Despite Mandela's assertion in his biography that he is a Christian and that Christianity gave him strength and informed his life in his struggle against apartheid, his version of "Christianity" is the Marxist liberation theology that inspired revolutions in many third-world countries from the 1960s through the '80s. Mandela maintained close ties with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Initially influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, Mandela promoted non-violent demonstrations as the way to bring about change. But when progress was not fast enough for him, he abandoned non-violence and helped found the military wing of the African National Congress, known as the UmKhonto we Sizwe, Spear of the Nation, abbreviated MK. The MK was strongly Marxist and grew increasingly violent. They went from guerrilla attacks on government offices to terrorist bombings of public places like the Johannesburg railway station. The popular fiction is that Mandela was imprisoned for his opposition to apartheid. Many other South Africans, however, protested apartheid, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, but they were never incarcerated. The reality is that he was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, 156 counts of public violence.
Dr. Peter Hammond comments in his review of Invictus on Mandela's trial and conviction:
"The fact is that even Amnesty International refused to take on Nelson Mandela’s case because they asserted that he was no political prisoner but had committed numerous violent crimes and had had a fair trial and a reasonable sentence."Mandela's MK terrorists were responsible for the deaths of many innocent people, including women and children. How different from Jesus who rebuked his two militant disciples, saying, "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Luke 9:56).
While Mandela was in prison, South African President P. W. Botha offered to release him if he would simply renounce terrorist violence. Mandela refused.
One has to wonder what would have happened if Mandela and the ANC would have continued to work for an end to apartheid through non-violence. At any rate, Jesus never organized nor advocated violence to achieve one's goals. On the contrary, Jesus said in his wonderful Sermon of the Mount:
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also . . .
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven . . ." (Matthew 5:38-39, 44, 45)We can certainly find better examples of Christ-like, sacrificial lives than that of Nelson Mandela! How about Jim Elliott, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, and Pete Fleming, young missionaries who gave their lives to reach the violent Auca Indians of Ecuador in 1956? And what expression of true Christian reconciliation could be more moving than the widows' outreach to those same Indians and seeing the Waodani (their real name) come to faith in Christ and become brothers and sisters to the families they had deprived of their beloved husbands and fathers?
My pastor friend, if you want to view a good movie on love, forgiveness, and Christian reconciliation, get a copy of The End of the Spear. Let's not forget: "friendship with this world is enmity with God." (James 4:4)