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The awkward dance between the government and the church: Who’s leading? Part II


Every feature in the scriptural definition and description of the Church implies its essential and permanent distinctness from the kingdoms of this world. Even if the whole community were members of the Church, and of one and the same Church, this could be regarded only as an accidental condition of things that could not be expected to last for any length of time, and if it should last, would afford no warrant for disregarding or setting aside Christ’s arrangements.


Although the Church and the commonwealth consist of the same persons, it would still, if Christ’s arrangements as set forth in Scripture were to be at all regarded, be by a different constitution and laws. That men held their places in the one or in the other, whether as office-bearers or as members, and they would still have in these two different capacities different duties to discharge, and a different standard to follow.


Nothing indicates that it was Christ’s intention that the constitution and arrangements of His Church should be altered when His vision should gain an ascendency in a nation. Everything indicates the reverse. He is to be with His church, and His church is to be with Him; that is, subject to His control, obedient to His direction, submissive to His will, faithful in discharging the duties He has imposed upon it, until the end of the world.


A mere change in the external condition of the Church, arising from the proceedings of civil rulers professing to discharge a scriptural duty, is a fundamentally different thing from an alteration in any of those matters which manifestly constitute essential features of the Church as a distinct society, of the arrangements He made for the administration of its government, and the regulation of its affairs.


The classes and qualifications of office-bearers, the nature and limits of their authority and functions, the qualifications and privileges of ordinary members, and the superintendence to be exercised over them by the office-bearers, are manifestly among the essentialia of a distinct organized society, and cannot be materially changed without changing its constitution and character. There is no room for the State to maneuver or attempt under any cloak to interfere.


Christ has settled these points for His church in His word; while in regard to civil society nations are left free to settle most of these matters according to their own judgment and discretion; and from the nature of the case, there are many of them which cannot be settled in civil society in the way in which Christ has settled them in His church.


This is an irrefutable fact. On such grounds as these, it can be easily shown that the distinctness and diversity between the Church, as settled by Christ, and the kingdoms of this world, as settled by man, must be permanently maintained; and that their complete organization, as distinct societies, cannot be infringed upon without sin or chaos on the part of those concerned in it, without interfering with arrangements which Christ appointed and intended to continue till His second coming.


Dare I say, it is not the business of the State what happens in the Church, but it's the business of the Church what happens in the State. The Church willingly subjects itself to the ordinances of the State; but this volitional submission is not to be interpreted to mean that the Church is subservient to the State. The Church is not answerable to the State but to the Lord Jesus Christ.

That is why you have situations of civil disobedience, where the State has passed laws that are contrary to Christ's constitution for His Church. In such instances, the Church has a right, and indeed an obligation, to disregard the State. The State should not and cannot successfully oppress or suppress the Church through the imposition of laws or statutes it knows very well violate the stance of the Church.


It has also been maintained that the distinctness of the State and the Church, viewed as including the origin and nature of the differences between them which it implies, affords a good ground for the inference that the two societies, and the authorities who represent and regulate them, are, and ought to be, wholly independent of each other, with respect to any jurisdiction or authoritative control of the one over the other; that it precludes the assumption or exercise of any right on the part of one to interfere authoritatively in the regulation of the affairs of the other.


I believe that this conclusion is well founded; that it follows fairly from the premises; and that it can be conclusively established by a survey of all the materials bearing upon the settlement of the question. This is the branch of the general subject that bears most immediately upon the position the "free" Church has been led to occupy, and the testimony she has been called upon to bear.


It is on this topic that the controversies which have been long carried on inter imperium et sacerdotium [between the crown and the priesthood], or as to the relation that ought to subsist between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, have almost wholly turned, until in our own day prominence has been given to the principle of Voluntarism, or of the entire separation of Church and State, a principle which only cuts the knot, and certainly does not untie it.


It is not difficult to perceive how it is that the differences between the Church and the State, which constitute them two distinct societies, should lay a foundation for their entire independence of each other in respect to jurisdiction or authoritative control, while they give no countenance to the doctrine of the necessity of their entire separation, or of the unlawfulness or impracticability of a friendly combination between them for mutual aid and assistance.


That two societies which must consistently come into contact with each other, and whose leading ends and objects, though different, have yet no discordance or opposition, should combine more or less for mutual co-operation and assistance, and of course should make arrangements with each other with this view, is a position which has every antecedent probability and presumption in its favor. The burden of proof lies wholly upon those who deny it.


The fact of the matter is the two cannot ignore each other, even if they wanted to. I've already stated that they share the same fundamental constituents – people, who are in both at the same time. The hot potato is not whether co-existence or a symbiotic relationship is possible. The hot potato is about who should influence whom, and to what extent. Bluntly put, it's a power struggle. Both have an obligation to one another.


And then it can, I think, be proved that an obligation attaches to the State and to civil rulers in their official capacity, to aim at the promotion of the interests of the Church and its welfare. The appropriate result of this obligation, where both parties rightly understand their respective duties, and where special circumstances in the condition of the community do not preclude it, is the formation of a friendly relationship between them.


On the other hand, the notion that of two naturally and originally distinct societies, the one should be entitled to exercise jurisdiction or authoritative control over the other, has every probability or presumption against it. It does not work and indeed cannot work.

The burden of proof lies wholly upon those who assert it. That proof will have to demonstrate that subordination of the one to the other, which is implied in the exercise of jurisdiction, can be legitimately based only either upon the natural intrinsic relation of the two societies to each other, or upon the interposed authority of a common superior.


The natural and original distinctness of the two societies would, upon general principles, exclude the first of these possible grounds of superiority and subordination; and there is a great deal in the special features of the two societies in question, the State and the Church, to confirm the exclusion, and nothing whatever to invalidate it.

If it is alleged, as it has been, that God, the common superior, has invested the one with a right to exercise authoritative control over the other, this of course is a position which must be fairly met and discussed by an investigation of all the materials which legitimately bear upon it.


So far as we can collect the will of God upon this subject from the more general properties and qualities of the two societies as ascertained either from reason or revelation, there is certainly nothing whatever to countenance the idea of the dependence of the one upon the other, or of the subordination of the one to the other, but, on the contrary, much to establish the doctrine of their entire mutual independence in respect to jurisdiction, and to prove the unwarranted and unlawfulness of the one usurping any authority over the other.


The very same result is brought out by an examination of the more specific positions alleged to be sanctioned by Scripture, and to bear more directly upon this particular subject. From the nature of the case there are just three theories that can be maintained upon this subject: First, that of those who assert the superiority in point of jurisdiction of the Church over the State; the right of the ecclesiastical rulers to exercise authoritative control in civil matters.

This is the doctrine of the Church of Rome, and has been maintained more or less fully and openly by most of her leading authorities. Indeed the Vatican is a full State run by the Church with the Pontiff playing the role of head of State. Secondly, that of those who assert the superiority of the State over the Church, or the right of the civil rulers to exercise jurisdiction in ecclesiastical affairs.


This has usually been known as Erastianism, though it is often spoken of by some writers under the designation Byzantinism, a term derived from the degrading subjection to the civil power to which the Patriarchs of Constantinople were reduced during the middle ages, while their rivals the Bishops of Rome attained not only to independence, but to supremacy.


Thirdly, that of those who deny the Popish and the Erastian theories, and maintain that the Church and the State are two co-equal independent powers, each supreme in its own distinct province, and neither having any authoritative control over the other. This is the doctrine taught in the word of God and in the Westminster Standards, though it can scarcely be said to have any distinct compendious historical designation in theological literature.

As the alleged absurdity and danger of an imperium in imperio [a state within a state], and the alleged necessity of some one power or authority that shall superintend and control everything in a community, is the common basis of the two leading erroneous theories upon the subject of the relation between the civil and the ecclesiastical authorities, it may be proper to make some observations upon it.


The direct disproof of it as an argument for the superiority of the one, and the subordination of the other, is of course to be found in the proof that the Church and the State are two distinct independent societies, each having a distinct government of its own, self-sufficient and authoritative in its own domain, and with reference to its own functions and objects.

If this can be proved, then no valid argument against the application of the doctrine can be derived from mere inconveniences or embarrassments that may occasionally arise, especially if it can be further proved, as it can, that collision and embarrassment may be easily avoided by settling the limits of the respective jurisdictions or spheres of the two powers. And there is no such great difficulty in doing this as is commonly believed. Our Savior has enjoined His followers to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God’s.


This implies that there are some things which belong to the domain and jurisdiction of Caesar, or the civil authority, which are subject to his jurisdiction, with respect to which he has rightful authority, and is ordinarily to be obeyed; reserving, of course, the great principle which is of universal application, namely, that we must obey God rather than man.

It implies also, that there are some things which are God’s, in such a sense not to belong to Caesar at all; not to belong to his domain, or to be subject to the authority of the civil authority. There is no great difficulty in settling what these things are, respectively. Caesar’s things are the persons and the property of men, and God’s things are the conscience of men and the Church of Christ.


The civil authority has rightful jurisdiction over the persons and the property of men, because the word of God sanctions his right to the use of the sword (Romans 13:4), and because jurisdiction in these matters is evidently indispensable to the execution of the functions of his office.

The attainment of the great end of civil government, namely, the promotion of the good social order and conscience, for God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men. The civil authority has no jurisdiction over the Church of Christ, because Christ alone is its King and Head, and because by His own authority in His word, He has made full provision for its government – for the administration of its affairs, through other parties, without vesting any control over it in the civil authorities.


The civil authority, I believe, is bound, in the exercise of his proper authority, in his own domain, to aim at the promotion of free worship and the welfare of the Church; but though this obligation brings religion and the Church within the scope of his care, it does not bring them within the sphere of his jurisdiction. Furthermore, it does not entitle him to deal with them in a manner inconsistent with, or unauthorized by their proper nature or their prescribed constitution.

The civil authority is also entitled to exercise a certain superintendence and control in religious and ecclesiastical matters, limited to the object of promoting the attainment, and preventing the frustration of the great end of his office, the peace and good order of the community.


But this consideration, though authorizing him to restrain and punish whatever or whosoever, under pretence of conscience or of ecclesiastical authority, interferes with the interests he is bound to guard. It does not invest him with legitimate authority in matters of religion, or the affairs of the Church, or enable him to impose upon any a valid obligation to render to him obedience in these things.

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The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosi’s actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as ‘international waters’.

Pelosi’s visit to China’s Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqués.  In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to China’s position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The People’s Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been  the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades — first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwan’s administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials – this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Biden’s words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan – another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region.  The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as “Taiwan independence”.  The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: “The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”  Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for China’s People’s Liberation Army to “safeguard China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests”. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to “prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard China’s overseas investments, projects and personnel.  It then follows that President Xi’s administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part.” Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The People’s Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, “We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces.” This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijing’s military exercises will certainly shake Taiwan’s confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwan’s central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As China’s military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit China’s Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to “Taiwan independence” separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

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Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022
piracy

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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