Remembering Archbishop Desmond Tutu
According to Wikipedia: “Desmond Mpilo Tutu OMSG CH GCStJ (7 October 1931 – 26 December 2021) was a South African Anglican bishop and theologian, known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist. He was Bishop of Johannesburg from 1985 to 1986 and then Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996, in both cases being the first black African to hold the position. Theologically, he sought to fuse ideas from black theology with African theology. Tutu was born of mixed Xhosa and Motswana heritage to a poor family in Klerksdorp, South Africa …”.
As I have often said when writing my own version of an obituary on someone famous who had recently died, who had profoundly impacted many, including myself, the fact that I can do so is because people who fit the bill are dying off around me all the time and I may well be the next to go (albeit not famous or influential). Before writing, I then narrow, my selection of blogworthy characters down to my “true, necessary and kind” criteria I try to adopt and only write if I can do so in an overall positive vein. I was unsure, I could honestly do so with Tutu, even though there was a lot to admire.
I have never been able to eradicate from my memory one of the early instances when Tutu came to my attention. I was in the early years following the dismantling of South African apartheid when he chaired the truth and reconciliation commission. It was not his just his support for Winnie Mandela, who endorsed the necklacing of alleged police informers and apartheid government collaborators, and her security detail carried out kidnapping, but the sanctimonious, patronising way he dismissed the hurts and concerns of the families of those who had suffered under Mandela United. Then there was his dodgy theology that would have led many astray. One detractor posts this video and writes: “I perceive the Death of Bishop Tutu will open up the door of controversy within the RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY. As a Man he made many statements negating and contradicting The Word of God. I cannot judge whether he is Born Again or not Only The Lord Knows. Hell is about eternal separation from The Father and I don’t wish that upon any individual besides we would miss that intoxicating laugh of his. South Africa is in mourning today as we awake to the passing of The Archbishop. Yes a true humanitarian it cannot be denied. The Anglican Church as we know is a breakaway of Catholicism and one must ask oneself did their Doctrine change significantly. Over the years the Arch as he is reverently referred to has made numerous statements contradicting the very core foundations of scripture. Believers in Christ cannot accept that he makes Jesus to be simply a humanitarian. The Resurrection of Jesus and His Ascension is a foundation stone of True Believers. All Believers who have been Baptised in The Holy Spirit surely knows this as He witnesses with our our own spirit. I fully understand many will criticize this statement. I have no intention of demeaning his achievements. However I make it to prevent the flock being led astray by New Age Doctrine”.
There are many tributes to be found from doing Google searches, but I was interested in the, often glowing tributes, coming from Facebook friends, usually those more left, liberal leaning and focusing on social justice issues, who saw in Desmond Tutu someone who had inspired them, rather than the conservative, anti-woke, reactionary brigade, with other pre-occupations, I am often linked to. One friend introduced his tribute with words that could have easily come from Tutu’s lips: “Bitterness can threaten and destroy what is good in our lives. In contrast, forgiveness can release us into wholeness”. He begins his article with: “This week the world said goodbye to one of its most attractive personalities. Archbishop Desmond Tutu became a globally-recognised figure in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. His faith, passion, bravery and humour inspired the world”. He then goes on to provide several credible examples / areas in which Tutu had made a positive difference, before concluding: “So lets be thankful for the amazing life and ministry of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. But even better, lets consider how we can put his example into practice”.
It could be that both pictures, I have tried to present in this admittedly short evaluation of Desmond Tutu’s life that clearly had a profound bearing on events on planet earth in recent years, could be true but ultimately it is that of God Almighty, who all of us need to given an account to on that Day of Judgment, that really matters. None of us are perfect and while not excusing his imperfections, we can be thankful for the good Tutu did achieve and use it as an example for us to make a difference while we can.