Today, apparently, is a day to canonize Nelson Mandela. Even those on the Right are joining in the tributes, but my view is more ambiguous. Mandela should be congratulated for fostering a relatively peaceful transition from apartheid to whatever South Africa has become. It is a little much to say that South Africa is a functioning democracy because it is effectively a one-party state with loads of corruption. That one-party state has moved South Africa firmly in line with the ideology of the international left on a host of issues, including moral issues. My concern is with pro-lifers and Christians joining in the praise. Alveda King called him a “great gift to the world.”  In fact, she doesn’t mention Mandela’s support for the very thing she campaigns against: abortion. I’m not singling out King because plenty of pro-lifers are tweeting tributes and singing Mandela’s praises. Pope Francis praised Mandela for “promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth.” But that’s not true.

Heather Clark recently noted at the Christian News Network, Dr. Peter Hammond of Frontline Fellowship of Newlands, has criticized Mandela for pushing an extreme socially liberal agenda on South Africa, including abortion, pornography, and recognition of same-sex relationships. John Smeaton of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children points out Mandela’s “horrid record” on abortion, including signing a broad abortion law in 1996 when he was president, and later promoting homosexual rights and population control.

The Mandela record is much more complicated than the fawning tributes suggest. He headed a terrorist organization (the African National Congress), admitted to violent acts against the state and the public, was a member of the South African Communist Party and lied about it for  years, pushed a radical left-wing agenda once he was in power (and after), and helped deliver the South African government into the hands of his ANC, establishing what is essentially a one-party state.

Praise him for opposing apartheid; he deserves plaudits for not seeking revenge against his old enemies once he was released, especially when he attained power. But it makes no sense for pro-life Christians to praise Mandela’s example considering what he did with that power once he became president. A little balance is necessary in our reaction to the man who fought one injustice, but helped institute another.