Friday, September 29, 2006

Desmond Tutu: "Rabble Rouser for Peace"

Crossposted at Street Prophets, My Left Wing, Booman Tribune, and Daily Kos

This morning, the first thing I did after starting up my computer is search for any recent news articles about Desmond Tutu. The motivation to do so grew out of despair over the recent torture vote, feeling demoralized and generally like the fight has been beaten out of me. What's the point? Why even bother to keep trying? It's a feeling that I've seen expressed by a number of people recently.

I also know that giving up is not an option. One thing I remember from the forum I attended the other day on the theocracy movement in Ohio is a quote someone read from a book that is used by some Christian homeschoolers. The gist was that the apathy of many American voters is actually a blessing, because it allows dedicated "Christian" activists, through their persistence, to gradually transform American government. They are clearly doing that, and I don't see them giving up any time soon.

Anyway, it is at times like this that I am reminded of Desmond Tutu's perseverence. And I think of these words that Paul Loeb wrote about him two years ago...

A few years ago, I heard Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak at a Los Angeles benefit for a South African project. He’d been fighting prostate cancer, was tired that evening, and had taken a nap before his talk. But when Tutu addressed the audience he became animated, expressing amazement that his long-oppressed country had provided the world with an unforgettable lesson in reconciliation and hope. Afterwards, a few other people spoke, then a band from East L.A. took the stage and launched into an irresistibly rhythmic tune. People started dancing. Suddenly I noticed Tutu, boogying away in the middle of the crowd. I’d never seen a Nobel Peace Prize winner, still less one with a potentially fatal illness, move with such joy and abandonment.

Tutu, I realized, knows how to have a good time. Indeed, it dawned on me that his ability to recognize and embrace life’s pleasures helps him face its cruelties and disappointments, be they personal or political.

How I would love to find a picture of Desmond Tutu dancing. I think that would make a lot of people smile. And, as I mentioned, there are many of us who could use a renewed sense of hope and joy right about now. I, for one, could use a pep-talk from the likes of Desmond Tutu.

So I went searching for some words of wisdom from him. In the process of doing that, I learned that he is turning 75 on October 7.

And that there is a biography of Desmond Tutu scheduled for release at that time: Rabble-Rouser for Peace: The Authorized Biography of Desmond Tutu. It is discussed in this article at Beliefnet:
In the book, Tutu is candid about his gradual acknowledgment "that sexual orientation, like race or gender, was a given," Allen writes.

Because he had retired as archbishop of Cape Town in 1996, Tutu held his tongue publicly after Anglican prelates rejected "homosexual practice" as "incompatible with Scripture," in 1998. However, in a letter to the spiritual head of Anglicanism, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, Tutu wrote "I am ashamed to be an Anglican," according to Allen.

Moreover, the uproar created by the 2003 election of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson in New Hampshire filled Tutu with "sadness," Allen writes.

That controversy now threatens to tear apart the Anglican Communion, which consists of 38 individual geographic provinces.

"He found it little short of outrageous that church leaders should be obsessed with issues of sexuality in the face of the challenges of AIDS and global poverty," Allen writes.

Tutu also thinks that current archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, "was too accommodating of conservatives who demanded that the churches of the United States and Canada should recant their tolerance for gays and lesbians," or be kicked out of the Anglican Communion, according to Allen.

Tutu tells Allen that conservatives "have the freedom to leave," if they don't like the inclusiveness of the Anglican Communion.

I also learned that he's going to be a Distinguished Lecturer in Residence at the Semester at Sea in spring 2007. Read the article--it sounds very cool. I would love to be able to experience something like that. To be able to meet Desmond Tutu in person and learn from him.

Right now, though, I struggle to imagine what I could say to him, when I think of the way my country is continuing to disgrace itself. All I can think of is "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." And I'd want to say to him--although he *must* be aware of this--that there are many good people trying very hard to move this country in a better direction.

It's just that a lot of them are feeling really tired right now. But we're not giving up.

Alternate link for comments