A new release by 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu
titled “God is Not A Christian
” is a joyous and wonderful look at the principles and philosophy of the famous South African Archbishop who gained world recognition with his stand against apartheid and then his benevolent reconciliation with those whom he opposed. “God is Not A Christian” is one of the most moving, Christian works you will ever read. It ranks with the great speeches by Martin Luther King
or Nelson Mandella
. President Obama wrote: “For decades (Tutu) has been a moral titan, a voice of principle, an unrelenting champion of justice, and a dedicated peacemaker. . .an outspoken voice for freedom and justice in countries across the globe; a staunch defender of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons."
A recent article in the Huffington Post
included a brief excerpt from the book. In the excerpt, the archbishop is speaking on a mission to Birmingham, England in 1989:
They tell the story of a drunk who crossed the street and accosted a pedestrian, asking him, "I shay, which ish the other shide of the shtreet?" The pedestrian, somewhat nonplussed, replied, "That side, of course!" The drunk said, "Shtrange. When I wash on that shide, they shaid it wash thish shide." Where the other side of the street is depends on where we are. Our perspective differs with our context, the things that have helped to form us; and religion is one of the most potent of these formative influences, helping to determine how and what we apprehend of reality and how we operate in our own specific context.
My first point seems overwhelmingly simple: that the accidents of birth and geography determine to a very large extent to what faith we belong. The chances are very great that if you were born in Pakistan you are a Muslim, or a Hindu if you happened to be born in India, or a Shintoist if it is Japan, and a Christian if you were born in Italy. I don't know what significant fact can be drawn from this -- perhaps that we should not succumb too easily to the temptation to exclusiveness and dogmatic claims to a monopoly of the truth of our particular faith. You could so easily have been an adherent of the faith that you are now denigrating, but for the fact that you were born here rather than there.
My second point is this: not to insult the adherents of other faiths by suggesting, as sometimes has happened, that for instance when you are a Christian the adherents of other faiths are really Christians without knowing it. We must acknowledge them for who they are in all their integrity, with their conscientiously held beliefs; we must welcome them and respect them as who they are and walk reverently on what is their holy ground, taking off our shoes, metaphorically and literally. We must hold to our particular and peculiar beliefs tenaciously, not pretending that all religions are the same, for they are patently not the same. We must be ready to learn from one another, not claiming that we alone possess all truth and that somehow we have a corner on God.
God Transcends Man’s Religions
In a world full of strife, angst, hatred and prejudice, the kindly Archbishop reminds us that we all are, and always have been, one under God. We are finite and God is infinite. Instead of fighting about what makes our own religious perspective the unequivocal voice of God, we should have empathy and love for all people and seek the common basis of faith and perspective that all mankind shares.
Tutu goes on to say: We should in humility and joyfulness acknowledge that the supernatural and divine reality we all worship in some form or other transcends all our particular categories of thought and imagining, and that because the divine -- however named, however apprehended or conceived -- is infinite and we are forever finite, we shall never comprehend the divine completely.
The essence of what Tutu says is that in all matters of prayer, meditation, and mysticism, we find similarities at the very core of all religions, such as forgiveness, love, generosity, and peace and that we should celebrate those similarities and unite what we share in common. We should spend less time pointing fingers and attempting to prove why our religion, our Christianity, and our beliefs are right and spend more time accepting and promoting God’s inherent, eternal love.
Yes, in Tutu’s eyes, God is not a Christian, he’s so much more.