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The theology of apartheid

RIGHT after the beginning, God created apartheid. So preached a generation of 20th-century clergymen in the white branch of South Africa's Dutch Reformed Church. They taught Afrikaners, God-fearing Calvinists, that race segregation was more than desirable. It was God's will.

It began with the Tower of Babel, says F. J. M. Potgieter, a retired professor who pioneered the ``theology of apartheid.'' Citing Genesis, he says God created men as a single race. But after Babel (Gen. 10:9), God ``scattered them over the face of the whole earth.'' He ``divided all mankind (Deut. 32:8) and set up boundaries for the peoples.'' He ``determined the times . . . and the exact places (Acts 17:26) where they should live.''

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In the 1960s, Dr. Potgieter's colleague, Andries Treurnicht, took the credo a step further. He preached a ``theology of ordination,'' whereby each of God's nations was bestowed a special dynamic. To be true to it was a divine duty. Dr. Treurnicht now leads the Conservative Party, the breakaway right wing of the President's Nationalists.

Potgieter, a prominent supporter, says that as a ``conservative Christian'' he accepts some reforms as consistent with the Golden Rule. And, he sees the implicit violent protest of the extreme right wing as violating Calvin's opposition to rebellion against the state. But, the central tenet, of ``national separation'' must stand.

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