Yearly Archives: 2011

Working with a rabble-rouser

Working with a rabble-rouser

From Times Online
October 10, 2007

John Allen spent 13 years following in the wake of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as the author of his biography, he explains what motivated the rabble-rouser and what kept him going through the dark days of apartheid

by Joanna Sugden

He’s been called an “angry, evil and embittered little bishop” by Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe which must be a badge of honour.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who turned 76 on Sunday, can claim so many titles, Nobel Peace Laureate, anti-apartheid activist, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but in his authorised biography, he is the rabble-rouser for peace. As apt a description as Mugabe’s is offensive.

John Allen, biographer and former pressman for the diminutive Archbishop took the title from Mrs Albertina Sisulu, leader of the United Democratic Front. After rallies in 1980s South Africa, she would gently berate him, “You’re a rabble-rouser!”

But it wasn’t until Tutu really started clashing with the South African government over racial segregation, that Allen thought “this man is the subject of a biography”.

“He doesn’t like confrontation, but when he sees people being mistreated he thinks ‘I have to speak out’”.

Allen followed the Archbishop’s work in South Africa while he was a journalist covering religion, and then worked as his press officer for 13 years. “It was hard to keep up with him – he had a depth of commitment of ministry where you stay with your flock, you do your job, which is to nurture them and be their confessor.”

Tutu was, according to Allen, “called to be with his people” and took that ministry seriously. “He was a rabble-rouser, but more than being an activist he had a fundamental concern for people – the mother or grandmother who just wanted to get on with their lives – it was when people like that, so-called ordinary people, when they suffered at the hands of the government, that’s what incensed him.”

It was also led him to work tirelessly to fulfill the instruction in Micah to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before God.

So how did he maintain the boundless enthusiasm for his work and for life in the dark days of apartheid?

“You can’t talk about Tutu without his prayer life,” says Allen, “It is integral to his faith, and his spirituality sustains him.” Everyday Allen worked with Tutu the Archbishop would rise at four o’clock in the morning spending the hours of dawn in prayer, exercising and in silence. Again in the middle of the day Tutu would, emulating Jesus, withdraw to be alone, as he would each evening.

“To get the ebullient Tutu, who connects with people, you have to give him the hours and hours of silence on which he depends,” says Allen, encapsulating the man as well as any of his grand titles.

Book extract

“Speaking Truth in Times of Crisis.”

David Rosman, New York Journal of Books

When people meet a man or woman of spirit, peace or national leadership, the reaction is almost always the same; there is an aura about these men and women that exudes power, confidence and leadership. I have not had the honor of sitting in the presence of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but believe he, too, meets this criterion. So when I had the opportunity to review a collection of his speeches and letters, I jumped at it.

The title—God Is Not a Christian—is intriguing. The Archbishop is as great of a humanist as he was a great leader of the Anglican Church, both before and after his retirement. Reading the title and the summary of the book, one is led to believe that it concerns world affairs, religious and racial tolerance, and the nonviolent protests initiated by Henry David Thoreau in Walden and carried forward by other religious leaders as Mahatmas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Editor John Allen makes this a story about South Africa, religion, apartheid, and tolerance. There are three sections that meet the expectations of the tiDavid Rosmantle. The first connects directly.

“That Christians do not have a monopoly of God is an almost trite observation,” said Bishop Tutu in a 1992 eulogy for his friend, the Catholic archbishop of Cape Town Steven Naidoo. Archbishop Tutu questioned the idea that it was only through Jesus Christ that one would find sanctuary with God. “We would have to dismiss as delusion and vanity the profound religious and ethical truths by . . .” the great leaders of the nonChristian faiths—a belief shared by Archbishop Naidoo.

Archbishop Tutu also bucked the tide of the conservative Anglican Church with his humanist stance concerning gays and lesbians. In Southwick Cathedral, London, he proclaimed that if he had one wish it would be “for the world to end the persecution of people because of their sexual orientation and hold them in thrall.” Here his love for the sanctity mankind and for human rights shines.

Finally comes Archbishop Tutu’s anguish over the plight of the Palestinians and the Israeli occupation. In a few words, he makes the distinction between the people of Israel and the government. From temples in New York City to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, his message remained the same: “It is because I am a black South African, and if you change names, the description of what is happening in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank could be a description of what is happening in South Africa.”

However, the Archbishop always refers back to the plight of the South African blacks and apartheid, to his religion and belief that his God is a god of tolerance and peace and understanding. This results in the collection reading more as a sermon from a leader of a great church and a great people. This is not a discussion of Archbishop Tutu’s role in the anti-apartheid movement as much as it is a discussion on how his faith in God and in mankind helped shape the lives of millions in the African continent and his South Africa.

This book is for those who are interested in the fight against apartheid and of the history of South African activism for freedom. It is for those interested in how the role of religion and Desmond Tutu contributed in the freedoms all South Africans have today. It is for those who believe that we do live in a “moral universe where ultimately right and goodness and justice, truth and freedom will always prevail over their ghastly counterparts.”

This book is for those who seek the African spirit of “Ubuntu: that “a person is a person only because of other people.” It is for those who seek interfaith tolerance, the wanting of sanctity for all lives and peace through understanding. It is for those who see wrongs to be righted and for those who prey on the weak to be punished in this world and the next—and to be forgiven in this world and the next. It is for those seeking a better understanding of the ministry of Desmond Tutu.

There are two working subtitles to this book. The copy reviewed showed “Speaking Truth in Times of Crisis.” The second, and the one most likely on the final printing, is “And Other Provocations.” Sometimes the truth is harder to understand and accept than the irritants they are meant to cure. The scripts provided in this title move more toward the former, for Archbishop Tutu never sees the crisis as simply irritants, but as the great struggle for freedom, equality, and self-determination.

Reviewer David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker, and college instructor in Communication, Ethics, Business and Politics.

‘God is bigger than Christians,’ Tutu says

Winnipeg Free Press – By: John Longhurst
Posted: 06/25/2011

Is God a Christian?

I must confess I had never asked myself that question. Then I heard about a new book about Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Titled God Is Not A Christian: And Other Provocations, the book is a collection of sermons, speeches and interviews given by the well-known South African pastor, who rose to prominence in the 1980s as a vocal and determined opponent of apartheid.

According to Tutu, the answer to the question is no — God is not a Christian.

“His concern is for all his children.” he is quoted as saying in the book. “To claim God exclusively for Christians is to make God too small and in a real sense is blasphemous. God is bigger than Christians and cares for more than Christians only.”

Some Christians might object to that line of thinking. Tutu anticipates their objection. For them, he has a question: “Can you tell us what God was before he was a Christian?”

In a 1989 speech to leaders of different faiths — a speech included in the book, and now circulating widely on the web — Tutu elaborated on this idea, beginning with a story of a drunk who crossed a street to ask a pedestrian a question.

“I shay, which ish the other shide of the shtreet?” the drunk asked. The pedestrian replied: “That side, of course!”

The drunk said, “‘Shtrange. When I wash on that shide, they shaid it wash thish shide.”

For Tutu, “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.”

His point, he went on to say, “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.”

The lesson to be drawn from these accidents of birth, he suggested, was not to “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.”

This realization, he stated, should make Christians open to learning from people of other faiths.

“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,” he stated.

But that doesn’t mean giving up one’s own deeply held convictions, he added.

“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.”

At the same time, he believes that members of all faiths should look for commonalities.

“We have enough that conspires to separate us,” he noted. “Let us celebrate that which unites us, that which we share in common.”

Tutu concluded his speech by saying “surely it is good to know that God (in the Christian tradition) created us all (not just Christians) in his image, thus investing us all with infinite worth… surely we can rejoice that the eternal word, the Logos of God, enlightens everyone — not just Christians, but everyone who comes into the world; that what we call the Spirit of God is not a Christian preserve, for the Spirit of God existed long before there were Christians, inspiring and nurturing women and men in the ways of holiness, bringing them to fruition, bringing to fruition what was best in all.”

God, he stated, “does not need us to protect him. Many of us perhaps need to have our notion of God deepened and expanded.”

Is God a Christian? Tutu says no. What do you think?

Find this article at:
http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/life/faith/god-is-bigger-than-christians-tutu-says-124532704.html

Op-Ed: ‘Tutu’s ‘God is not a Christian’ is as Christian as it gets!

Posted Jun 5, 2011 by Kelly Bowlin – Digital Journal

Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu’s recent new book shows why this man is a religious giant in the world today. “God is Not A Christian” is a Christian message to behold.

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 Mandela.

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.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/print/article/307615#ixzz1SNdqU2OW

Op-Ed: ‘Tutu’s ‘God is not a Christian’ is as Christian as it gets!

Tutu’s Zeal for the Precious Virtue of Freedom

Without us, God has no eyes; without us, God has no ears; without us, God has no arms or hands. God relies on us. Won’t you join other people of faith in becoming God’s partners in the world?” This is the essential question posed by Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu in this collection of sermons, speeches, and writings about his advocacy of faith-based social justice and religious tolerance.

Tutu’s courage and creativity in dealing with the scourge of apartheid in South Africa is well known, along with his formative role in the healing work of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Likewise his openness to interfaith cooperation in a world of severe need. But what has surprised many is his zeal for the precious virtue of freedom that stands behind both his controversial identification with the Palestinians and his fierce defense of gays and lesbians.

Covering 40 years in his ministry, this book is divided into sections on his impact as “Advocate of Tolerance and Respect,” “International Campaigner for Justice,” “Voice of South Africa’s Voiceless, ” and “South Africa’s Conscience.” Whether talking about restorative justice, human rights, celebrating differences, democracy in South Africa, or the price of freedom, Desmond Tutu speaks as a prophet whose message is not condemnation but a spiritual prodding from the heart. He invites us to join with believers from all religious traditions to begin together on the Great Work as God’s partners.

Spirituality and Practice

This Scrappy Bishop

July 15, 2011
By Mary Wood

This book is a series of exerpts from speeches and sermons by Archbishop Tutu, the South African cleric who was one of the  courageous  blacks who helped overthrow Apartheid.

There is a chapter quoting him on the nature of human community, and one outlining a Radical Program for Reconciliation.

He was severely criticized for advocating forgiveness of those who have caused suffering, Nazis,and the Dutch Reformed church, which advocated Apartheid and preached that Jews and Palestinians must forgive each other.

Tutu was head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as the liberated country of South African struggled to free itself from the rule of white supremacy.

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, Tutu visited churches throughout Africa supporting “the continent’s churches as they campaigned for human rights”  — Sudan, Angola, Zaire and Ethopia.

In 1989 he joined other heads of the Anglican churches, visiting and preaching in Central America, and two years later in Ireland.

The book ends on a sad note with Tutu commenting on the fact that having won their great victory, South African leaders have in many areas become as corrupt and dictatorial as their former oppressors.

What courage this scrappy Bishop shows the world.

[Published 2011]
This Scrappy Bishop

Never Afraid to Be Controversial

Archbishop Desmond Tutu remains one of the Christian Church’s most high-profile and best-loved figures. He has not lost his controversial edge with the passing years and in God is Not a Christian (Rider Books) his biographer, the South African journalist, John Allen, has collected his recent speeches, addresses and articles.

Barack Obama, Kofi Annan, and the Dalai Lama are all quoted on the cover commending the book.

Subjects dealt with include, restorative justice, the place of gays and lesbians in the church, interfaith tolerance, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, black theology and why Christians must be involved in politics. Archbishop Tutu is never afraid to be controversial.

Church of England Newspaper
Book review: God is not a Christian

Comments on Desmond Tutu’s Life and Work

“In my view, Desmond Tutu is the best advert for Christianity that walks on this earth.”
— Bono

“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”
— President Barack Obama

“No matter the topic, Tutu speaks throughout in the voice of the Christian prophet, decrying cruelty and meanness, defending the poor and the powerless, delighting in the beauty of creation, assuring us that each and every person has God’s love, as we hope, pray, and work for the kingdom of God.”
—Ray Olson, Booklist

“His unofficial legacy will be his life and the story of how this tiny pastor with a huge laugh from South Africa became our global guardian.”
— Time magazine

“I have the highest regard for my good and trusted friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I admire him for the wonderful, warm person he is and especially for the human principles he upholds.”
— His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“His efforts have bridged the gulf between white and black, between oppressor and victim, and helped heal a nation in the spirit of atonement and forgiveness…. I would like him to know that I, and a whole generation of Africans, stand tall and see further because we stand on his shoulders.”
— Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations

HarperOne’s Announcement of God Is Not a Christian

Desmond Tutu has become one of the greatest moral voices of our time. In his new book, God is Not A Christian, an essential collection of his most historic speeches and writings, we witness his unique career of provoking the powerful and confronting the world in order to protect the oppressed, the poor, and the victims of injustice.

Tutu first won renown for his courageous opposition to apartheid in South Africa, but his ministry soon took on international dimensions. Rooted in his faith and in the values embodied in the African spirit of ubuntu, Tutu’s uncompromising vision of a shared humanity has compelled him to speak out, even in the face of violent opposition and virulent criticism, against political injustice and oppression, religious fundamentalism, and the persecution of minorities.

Arranged by theme and introduced with insight and historical context by Tutu biographer John Allen, God is Not a Christian: and Other Provocations (HarperOne, May 2011; ISBN 978–0–06–187462–8; $23.99) takes readers from the violent clashes in South Africa over Apartheid to the healing work of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee; from Trafalgar Square after the fall of the Berlin Wall to a nationally broadcast address commemorating the legacy of Nelson Mandela; from Dublin, Ireland’s Christ Church Cathedral to a basketball stadium in Luanda, Angola. Whether exploring democracy in Africa, the genocide in Rwanda, black theology, the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church, or the plight of Palestinians, Tutu’s truth is clear and voice unflinching.

In a world of suffering and conflict, where human laws all too often clash with the law of God, Tutu’s hopeful, timeless messages become more needed and powerful with each passing year. The strength of principle found in this collection can inspire younger generations of every stripe to pick up Tutu’s mantle. GOD IS NOT A CHRISTIAN invites us to participate, to engage the spirit of ubuntu, because “without us, God has no eyes; without us, God has no ears; without us God has no arms or hands. God relies on us.”

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa. In 1986, he was elected Archbishop of Cape Town, the highest position in the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, and in 2009 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. Tutu serves as Chairman of the Elders, a group of global leaders who campaign for justice and human rights worldwide.

John Allen is the managing editor of allAfrica.com and has served as director of communications of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The author of the Tutu biography Rabble-Rouser for Peace, he lives in Cape Town.

“Rabble-Rouser” Now In Six Languages

The author with Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya at the announcement of the 2007 shortlist for the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction.

Rabble-Rouser for Peace” has been published in Chinese, German and Dutch.

This after a launch of the Swedish translation at “Bok & Bibliotek,” the huge annual Swedish book fair in Göteborg . The Swedish publishers of the book ordered a second printing during the book fair.

In 2007 “Rabble-Rouser” was described by the judges of South Africa’s Alan Paton Award for Non-fiction as: “The definitive study of the life of one of South Africa’s great heroes… A full, rich account of Tutu’s life…” The book was shortlisted for the 2007 award

The British/South African edition of the book was published in paperback late in 2007, and the U.S. edition in 2008.

The book has been published in Danish under the title, “Fredsrebellen,” in Dutch as “Rebel Voor de Vrede” and in Swedish as “RÄTTVISANS REBELL,” which can be translated as “Rebel for righteousness/ fairness/ right(s).”

It is also available in paperback in the North American and Commonwealth markets.

For more background to the book, see: