Friday, September 13, 2013

An evening with Desmond Tutu

A little scrap of paper gained entrance to an evening of greatness with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa's best known cleric in its long struggle to end apartheid. His appearance at Butler University marked the establishment of a Center carrying his name and his legacy in peacemaking and reconciliation. Established by the Dungy Family Foundation (Tony Dungy was a longtime coach and took Indiana's Colts to football greatness), it pays tribute to two great men and to Indiana's long journey out of racial hatred. Truly irony was served: Less than a century ago Indiana's center of power was ruled by the Ku Klux Klan; today that physical space is inhabited by a Center for leadership in peacemaking, bridgebuilding, reconciliation and justice. Equally true, "...the moral arc of history bends toward justice" as Martin Luther King reminded the nation 50 years ago.

The evening was filled with laughter...the Archbishop's hearty, cackling well as probing truths. There were too many to record, but here are a few:

  • God is NOT evenhanded. He is notoriously biased in favor of the downtrodden, the poor, and the outcast.
  • In 1994 the young people of the United States changed the moral climate of the world when they gathered again and again in protest of apartheid. "You had a popular president, named Ronald Reagan, who was against sanctions against South Africa. He vetoed legislation aimed at bringing down apartheid, but Congress overrode that veto. We thank them for changing history." At this point Tutu urged the crowd to pretend they were South African and express their thanks to that group of people....there was a loud ovation.
  • When the missionaries came to South Africa the Africans had the land and the white folks had the Bible. The missionaries said "let us pray" and when eyes reopened the white folks had the land and the Africans had the Bible. Most felt that the Africans got the raw end of the deal, but not Tutu. "Not so" exclaimed Tutu, "the last thing you want to give oppressed people is the Bible. It is revolutionary!"
  • "Which Bible do you read?" Tutu asked. The same question that was asked of those in apartheid's leadership. "The things we do are not by anything political, but by faith."  Micah 6:8 "What does the Lord require of you but to walk justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God."
  • "Why was the Exodus a paradigmatic event? It is an insight into the nature of God. God didn't wait until the people were 'deliverable.' They were anything but a nice bunch; they were...slaves and a real pain in the ****. Those are the people God freed. Remember the story of Jesus and the lost sheep? The pictures always show a fluffy, nice sheep on his shoulders. Not so...the 'nice' ones stayed with their mommies; the ones in need of rescue left mommy's side & got dirty, cut, & bloodied going their own way.  Even in Christ's birth God chose a couple who couldn't even rate a room at the inn. Can you imagine anyone saying that the little boy running around Bethlehem was...GOD? God's standards are very low." 
  • Tutu reminded the crowd of the verse of Jesus "...if I be lifted up I will draw all men to me." All, all, all will be drawn into the Divine Embrace, he emphasized.
  • In response to "What would you say about America's role in the current Syria crisis?" Tutu: "Americans are smart people; you learned your lesson in 2003. Americans are the most generous people on earth. You are masters and mistresses of philanthropy. Why don't you drop food instead of bombs?"