My friend, I am a Christian. It is not in my heart to hate a white man. It was a white man who brought my father out of darkness.
Here, Msimangu explains that, despite the inequality in South Africa imposed by white people, his religion does not allow him to feel hatred for others. In the novel, religion operates as a strong force that helps black people live through what is happening in their country. Msimangu says these words to Kumalo after telling him that his brother, John, no longer believes in religion. Later, readers learn of John’s anger, suggesting that religion could help him feel more at peace.
He paused for a moment, then he said, I do not wish to offend you gentlemen, but the Church too is like the chief. You must do so and so and so. You are not free to have an experience. A man must be faithful and meek and obedient, and he must obey the laws, whatever the laws may be.
Here, John explains to Kumalo that he prefers living in Johannesburg to Ndotsheni because he is not under the control of any tribal chief. He then compares religion to a chief, as religion imposes arbitrary rules on its followers and restricts their freedom. While Kumalo and Msimangu take comfort in their religious rituals and beliefs, John views religion as just another way of controlling black men.
The truth is that our Christian civilization is riddled through and through with dilemma. We believe in the brotherhood of man, but we do not want it in South Africa. We believe that God endows men with diverse gifts, and that human life depends for its fullness on their employment and enjoyment, but we are afraid to explore this belief too deeply.
James Jarvis reads this excerpt from his son Arthur’s writing. While Kumalo and Msimangu embrace and John outright rejects religion, Arthur stands as the only character who truly grapples with religion throughout in the novel. Even though the rules in South Africa are supposedly based on the Christian doctrine, the rules do not treat all men, particularly black men, in what Arthur believes is a Christ-like way. While Arthur sees the merits of religion and Christianity, he does not see those merits implemented in South Africa.