan said that’s true; he remembered Frikkie, the son of Fists Fourie, who also was jailed after his wife walked into the door once too often. Vetfaan reckons those men should have been much more circumspect in choosing their wives. And Kleinpiet agreed about the Sinning Father Syndrome, reminding them that Innocent Tshabalala became a lawyer, just like his dad..
Still, it was a sobering thought. Precilla said it isn’t fair that a great-grandson should bear the burden of punishment for somebody he didn’t even know, whereupon Servaas said we all suffer because of our president. And – he asked – who in town actually knew the man? The fact that the president is still around while his sins are visited upon us, he said, must say something. “Maybe his wrongs are so great and so many, that waiting for a few generations is out of the question, hey?” Of course everybody laughed at that, but it wasn’t the laughing you’d usually hear in Boggel’s Place: it sounded too harsh, too hollow.
The sermon also had another effect on the townsfolk: they wanted to find out what their great-grandfathers did – hoping to discover pious and upright citizens of the first order (Servaas’s words). To their utter and collective dismay, this turned out to be a false hope. Gertruida knew, of course, that her family history contained a bootlegger, a diamond smuggler and a cattle thief. Vetfaan checked out the inscriptions on the first pages of the old family bible noting with concern the description of a forebear as ‘a rascal not worthy of our name‘. In Kleinpiet’s case the situation was even worse. In the carefully annotated diary his mother used to keep, she wrote about ‘Oupa Piet’, the candidate for the National Party in the fifties.
“Well, I have no such worries,” Boggel announced. “As an orphan I don’t have a family – hence I have nothing to worry about.”
“Oh no, Boggel. You can’t get off so easily. Unless you were hatched from an egg, you had a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather.” Servaas ignored Kleinpiet’s remark that chickens had daddies too, and continued. “You’re just like us. We’ve all got to take what’s coming to us, I’m afraid.”
Of course Oudoom helped them to understand that it’s not so simple. If, he said, generations persist in sinning, it is only natural to think that the sins – which originated earlier in the family – would be continuously punished. “If grandpa taught his children to do something wrong: why then, you can’t just punish grandpa, can you? Go read Ezekiel. He made it abundantly clear.”
“So you say that we can’t blame previous generations for the mess we’re in?”
“Don’t be simplistic, Servaas. But your remark does touch on an important issue: the ‘sins of the father’ does not necessarily imply a family connotation. ‘Fathers’ can also be seen as ‘Leaders’ and ‘children’ as ‘followers’. We talk about ‘the founding fathers’ and in Africa we use ‘father’ as a form of respect. So, as much as we apply the term to families, we may also use it to refer to society at large.”
“You’re talking about the National Party again?” It is well known that Oudoom frequently laments the decision of the Synod in 1957.
“Oh no, Servaas. Not at all. I’m looking ahead, not to the past. The past is history, we can’t do anything about that. But the future? It rests on the present. And when I look at the leadership in the country, I see problems. What have they done to strengthen the moral fibre in the land? They’re sooo big on human rights, children’s rights, women’s rights – you can go on and on. But what, I ask you, did they do to God’s rights? I mean, those are the most important of all, aren’t they?
“I’ll tell you: they legalised Satanism. Banned prayer in schools. Opened the parliament with an imbongi. When elections come about, they attend church services to get votes – but once the results are in, do we see the TV cameras focus on a politician on any given Sunday?
“So, maybe we should consider our ‘fathers’ in South Africa very carefully. If you were to look down from heaven – would you have been proud?”
Boggel maintains it is sometimes better to be an orphan: being fatherless isn’t so bad when you are given a clean slate to start off with. Gertruida reckons that was the dream in 1994, but it all went horribly wrong afterwards.
“We talk about the Rainbow Nation because it’s such a nice term. But remember: the rainbow, according to the Bible, is a symbol of a covenant God made with mankind. In Revelations, it is said that a rainbow around the Throne. The rainbow, it seems, signifies peace and forgiveness.”
Gertruida sometimes says things that make people think. And occasionally, her knowledge of everything is quite astounding, like when she reminds them that the human eye can see no black, white or brown in the rainbow,
“But what has that to do with sinning fathers, Gertruida?”
“Everything, Servaas. We’re big on symbols and words, but small in action. To talk about peace and tolerance is one thing, to live it is quite a different matter. We need leaders whose aim is to guide the country to a honest, respectful place where life and property mean something. We need fathers who are true to the oldest guidelines we know. Ask Oudoom, he’ll tell you.”
And he does, by quoting two verses.
- Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
- As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13)
Oudoom says a true father to the nation should encourage compassionate discipline. According to him, that’s the way to add colours to the rainbow. And, he says, that’s the only way to repair that symbol we so love to talk about while it is disappearing from our skies…