The Spiritual Mandela<br><font size=2>Faith and Religion in the Life of Nelson Mandela</font>

The Spiritual Mandela
Faith and Religion in the Life of Nelson Mandela

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By: Dennis Cruywagen

In the first book of its kind, an acclaimed South African journalist and former parliamentary spokesperson for the ANC shares how Nelson Mandela balanced his Christian faith with his political views.

Nelson Mandela revealed nothing about his personal religious beliefs in his writings or in his public pronouncements. But those who were close to him know that he held Christian views. At his request, the final components of his funeral followed the Methodist service.

Acclaimed journalist Dennis Cruywagen traces the spiritual component of Mandela's life, from his youth in a traditional Thembu village to his education at Wesleyan and Methodist mission schools to his time as an activist to his period on Robben Island and the years thereafter. Based on interviews with some of Mandela's close colleagues, such as Ahmed Kathrada, as well as priests and other religious figures with whom he interacted, this book unearths an unknown dimension of one of recent history's most respected men.

Author Dennis Cruywagen is interviewed on Public Radio International's "The Takeaway" on Mandela Day.

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Dennis Cruywagen, author

Dennis Cruywagen is an acclaimed South African journalist and political commentator, as well as a former parliamentary spokesperson for the ANC. He previously served as deputy editor of the Pretoria News and a political reporter on the Cape Argus. He is a recipient of a Nieman Fellowship and a Mason Fellowship at Harvard University, and holds a master's degree from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He is also the author of Brothers in War and Peace, a detailed look at the lives of Abraham and Constand Viljoen.

Awards & Honors:

Coming Soon!

Editorial Reviews:

Publisher's Weekly, starred review

This insightful investigation of an often downplayed side of politician and activist Nelson Mandela from South African journalist Cruywagen (Brothers in War and Peace) provides a nuanced understanding of how faith influenced the renowned civil rights activist. The book begins with rich biographical details, providing context to frame Cruywagen’s claim that spirituality (though perhaps not organized religion itself) guided Mandela. Born into a royal lineage, Mandela’s father followed traditional religious practices, and it was not until Mandela’s mother became a Methodist that he was exposed to Christianity. His farseeing father realized that for his son to succeed in colonized South Africa, Mandela would need a Western education. At the time, the only way for black South Africans in his area to access education was through the schools offered by Methodist missionaries, so Mandela converted. Religion again played a key role in his life when the apartheid government imprisoned him. Throughout his time on Robben Island, he was exposed to the teachings of various religions, as religious leaders were among the few visitors the isolated prisoners were allowed to see. Though Mandela was publicly circumspect about his religious views, Cruywagen’s well-researched book offers a clear account of how religion threaded through his life.


Though South African journalist Cruywagen acknowledges that the life of Nelson Mandela has been examined by others in exhaustive detail, he argues that one important aspect of the iconic leader's life has been largely ignored: his deep spirituality and the Methodist beliefs he inherited from his mother and learned in more detail through being educated in Methodist schools. One reason for this absence has been Mandela's own reluctance to discuss such issues publicly, thinking as he did that acts of worship and spirituality are private matters. Cruywagen changes that in this spiritual biography. With his focus on spirituality and religious beliefs, the author tends to skate over the surface of Mandela's early life. It's not until Mandela has begun his 27 years in prison that Cruywagen undertakes his detailed examination of the leader's spiritual life. Thought he book, originally published in South Africa, may occasionally presume too much knowledge on the part of its American readers, it is nevertheless illuminating and an essential addition to studies of Mandela's life and work.


ISBN: 978-1-62354-530-7

ISBN: 978-1-63289-221-8 EPUB
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Page count: 240
6 x 9

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