The Passing Summer: South African Pilgrimage in the Politics of Love
London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1989, 534 pp., $22.50 (Distributed in Canada by Lawson Falle Limited)
This is a valuable book about troubled South Africa. It gives us a close, personal look at the people and the complexity of the future facing them. It is balanced, realistic, and a thoroughly Christian analysis.
Michael Cassidy calls South Africa the "world's workshop." He quotes Richard Neuhaus who says "The debate about the future of South Africa is in many ways a debate about the future of our life together in the small earth." The Passing Summer, then, is not just about remote and troubled South Africa. It is about the future of all of us because it addresses fundamental questions of how we can live together peaceably, fruitfully, and in mutal respect and tolerance. If South Africa—confessedly Christian South Africa—fails in this, then the future of the rest of the world is bleak indeed.
Michael Cassidy is a Christian, a white South African, an evangelist, and the founder of Africa Enterprise, a multiracial, Africa-wide evangelistic organization. He travels extensively throughout the continent meeting with both the powerful and the powerless. His love for God and His Gospel is clearly evident. Cassidy knows that the Gospel is the only true hope for the future of his country, and in sharing this hope with us he gives it shape and substance.
The Passing Summer (a reference to Jeremiah 8:20) is a thoughtful call for the Christian message of reconciliation to be lived within this environment of emotion-charged politics. Cassidy's careful, Christian insights are helpful and refreshing. He lays great stress on the need for personal, individual forgiveness and reconciliation. His point is the simple yet often neglected one that no political, social, or economic arrangement, however artfully constructed, will work unless the heart of the individual is changed. The reconciled, loving heart of each person is the only foundation for lasting national forgiveness and reconciliation. Granted, reconciliation is difficult and very costly in terms of personal pride and even social standing. But until it begins to heal the wounds nothing truly lasting can be built.
Much material written about South Africa tends to interpret events through a particular ideological lens. Evidence contrary to the ideology is frequently ignored or distorted. In contrast, Cassidy presents the good and the bad together, taking care to be balanced, honest, realistic, and hopeful. For instance, recognizing on the one hand that the South African government has no choice but to negotiate with the outlawed African National Congress, Cassidy is fully aware, on the other hand, of the dangerous presence of Communists at the highest level of the ANC. He refuses to understate or ignore this threat in order to make the ANC's inclusion in the political process more palatable.
In his "word to the wider world," Cassidy stresses that other countries should offer South Africa advice only out of profound humility and in full realization that they too have their own internal problems. It is only by the grace of God they have avoided this particular evil.
He also calls for less self-righteous grandstanding from other countries who should devote their energies to finding more realistic solutions. Very often they press for remedies which would, if put into effect, bring about political and economic ruination for South Africa to the benefit of no one (except possibly the Soviet Union) and to the detriment of the western world.
There is much, much more to The Passing Summer than political ideas. There are people to meet, events to live through, and a country's social, political, and intellectual history to explore. Most of all there is the excitement of discovering yet again that God's Word has concrete answers for this seemingly intractable problem.
Above all, The Passing Summer reminds us of the critical part that even a small number of committed Christians can have in the great events of our day. It gives us renewed hope in the God who is sovereign even over all this and who in the end will bring it to the conclusion He wills, whether or not that conclusion be the one we would wish for.
Last, it is clear that the ideas developed in this book have much wider application than to the tangled mess in South Africa. Cassidy's analyses and prescriptions will fit just about any situation of conflict—from the office to the shop floor. Everyone would do well to read it and to encourage their friends and political representatives to read it too.