Learning from the Mistakes of the Past: Christianity, Apartheid, and Social Movement Framing

Faculty Sponsor

Melanie Trexler


Arts and Sciences


Theology/Global Service

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-23-2016


Christianity can be a force for good in this world, but too many times Christians have used their religion as justification for the persecution of others. The apartheid regime in South Africa is a prime example of how Christians, specifically the people of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), used the Bible as a way to help create and support a system of oppression. In this paper, I explain how the DRC utilized Social Movement Framing to interpret the Bible in a way that supported the apartheid regime. I begin by laying out a brief history and explanation of Apartheid, followed by an explanation of the DRC’s role in the development and execution of apartheid. I then outline Social Movement Framing and the particular frames used by the DRC in order to mobilize support for apartheid. In the mid 1900s, the DRC insisted that the government implement apartheid policy. The DRC then supported the implementation of the regime, despite organizations such as the World Council of Churches and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches intervening and accusing the DRC of heresy. The DRC was convinced that apartheid was a good and helpful solution for everyone. Even when it became clear that the DRC had been misinterpreting the Bible, they refused to adjust their position. Therefore, this paper explains how the DRC utilized social movement framing techniques to mobilize support for the apartheid regime and begins to address how Christians can avoid using such frames that lead to persecution in the future.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Miranda Joebgen is a senior, double majoring in Theology and Global Service. During her time at Valpo, she has been heavily involved with Sigma Alpha Iota, the Chapel of the Resurrection, and the Institute for Leadership and Service. Her study abroad experience in Namibia sparked her interest in the influence of Christianity on the apartheid regime.

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