No one, including him, expected Dean T. Simon Farisani to survive the torture he suffered at the hands of the South African police. Before his imprisonment, Farisani, a black Lutheran pastor from Venda, South Africa, weighed 200 pounds. Two months later, he weighed only 120 and had to be hospitalized for almost four months. During a recent visit to the United States, sponsored by Lutheran World Ministries, the 35-year-old Farisani told his gruesome story.

“They banged my head against the wall, pulled off my hair and my beard,” he said. “They made me lie on my back, raise my legs and they kicked me in my private parts. There was blood all over, my head was swollen, and I was breathing through the ears because my eardrums were punctured. I had holes in my knees I could put my fingers in.”

He continues: “Then they took me to a more sophisticated torture station. They undressed me, covered my head in a canvas bag, poured water on the floor and over my head, and connected an electric wire to my ear lobes and to the back of my head. They poured a gluelike substance down my spinal cord and they set the electric current on. I fell into the water; it was terrible.”

Farisani was one of four clergymen among 20 people arrested in connection with the bombing of a police station in October 1981, in which two were killed. A close friend of Farisani’s, a lay preacher named Tshifhiwa Muofhe, was also arrested. Muofhe died during imprisonment and a Venda inquest court determined in July 1982 that Muofhe had been tortured to death by the same policemen who tortured Farisani.

Farisani was never formally charged with the bombing incident. At the time, he was in Johannesburg, hundreds of miles away, attending a council meeting of the Evangelical Lutheran church, and he claims police knew it. Farisani believes he was tortured for his strong stand against apartheid, which, he preaches, is the policy of the devil. From 1973 to 1975 Farisani was president of the Black People’s Convention, which he describes as the founder of the black consciousness movement in South Africa and the main black political organization of Africans, coloreds (people of mixed race) and Indians. The organization was banned by the government in 1977.

Farisani was jailed a month after the bombing incident. He said security police told him he had to die because of his antiapartheid philosophy. They ordered him to write a letter to his superior bishop, his church, and his wife saying he had escaped. Had he done so, he says, he would have been killed immediately. But he refused to write the letters, so about a month after his imprisonment, the torture began. It lasted from 6:30 in the morning till the afternoon. He says that when he screamed, the police would mock him with shouts of “Hallelujah” and “Praise the Lord,” before suggesting he call on his God for help mocking his faith.

Article continues below

Finally he could take no more. “I could not afford to be brave,” he says. “I tried but failed. I was defeated.” He wrote what the authorities wanted, but soon after that he told a magistrate that he wrote it because he was being tortured. Meanwhile the word of his imprisonment and of Moufhe’s death had spread, even beyond South Africa’s borders. Farisani says that it would have been politically unwise for authorities to kill him or hold him any longer. He was released.

Farisani plans to return to South Africa, but he has no plans to modify his antiapartheid theme. He predicts what this could cost him: “One day I will be punished horribly for every word and syllable I have uttered, and then I will curse the day I was born.” But apparently his suffering has only made him more loving. “I thank the Lord,” he says, “that I have emerged from this without hatred; the more you suffer, the more difficult it is to hate.”

Pat Robertson believes a “law of reciprocity” operates in God’s universe, assuring that those who give will receive. For further proof of its existence, he need only check the sales receipts from his new book, The Secret Kingdom.

For years, Robertson has spent considerable time giving advice on his television program, “The 700 Club,” and in a sporadic newsletter called Perspective. He interprets world events in light of biblical prophecy, filtering them through his background in law, economics, and theology, and packaging the result in a way that makes sense to Christians hungry for a faith with practical application.

In return, loyal viewers—and seemingly all their cousins—are buying his book at a rate that far exceeds any other Christian best seller in the first few months after its release. Four months after its September 1982 publication date, the book entered its eighth printing with 288,000 copies in circulation. Contributors to Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network received 102,000 copies as gifts, and the rapid sale of the remaining 186,000 astonished even the book’s promoters at Thomas Nelson Publishers in Nashville, Tennessee.

Mark Cady, national sales manager for Nelson’s book division, said, “We would have been quite pleased to sell 75,000 copies,” ranking the book in its early-month sales with other Christian best sellers such as Francis Schaeffer’s A Christian Manifesto, Charles Colson’s Born Again, and Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth.

Article continues below

Manifesto sold 51,000 copies in the three months following its release in November, 1981, and total sales are just over 276,000. Lindsey’s end-times analysis got off to a sluggish start in May 1970, taking eight months to sell 135,000 copies. To date, its sales surpass 10.5 million.

Cady said buyers at two leading secular bookstore chains, Dalton and Walden, were initially as reluctant to accept Robertson’s book as they are with most Christian titles. But after a few copies sold out, both chains retrieved the book from the far reaches of the religion section and gave it prominent frontdoor display.

A brief shelf life at a Dalton store helps ensure notice on secular bestseller lists—a prize beyond the grasp of almost all Christian titles. The Secret Kingdom, however, rose to fourth place on Time magazine’s nonfiction list and cracked the top ten with Ingrams, the nation’s largest secular book wholesaler.

It held the number-one spot on Bookstore Journal’s list of top sellers in Christian bookstores in January and February. Unlike secular best-seller sales, which Cady said “explode and then die after about six months,” most Christian books gain in popularity gradually, becoming known by word of mouth.

In Robertson’s case, that process is accelerated by his daily television broadcasts reaching 3 million viewers per week. But he has written two other books, Shout It From the Housetops and My Prayer for You, which lacked a broad mass appeal.

His new volume, written with CBN executive vice-president Bob Slosser, is an apologetic of Christ’s statement that “the kingdom of God is at hand.” The book identifies eight laws, or “kingdom principles,” which are “every bit as valid for our lives as the law of thermodynamics or the law of electricity.”

They form a biblical blueprint for conduct and attitude among citizens of “the secret kingdom.” The eight laws “pose a realistic alternative” for a society rapidly running short of solutions. They accommodate neither left-nor right-wing politics, consisting instead of virtues to be cultivated individually and corporately in order to know and act on God’s will. These include humility, servanthood, good stewardship, perseverance, generosity, diligence in work, unity or harmony with others, and dominion over the rest of creation.

Article continues below

Robertson arrived at his conclusions by pretesting the kingdom principles in his own life and at CBN. His “law of reciprocity,” for example, is derived from Christ’s words in Luke 6:38: “Give and it will be given to you.” CBN has made a practice of tithing its income to other Christian ministries, making sizeable donations to groups including the National Association of Evangelicals, Christian Legal Society, and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

The ministry of Operation Blessing distributed $2 million in cash through 8,500 churches nationwide to help the needy in 1982. Robertson attributes a double-digit percent increase in contributions to CBN during recession-wracked 1982 directly to a commitment to conscientious stewardship.

The Secret Kingdom avoids specific speculation about the future—a characteristic of Robertson’s earlier newsletter and some of his broadcasts. Instead of rushing headlong toward Armageddon, Robertson believes the world is presently in a holding pattern, and he has compared President Ronald Reagan to the Bible’s King Josiah, whose benevolent rule over Israel postponed God’s inevitable judgment.

Shortly before his newsletter ended last year, Robertson warned of multiple crises that could “see the world in flames” with “near panic in financial markets” by the end of 1982. Robertson’s readings of Isaiah and Ezekiel led him to conjecture about imminent Soviet adventurism in the Middle East.

But these events did not materialize, and Robertson said he experienced a direct leading from the Lord. In a letter to supporters, he wrote that God told him, “You take care of my work, and I will take care of the world’s crises.” Robertson was to turn his attention to the “primary mission of bringing the knowledge of the kingdom of God and of his salvation in Christ to entire nations around the world,” the letter said.

Churches planted a generation ago in Cuba by one missionary agency are alive and growing today. That is the report of Carl Walter, the overseas director for United World Mission (UWM), a group whose original focus was on Cuba but whose staff left the island 22 years ago. He visited Cuba last fall, visiting churches and speaking at an all-day retreat for pastors and their families without restriction. Last summer the UWM-initiated denomination held its thirty-sixth annual conference at Cabañas.

World Radio Missionary Fellowship, best known for its radio station HCJB in Quito, Ecuador, has set up a network of three affiliated stations in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas. Two new stations will carry gospel broadcasts in Spanish full-time.

Article continues below

The Church of England rejected unilateral disarmament by 338 votes to 100 at its general synod in London in February, and supported in principle the British nuclear deterrent. At the same time it appealed to all nuclear powers to renounce formally the first use of nuclear weapons. Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie told a packed house: “Since I believe that the unilateralist approach would undermine disarmament negotiations in progress, without exerting much exemplary influence, I cannot accept unilateralism as the best expression of a Christian’s prime moral duty to be a peacemaker.”

Billy Graham was turned down by the Council of Churches in the Netherlands when he asked its churches to furnish lodging for the 2,500 participants expected in Amsterdam in July for his conference for itinerant evangelists. In declining to help, the council voiced the view that the kind of evangelism fostered by the conference is too aggressive and does not show proper respect for other religious traditions. The council sent a note to its churches, giving them the option of participating in the event if they choose to.

Churches in Mozambique have grown dramatically over the last 20 years in spite of rigid control. A retired missionary with Africa Evangelical Fellowship, after a seven-week visit to northern Mozambique, reported that the churches formerly affiliated with AEF had multiplied ten-fold to 450 churches with 44,000 baptized believers. Church meetings may be held only with government permission and only in registered church buildings.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.