Desmond Tutu was recently interviewed on “Speaking of Faith.” (Download the MP3 of the interview here). I’ve always felt a super natural connection to this man which until recently I had decided was due to what often happens when people find out that I am named Desmond. There is a certain brand of dry wit that possesses some to point out that he and I share monikers by referring to me as one of the following names:
- Desmond Too
- Desmond Tutu
- Desmond Tutu Too
After hearing him speak, I cannot help but imagine that my connection with him runs much deeper – asking some of the same spiritual questions and thinking some of the same spiritual thoughts. This is not to place myself in, around, or near the same league as Desmond Tutu but, rather, to say that where his heart and soul and mind have already travelled I dream of going.
Tutus experiences with life during Apartheid in South Africa have certainly contributed to his perspective on the planet. I have to admit that, prior to this interview, I had no real understanding about Apartheid other than to know it was a bad thing. It is certainly on my radar now. If you are like me in this regard, in short Apartheid was Church-sanctioned, politically-enforced white-supremacy – it literally translates as “apartness”.
From the interview:
When the Dutch Colonial Afrikaner Nationalist Party came to power in South African in 1948, it decreed white supremacy in perpetuity, codifying the policy of apartheid, which literally translates as “apartness.” Comprehensive separation and brutalization of the 80 percent majority population of non-whites became the law of the land.
Desmond Tutu grew up, like other black children, in a ghetto township marked by deprivation unlike the towns in which white children lived. He stresses that his childhood was not devoid of joy. Children adapt; he played with his friends. But there were many moments which he traces as early stirrings of his sense of injustice, experiences that reminded him and others, as he says, of their second-, third-, fourth-class citizenship, though they did not even have citizenship.
Tutu says that we are created for goodness – a concept I deeply believe in. In the face of these injustices, his soul stirred with a general sense of awe, wonder, and hope that is completely encompassed in what has become a motto of his, that “God is in control.” Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism? Obviously, in the face of brutality and inequality it is comforting to think that “this, too, shall pass” and we’ll be reunited with our creator. This is escapism, is it not? Tutu’s claim of almighty control, though, is more deeply rooted in a belief that the God of the hear and now has our best interests in mind.
He speaks of the first time he as able to vote and compares that experience with the general apathy of the west. For westerners, voting is sometimes a chore, a duty, a responsibility that is sometimes done begrudgingly. When Tippett asked Tutu to relay his feelings about the first vote that he had ever cast, he response was in the form of a quesiton:
“How do you describe falling in love?”
Tippett also asked him about his feelings about homosexuality – Desmond Tutu is well known in his church for holding very liberal, relatively speaking when it comes to such topics. His response, at the time didn’t fully hit me – because I relate so closely to the views that Tutu holds, perhaps I simply assumed we were on the same page. What I have since realized is that he’s is so much further through the book than I am, it’s incredible!
From the transcript:
Well, you know, there are, yes, many in Africa in the Anglican Church who hold views that I wouldn’t hold my self over this. And I’ve of ten said what a shame. I mean, really, what a disgrace that the church of God in the face of so much suffer ing in the world, in the face of conflict, of corruption, of all of the awful things, what is our obsession? Our obsession is not minister ing to a world that is aching. Our obsession is about sexual orientation. I’m sure, I mean, the Lord of this church look ing down at us must weep and say, “Just what did I do wrong now?”
Just what did I do wrong now? What an incredible question to imagine God asking – not that the world is somehow unholy or not a part of the church – but that “God’s people” seemingly couldn’t care less about the suffering and aching and pain all around us and are more interesting in debating the relatively sin-liness of various social issues.
How can we who say that we’re children of God be so off base? How could we have so clearly missed the point?
There’s something else that Desmond Tutu said . . . God is bigger than Christianity . . . that’s coming next.