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Nicholas Bhengu — The Impact of an African Pentecostal on South African Society

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Nicholas Bhekinkosi Bhengu was founder and leader of the Back to God Crusade in South Africa. This movement started in the mid-1950s and became affiliated with the Assemblies of God in South Africa. But Bhengu's influence went far beyond the confines of the movement he started. His revivals impacted South African society in a profound way and he became internationally recognized as a powerful force for change in South Africa. Controversially, however, he did not enter into the political arena as such, even though he was at one stage of his life a member of the Communist Party of South Africa and even later on in his career continued to affirm the policies of this party. Though apparently apolitical his message had profound political consequences. For example he did much to promote the self-confidence and dignity of his people (despite the dehumanising influences of apartheid which he openly denounced), he insisted on reconciliation between the so-called 'red' people and the so-called 'school' people amongst South African black Africans, and he politely but veryfirmly rejected the standards imposed by white society on blacks. There were also very specific reasons — both theological, philosophical, and pragmatic — why he chose not to become a political activist. His is therefore a very significant case study of the socio-political influences of a ministry that was not overtly political.


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