Christianity is the religion of the majority of the South African population (between 60%-70%) and has great influence within South African society. Unfortunately, as in the case of any great power and source of such tremendous influence, its effect can be ambiguous. It can not only do good but also bad. In this paper this ambiguity is addressed with specific reference to the role of the Bible in public life. It is argued that, on the one hand, the use of the Bible as well as the Bible itself can be a serious stumbling block in the way of the promotion of respect for human rights, and, on the other hand, that the Bible can play an important role in the promotion of a culture of human rights in South Africa. In the first part of the paper four preliminary issues are discussed, namely, (i) important general distinctions in our understanding of human rights, (ii) the complexity of the Bible, (iii) the complexity of the contemporary interpretation of the Bible and (iv) the issue of the use of the Bible in public discourse. Following this, the paper deals with the dark side of the use of the Bible with regard to human rights issues and possible strategies to deal with this dark side. The paper concludes with a few remarks about the bright side of human rights and the Bible.
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