In the Spring of 1970 two foolish twenty year old young men, one white and one black, walked the streets of Capetown, South Africa together. We went places marked for whites only and for blacks only. We were refused service in restaurants. We were cheered by cars of blacks who drove by. Phil and I were told that we didn’t get into trouble because it was obvious we were Americans, but our behavior was still foolish and just a little “in your face.” After studying The Rise and Fall of Apartheid by David Welsh I realize all the more what a dangerous game we were playing. But also, I am glad we behaved in an anti-apartheid way.
One taxi driver who dared to pick up Phil and me together told us that when the revolt against Apartheid came it would be a blood bath. David Welsh confirms this opinion in The Rise and Fall of Apartheid. “South Africa’s transition from racial oligarchy to an inclusive democracy was one of the most remarkable processes of the late twentieth century. Few believed that it would occur as soon – and as relatively peacefully – as it did. the transition belied gloomy predictions of race war in which the white minority went into a laager and fought ‘to the last drop of blood.’” 
In the conclusion Welsh states how this happened. “The theme of this book has been that the transition occurred because the principal antagonists, the ANC and the NP, mutually recognized that neither could win the struggle on its own terms…No single-factor cause satisfactorily explains the transition: it derived from a combination of factors…but leadership was the indispensable component. Both Mandela and De Klerk had to keep potentially unruly support-bases in line. As Peter Clarke writes of (British) political leaders, leadership was important ‘not because it is all that matters, but because we literally cannot do without it.’” 
The description of Mandela and De Klerk sounds parallel to the definition of leadership as “keeping your head while all about you are losing theirs.” Mandela and De Klerk kept their heads and managed to think and lead from a perspective that was much grander than their own nationalistic interests.
Leadership WITH Global Perspectives.
The thread I choose to pick up from this book deals with issues of “nationalism” and nationalistic attitudes and behaviors. In the book Professor Welsh demonstrates the complexity of South African politics, sorting through tensions between the Afrikaners and British, along with issues of economics, politics, race, and self-protection. It is my thesis that nationalism often arises as a reaction to circumstances and is a behavior of self-protection in the face of a perceived danger or threat; whether that’s economic, physical, cultural… I think we see this in South Africa, Nazi Germany, Brexit, and the most recent American election cycle.
JBM Herzog was an influential Prime Minister in the early 20th Century. Welsh says, “Hertzog’s slogan, ‘South Africa First’, encapsulated many of the nationalists’ grievances and aspirations. It meant that South Africa’s interests should take precedence over those of the Empire, and, as a corollary, that South Africa should be governed by those ‘imbued with the South African spirit’ and not by those he contemptuously called ‘foreign fortune-seekers’, referring to English-speakers who…showed greater loyalty to the Empire than to South Africa…”  He shows a connection between this brand of nationalism and the rise of Apartheid. This echos in recent American leadership rhetoric we are hearing in 2016 and 2017.
A danger I see is that it is far too easy for nationalism to result in an “in group” and an “out group,” and that the parameters of those groups are subjective. Hertzog’s phrase, ‘imbued with the South Africa spirit’ is so nebulous (to an outsider) that it allows the author of the phrase to define terms anyway he wants.
In the 1960s a ubiquitous bumper sticker displayed an American flag and said, “America, Love It Or Leave It.” In the historical context that form of nationalism excluded those who dared to protest the Viet Nam war. Many viewed protests as being anti-American, rather than seeing them as the essence of being American. This controversy created a rift that I’m not sure has ever healed.
A general view of German history from the 1930s shows one man’s nationalist view of Germany which created an “out group.” This mentality, creating suspicion and presumed superiority of one group over another, can lead to wars between nations, not to mention the destruction of millions of lives. This week Isis, once again, killed innocent people viewed not to be a part of their “in group.”
What are we to make of the similarities between The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer;  depicting the nationalism of Nazi Germany and its racist atrocities, and The Rise and Fall of Apartheid by David Welsh; depicting the nationalism of South Africa and its racist atrocities? Another chilling question is what are we to do now, having seen the complicity of the Church during those times in Germany  and South Africa? 
Is there “Kingdom of God nationalism?” I ask this with fear and trembling, because I do not want to be misunderstood to be saying that the Kingdom of God should not have a clear understanding as to citizenship. We know that those who bend the knee to the Lordship of Jesus are citizens of His Kingdom.
The question is how do we regard and treat those not in the Kingdom? Just as I am offended by too narrow a view of American patriotism, might we not assume that those not in the Kingdom of God can also be offended by our sense of “in” and “out?” Someone has said that Sunday morning at 11 is the most segregated hour of the week. It would be difficult to support that reality from a Biblical perspective.
Leadership and Global Perspectives prepares us to lead from a perspective that will enable conversation, understanding, and mutuality in multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic contexts. If we are Kingdom-of-God leaders with global perspective, consider the implications of this for how we lead. This is not a game we play.
1. David Welsh, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (Johannesburg & Cape Town, South Africa: Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2009), vii.
2. Ibid., 566-567.
3. Ibid., 5.
4. William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1960).
5. Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010).
6. Welsh, 11.