Desmond Tutu was a unique person. He assuredly played a vital role in the dismantling of the system of apartheid in South Africa.
He came to prominence in the years I trained for ministry at the University of Pretoria.
His biographical details are now all over the web for all to read; I will not table it now. A few observations about his life and work are in order.
(Tutu was Archbishop of Cape Town within the Church of the Provence of South Africa, a branch of high Anglicanism. There is also another branch of the Anglican Church in South Africa, the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa which is closely connected to the Sydney Diocese of Anglican church of Australia.
In 1972, Tutu was appointed as director of the Theological Education Fund (TEF) of the world Council of Churches (WCC). The TEF was established in 1958 in Ghana at the Assembly of the International Missionary Council. Mr. John D. Rockefeller jr., supporter of eugenics and who funded the Council on Foreign Relations, made a generous contribution to establish the work of the TEF.
The political and theological timelines of Tutu
Tutu’s background and personality fitted the appointment at TEF very well. As director, he rubbed shoulders with many influential personalities right across the globe. His acceptance in these circles was rewarded by many accolades. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, as well numerous other honours. He also became and Elder, an influential elite group of world leaders who generally has the same objectives as the UN.
Ghana as location for the establishment of the TEF is probably not without significance.
That country gained independence in 1957. The first prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah, had spent much time in America and England for further education, with varied success. Whilst in London, he became an organiser for the Pan-African Congress, which had as goal to supplant African colonialism with socialism. The rest of the colonies in Africa followed suit.
Supplanting the traditional tribal systems with socialism created a vacuum for Africans: they were eager to be freed from colonial powers, but what they got was another form of oppression: Marxist socialism. Many of the new ‘democratic’ governments could only function with the support of Soviet powers. Unstable and corrupt governments could only stay in power by military oppression. The Congo, Zaire and Zimbabwe serve as examples. Don’t forget the monumental catastrophe of what South Africa has become in the last 20 or so years.
Was this the background against which Tutu said: “If the Russians were to come to South Africa, most Blacks would welcome them as saviours.”? (St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, November 1984)
Or was it his inspiration for him declaring that, “Communist China will provide a very good model for developing countries.” (Washington Inquirer, 29.8.86)
The WCC and Communism
By 1972, most reformed denominations in South Africa had withdrawn their support from the WCC because of its support to communist organisations in South Africa, Rhodesia, South West Africa (Namibia), Angola and Mozambique. In effect, the WCC supported the principle of getting rid of age-old tribal customs and traditions in favour of Pan-African Marxist socialism. Their catchcry was freedom from oppression by colonial powers.
For readers who are unfamiliar with South African history, the relationship between the African National Congress (ANC) were so close, that most members of the ANC also held membership of the South African Communist Part, and vice versa, Mr Nelson Mandela included. In 1960, Mandela proposed the formation of an armed wing of the ANC, uMkhonto weSizwe (MK)- “The Spear of the Nation” – to overthrow the South African Government through violence. Their army would be trained outside South Africa, and would after training cross the borders back to infiltrate society to attack installations as instructed by the High Command of MK.
Soon after MK was formed, they started planning the sabotage of public buildings and other terrorist attacks. As one put it, an “armed struggle – violence. And it set this in the context of Marxist theory and communist theory, and revolutionary practice.” When this plan was interrupted by the security forces, 48,000 landmines and 210,000 other explosive devices had already been manufactured.
The perpetrators were fairly represented, heard and sentenced at the Rivonia trail. Mandela was not jailed for being a black activist. The charge against him and his cohorts was their active participation in violently disrupting law and order, which would include large scale loss of life through the means of explosives.
What was Tutu’s view of Mandela? “Mandela is my leader, and I am not going to be dictated to as to who should be my leader.” (The Star, 16.8.85)
Leading up to his appointment at the TEF, Tutu had already become known as a political activist in South Africa. His thinking was drenched in Liberation Theology, which was one of the subjects we had to study as part of our curriculum. This ‘theology’ sees political means as the answer to oppression, often emphasizing Marxism as the particular form of government that would provide liberation. Tutu’s theology and practice helped us to appreciate and interpret the unbiblical tenets of Liberation theology!
Tutu: “I am a socialist. I hate capitalism.” (Sunday Times, 29.12.85). “I think I would use Marxist insights, ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.’ That, I think, is in line with what Our Lord, himself, would have taught.” (Inside South Africa, April 1988)
Tutu also declared in 1980 when the terrorist Robert Mugabe became president of Zimbabwe: “When justice prevails over injustice as in Zimbabwe, it shows that the kingdom of God is here already.”
Gay and lesbian issues
That Tutu was a Marxist socialist is clear from his support of the gay movement. Under his leadership female priests were allowed in the Anglican church. Tutu likened the exclusion of women from the position to apartheid. He also appointed gay priests to senior positions and privately criticised the church’s insistence that gay priests remain celibate.
“If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn’t worship that God.”stated at the launching of the book “Sex, Love and Homophobia: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Lives.”
“If the church, after the victory over apartheid, is looking for a worthy moral crusade, then this is it: the fight against homophobia and heterosexism.”
In 2015 his daughter, Mpho Tutu, had to give up her position as an ordained priest after she married a woman. Tutu gave the newlywed couple a blessing anyway.
The Catholic website, Lifesite News, says of Tutu:
“On an international scale, Desmond Tutu opposes Catholic teaching on just about every non-negotiable moral issue. He’s a strident supporter of abortion, contraception, the homosexual agenda, and Marxist class warfare.”
Tutu said, “Planned parenthood is an obligation of those who are Christians.”
The Bishop appeared on a poster in front of the Marie Stopes clinic in Cape Town. He signed the declaration:
“Marie Stopes South Africa is doing invaluable work. Through their programmes they are raising awareness and understanding of sexual and reproductive health. They are empowering people and by providing information and access to sustainable high quality services that are giving people the opportunity to make informed decisions about their future and a choice.”
“Dying people should have the right to choose how and when they leave Mother Earth. I believe that, alongside the wonderful palliative care that exists, their choices should include a dignified assisted death.”https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/07/desmond-tutu-assisted-dying-world-leaders-should-take-action
How do we judge the role of a bishop? By the standards of the Scripture, of course!
“For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.”Titus 1:7-9
‘Holding fast the faithful word’? ‘By sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.’? Tutu sometimes had his own theological insights.
Here are a few:
- “We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low.”
- “Some people thought there was something odd about Jesus’ birth… It may be that Jesus was an illegitimate son.”
- “The Holy Spirit is not limited to the Christian Church. For example, Mahatma Gandhi, who is a Hindu… The Holy Spirit shines through him.”
Tutu claimed that he never supported violence, yet he made this remark: “One young man with a stone in his hands can achieve more than I can with a dozen sermons.” (Daily Telegraph, London, Nov. 1984) “Unless America puts pressure on South Africa… the only way forward is to overthrow the Government by force.”
He also suggested: “Imagine what would happen if only 30 percent of domestic servants (in white households) would poison their employers’ food.” (Volkskrant, Holland, 15.11.84).
“Suppose you gave them each a vial of arsenic… They look after the white people’s children…” (WNBC-TV Dec. 85)
“Is it not surprising that Black resistance has not yet blown up a schoolbus with white children? They are the softest targets.” (Sunday Times, 26.l.86)
“There will be no sympathy for the Jews when the Blacks take over.” (Boston Jewish Times, Nov. 21, 1986)
In 1994, political power was peacefully transferred to the African National congress when Nelson Mandela became president. Tutu participated in the religious part of the ceremony.
* In ensuing years, and average of 20,000 South African civilians have been killed in unrest per year.
* The economy is crippled by political corruption right to the highest level of government.
* Electricity supply can be cut to any suburb under the load sharing system, just because of the corruption and bad planning within ESKOM, the state-owned electricity company.
* South African Airways had been bankrupt, twice, because of corruption and bad management.
* At 44.4%, South Africa’s unemployment is the higest in the world. (https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2021/8/24/south-africas-unemployment-rate-is-now-the-worlds-highest.)
* Constant riots, looting and unrest cripples national life. South Africa cannot not attract important and needed international investment.
* The scourge of the Rainbow nation is the farm murders. In 2019 alone, 57 farmers were killed in 552 attacks.
Try to find the voice of Desmond Tutu in regards to these brutal attacks anywhere on the internet. I tried, but it is not there. ‘The Arch’ was silent!
Tributes in Abundance
Tributes after the death of Tutu streamed in from all over the world: the Queen, former Pres Obama. European Parliament President David Sassol, European Council President Charles Michel, Pope Francis, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Irish President Michael D Higgins, Sir Richard Branson, and others.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, called Tutu “a prophet and priest, a man of words and action – one who embodied the hope and joy that were the foundations of his life.”
Members of the LGBT community in Cape Town paid tribute to Tutu. LGBT activist, Saya Pierce-Jones remembered Tutu: “What the Arch (referring to Desmond Tutu by his often-used nickname) has done really well his entire lifetime was stick to the ideas of promoting absolute love, absolute acceptance and absolute kindness, no matter who you are, no matter your sexuality or race…”
Does the words of our Lord, Jesus Christ, apply to this bishop: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26, NKJV)