Is Mandela Day tantamount to Idolatry?

Before I begin, I wish to say that as a South African I have the utmost respect for Nelson Mandela and wish him a happy 95th birthday today. He is an inspirational man who played an important role in leading South Africa’s transition from racist dictatorship to multiracial democracy and rehabilitated our image in front of the world. He respected the rule of law, helped build our institutions of democracy and even had the decency to retire voluntarily (something few African leaders do).

That said, his record was not perfect. He ignored violent crime, he ignored AIDS (the latter of which he admitted and did much to raise awareness of in his retirement) and his choice of cabinet appointees (some of whom are still in government) ranged from average to downright poor.

While he deserves congratulations, I am uncomfortable with Mandela day; firstly, while he deserves our congratulations and prayers, the level of fawning and adulation he receives is excessive and embarrassing and smacks of idolatry to me (I’m not even sure Mandela would feel comfortable with that). This is particularly so when it comes from leftist politicians and activists in the USA (and I apologize to any Americans reading this, no offence intended), most of whom can’t even find South Africa on a map.

Why not just wish him “happy birthday” and get on with our lives? After all, we don’t have a Pope John Paul II day, Mother Theresa Day or a Dalai Lama day.

No offense taken. I’ve had the same feelings concerning how Martin Luther King Day is celebrated here - not about his accomplishments, but the demi-god like adulation as you described too.

The Dalai Lama is very much fawned over - don’t know about his having his own day, but in Tibet he probably does.

As for Blessed Teresa and soon-to-be Saint JP2 - as Blesseds they have their own days, where the Church celebrates them, called feasts. And unlike Mr Mandela, we DO reckon they are in heaven and therefore quite literally perfectly sinless, that they literally perform miracles. And we pray to them, which as far as I know no-one does to Mandela.

I’m sure China wouldn’t allow that.

There is no law that YOU have to celebrate it. He has inspired many, let them enjoy the celebration and you go in peace.

Sorry, should be ‘among Tibetans’ (many of whom, including the DL, live outside Tibet)

I agree with your point on Mother Theresa and Blessed John Paul II. But as for your assertion that no one “prays” to Mandela, just watching the levels of hysteria his name conjures up, and I’m not so sure.

Oh good grief. :rolleyes:

Just because someone has a day doesn’t mean that people worship them. My birthday is one of my favorite holidays and I act like a total princess that day. Well, more so than normal days. :smiley:

We also celebrate the birthdays of former presidents - Lincoln & Washington.

What I find most interesting is that most of the activist that “adore” him are promoting exactly the same thing against which Mandela fought for many years: a huge majority being forced to live under the laws and rule of a minority.

Exactly. I am QUEEN for that day. :wink:

We Catholics celebrate all kinds of Saint’s feasts, some quite seriously, esp. the BVM, with processions, carrying statues, etc. And we don’t consider it idolatry or worship.

Nelson Mandela is a hero to many people, and people have always honored their heroes. That is not worship.



I think it’s important to have secular heroes that represent the battle against real and dehumanising ideologies that threaten humanity. It’s ridiculous to idolise sport and movie stars the way we do, but to feel adulation for real heroes like Lech Walesa against Communism and Oskar Schindler against anti-Semitism and Mandela against apartied, is an important defense against their re-emergence in the world.



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