Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Peacemaker in a Diverse Nation the South African Cleric Discusses How the Bible Guided His Anti-Apartheid Struggle and Shaped the Words He Wrote and Spoke, Now Compiled in a Book

By Ron Scherer, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 26, 1994 | Go to article overview

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Peacemaker in a Diverse Nation the South African Cleric Discusses How the Bible Guided His Anti-Apartheid Struggle and Shaped the Words He Wrote and Spoke, Now Compiled in a Book


Ron Scherer, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


TO most people, rainbows are nature's prisms of colors observed after a rainstorm.

To Desmond Tutu, the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, rainbows are symbols: of peace and reconciliation; of coming prosperity; and most of all, a symbol of what is possible in racially divided lands.

"It is to say if this incredibly unlikely bunch of people in South Africa of different races, different cultures, different religions can begin to cohere as one community, then it must be the case that everywhere that will be something that can happen, that really all of us are ultimately the rainbow people of God," Dr. Tutu said in a recent interview in New York.

Yes, "the rainbow people of God" is part of the name of the archbishop's new book ("The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution," see review, right), but it is also the way Tutu sees his fellow countrymen. "At home in South Africa I have sometimes said in big meetings where you have black and white together: `Raise your hands!' Then I've said, `Move your hands,' and I've said, `Look at your hands - different colors representing different people. You are the rainbow people of God,' " Tutu said in 1991 while preaching at the remote town of Tromso in Norway.

Behind Tutu's rainbow is the Bible. It sustained him through the dark days when it seemed that apartheid would always remain. The Bible's assertions "are quite startling," he says. Startling? "You know, the thing about being created in the image of God."

This assertion he believes "was the most subversive thing you could ever come up with" since it refutes any claims of superior worth because of a biological attribute. But, for Tutu, the Bible did more than just destroy apartheid's racial superiority claims. It was a comforter. No matter how bleak the situation appeared, "you didn't lose God's word, God was in charge."

To Tutu, God is not neutral; rather, God is biased, "always on the side of those who don't deserve it - the weak, the oppressed, but also the sinners."

In fact, Tutu believes many Christians misunderstand their faith. "We tend to turn the Christian religion into a religion of virtues," he explains, "but it is a religion of grace - you become a good person because you are loved. You are not loved because you are good."

Tutu considers the history of Christianity "the goriest you can think of" with countless wars between Christians. …

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Peacemaker in a Diverse Nation the South African Cleric Discusses How the Bible Guided His Anti-Apartheid Struggle and Shaped the Words He Wrote and Spoke, Now Compiled in a Book
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