It has been very interesting to watch the reactions to the death of Nelson Mandela. Most people seem to have responded by praising him and acknowledging him as a hero of our time. On the other hand, there is a vocal minority of people who suggest he was a terrible human being. What are we do with all of this?
I will confess that I am not an expert on Nelson Mandela or apartheid or South Africa. I do know that one of the reasons certain Christians do not like Mandela is that he was very liberal in his abortion policy. I have heard accusations of him fighting for the freedom of the post-born but condemning the pre-born to death by abortion. Again, I am not an expert in Mandela’s abortion policy, but I accept that he was prochoice and that the abortion rate likely went up while he was in office.
While the situation is likely more complicated, let us for the sake of simplicity assume two things: Mandela was influential in ending apartheid and he held to a prochoice public policy. How do evangelical Christians sort through this? Do we praise him for his role in ending apartheid or do we condemn him for his position on abortion? I guess we have to ask if we think that any prochoice person can do a good thing or if a position on abortion contaminates everything else they do.
I think we have to realize that the reason people love Mandela so much is not just that he helped end apartheid. Rather it is the story of his persistence, even through decades of imprisonment and the eventual victory against all odds. We see in that an inspiration that if we stick to it, perhaps we can be used for something great.
That is what people are celebrating. One can respect many aspects of Mandela’s life without agreeing with every political position that we took or turning a blind eye to his imperfections. Yes, he did a number of things wrong but none of that should take away from what he did right. Continue to disagree with his abortion policy and his Marxism and anything else, but at least acknowledge that with apartheid he did something right.