Where has our heritage gone?


By Alistair van Heerden

It was recently Heritage Day and we have been seeing the South African flag, Springbok rugby ads and barbecue in many places lately.

It’s nice to be with family and friends and just have another excuse to grill together again. But isn’t there something more?

My question should not be misunderstood at all. The Afrikaner culture is a very rich culture, but we have to ask ourselves whether our culture today has perhaps diminished from what it once was?

I think there are Afrikaners who have forgotten about our rich heritage because it has not been passed on to the next generation, but also because the Afrikaner culture is not welcome in many parts of the country.

Those who love to read will quickly realize that when we read about the older days, there is a longing back to a time we never knew. A time where the Afrikaner heritage was not reduced to a day and was controlled by braai advertisements. The Afrikaner heritage is a rich heritage, but it has become increasingly poor over the generations. We have forgotten that the Bible says in Proverbs 13:22: “A good man lets his grandchildren inherit.”

We read in various history books that the Afrikaner heritage at the time, in the time of our grandfathers and grandmothers, was founded in the Lord. We must not allow ourselves to fall into the delusion that every Afrikaner was a Christian, but we must also be able to recognize that at that time more Afrikaners maintained the Word of the Lord in society than is done today.

We think of some examples such as the Afrikaans language which became official so that we could translate the Bible into Afrikaans. Today, the Bible is no longer central in many households that are apparently “Christian”. Families often sang Psalms and songs together. Today, Afrikaans music is so earthy that it is almost only sung about women’s appearance.

We think of the shops that would close on Saturday afternoons and only resume business for the week on Monday morning. Today the people are in the shops rather than in the church. We think of meetings that opened with Scripture reading and prayer. Today we are not even allowed to talk about God and if we want to it must be in the plural. The time that feels so long ago, there were more God-fearing Afrikaners.

These are some examples and we must always guard against generalizing with examples, but the above examples are unfortunately a harsh truth. Anyone can confirm the above for themselves by engaging in conversation with their own grandmothers or grandfathers, or perhaps even walking through the corridors of an old people’s home and listening to stories there.

We read the striking words of Psalm 16:5-6: “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup; You sustain my destiny. The measuring tapes fell in lovely places for me, yes, my heritage is beautiful to me.”

The Psalm shows how believers’ highest goods are established only in the Lord. There is nothing better for the believers. The Lord is everything to the believer. We see this in our religious ancestors in how they dealt with their culture in society.

Our ancestors understood Proverbs 13:22: “A good man inherits his grandchildren, but a sinner’s property is stored away for a righteous one”. The believer who considers his relationship with the Lord and His Word as his most beautiful and most important inheritance will leave a beautiful inheritance for his grandchildren, but the sinner who strays from the Lord’s path has nothing to give to his children.

Our Afrikaner heritage did not revolve around one day. The heritage was much more than barbecuing and watching rugby, although these things are also fine and tasty. We have lost the heritage of our parents in today’s increasingly secular world. We Afrikaners once again need truly religious men and women who will seriously strive to leave the Lord, who is our highest good, as an inheritance for our children.

So we will immerse ourselves in our heritage on a daily basis. A true heritage, one founded in the Lord alone. We must not forget the rich heritage that is there for us.

  • Alistair van Heerden is a theological student at the Theological School Potchefstroom.