He was a giant – but how absurd for the BBC to compare Mandela to Christ

Wow. For Christians, this borders on blasphemy. Much as Nelson Mandela‘s strength of character stood him out as one of the most extraordinary human beings to ever have walked the face of the earth, Madiba  rejected any attempts at having sainthood bestowed upon him, regularly reminding all who cared to listen that he was a mere mortal with as many flaws as any other person.

I guess whoever made the comparison is not aware or possibly does not care that Christian believe Jesus Christ IS God. So Nelson Mandela should now be ranked side by side with God? I don’t think any Christians anywhere will be particularly enthralled by this. My take.

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By  Dominic Lawson

Over the weekend, BBC presenter Evan Davis suggested that Nelson Mandela should be ranked alongside Jesus Christ in the pantheon of virtueOver the weekend, BBC presenter Evan Davis suggested  that Nelson Mandela should be ranked alongside Jesus Christ in the pantheon of  virtue

Sooner or later, it had to come. Over the  weekend, the BBC presenter Evan Davis suggested that the late Nelson Mandela  should be ranked alongside Jesus Christ in the pantheon of  virtue.

Admittedly, this came in the form of a  question — to Jimmy Carter. The former U.S. president is also a Baptist  minister, so he emphatically dismissed the notion, pointing out — to avoid any  further misunderstanding by Davis — that Jesus is ‘The Son of God, actually God  himself’.

Mandela’s greatness is not in doubt. His  ability to work with and, apparently, forgive those who incarcerated him for 27  years in appalling conditions does conform to behaviour we might characterise as  saintly.

He also had a radiant presence in public, one  that entranced all who witnessed it. Yet political history should also warn us  never to confuse the public and private man. They are very different — and  Mandela was a spectacular example of  this disjunction.

An important corrective to the process of  instant canonisation was given by my old friend Richard Stengel, who worked for  three years with Mandela on his autobiography, and whose superb memoir of the  man was published in the Mail on Saturday.

‘We’ve kind of made him into Santa Claus. He  wasn’t. He had tremendous anger and bitterness in his heart,’ Stengel said.  ‘What made him such a fantastic and astonishing politician was that he never let  anyone see that.’

The word ‘politician’ is almost a pejorative  term, but Mandela was the consummate politician. Such people tend to have an  instrumental view of humans: if they are useful, or necessary for the wider  purpose, then devastating charm is deployed. If they are not useful, then the  beam of light is switched off.

Thus, recalls Stengel (whose eldest son is a  godchild of Mandela): ‘He was warm with strangers and cool with intimates. The  smile was reserved for outsiders. I saw him often with his son, his daughters,  his sisters; and the Nelson Mandela they knew appeared to be a stern and  unsmiling fellow not terribly sympathetic to their problems.’

Nelson Mandela was the consummate politician. Such people tend to have an instrumental view of humans: if they are useful, or necessary for the wider purpose, then devastating charm is deployedNelson Mandela was the consummate politician. Such  people tend to have an instrumental view of humans: if they are useful, or  necessary for the wider purpose, then devastating charm is deployed

Of course, Mandela’s family life had been  devastated by his long incarceration — and that was the doing of his oppressors,  the apartheid regime; but even before then his multiple infidelities to his  first wife, Evelyn, had created domestic havoc. As Evelyn remarked after the  Secretary General of the South African Council of Churches stated that Mandela’s  release was like the Second Coming of Christ: ‘How can a man who has committed  adultery and left his wife and children be Christ? The whole world worships  Nelson too much.’

And when he was at last a free man, his  daughter Maki complained: ‘After he was released, he should have created some  space for the family, for the children. We were ignored…

‘Children must learn to accept that sometimes  they’re not really loved.’

Yet look at pictures of Mandela encountering  children at a political rally and you see the man’s face glowing with what seems  an inner warmth, almost luminous in its openness and apparent generosity of  spirit.

When Mandela was at last a free man, his daughter Maki complained: 'After he was released, he should have created some space for the family, for the children. We were ignored...'When Mandela was at last a free man, his daughter Maki  complained: ‘After he was released, he should have created some space for the  family, for the children. We were ignored…’

Imagine how his own children, his own flesh  and blood, must have felt when they saw such images, knowing they had never  encountered the same affection — or at least the demonstration of it — bestowed  on countless nameless babies offered up for presidential benediction.

This phenomenon, of public charm and private  coldness, is a political commonplace, far from unique to Nelson Mandela. Indeed,  an argument can be made that the more charming a politician seems in public, the  more misanthropic or even cruel he will be in his life away from the scrutiny of  the camera.

Many years ago precisely this point was made  to me by my then personal assistant, Virginia Utley.

This acutely observant woman had previously  worked as a secretary to various MPs; she told me that those at Westminster who  had the most wonderful public image as caring and kind were dreadful employers,  while the ones whose reputation was of a brutal and unfeeling personality were  complete joys to work for.

I named this Utley’s law, as it seemed, on  close examination, to have remarkable predictive accuracy.

It might have been most true of Margaret  Thatcher. While harsh and abrasive in her public manner, it turned out that she  behaved with enormous solicitude towards the secretaries and less exalted staff  at Downing Street.

On the other hand, it was clear that her own  home came emphatically second behind her political activities, so that when her  career came to an abrupt end, there was no question of her wanting to spend more  time with her family.

Yet we should not expect anything more from  great men and women. The effort and energy involved in the political struggle at  the highest level is almost beyond words to describe. It does require absolute  dedication, a willingness to sacrifice the things which normal people would say  are what makes life worth living.

The effort and energy involved in the political struggle at the highest level requires absolute dedication, a willingness to sacrifice the things which normal people would say are what makes life worth livingThe effort and energy involved in the political struggle  at the highest level requires absolute dedication, a willingness to sacrifice  the things which normal people would say are what makes life worth  living

Nor should the public object to this. Their  leaders are also their servants. Mandela and Thatcher, in their very different  ways, devoted themselves to improving the lot of their nations: and that is the  highest calling. If it made their own children feel neglected or even abandoned  it is sad, but does not diminish their greatness.

In fact, what we know from the Bible about  the figure of Jesus Christ suggests that He was not what might be described as a  family man.

This is made most startlingly clear in the  passage from Matthew in which He tells his Apostles how to deal with their own  families: ‘I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her  mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law: a man’s enemies will be  members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than  me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is  not worthy of me.’

I am sure that Nelson Mandela, who was  educated at a Methodist college, was very familiar with that passage. Who knows,  perhaps he reconciled his own family life with this stark, almost inhuman  message?

Whatever the case, he understood enough about  the scriptures — and his own sinfulness — to reject as ridiculous the  description of him as a saint: and he said so. God knows (literally) what he  would have thought about the BBC’s attempt to equate him with Jesus  Christ.

 Culled from dailymail.co.uk

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