I recently listened to Krista Tippett’s interview of Desmond Tutu on her podcast, On Being. Quite a lot inspired me as he talked of his faith, fighting apartheid in South Africa, and the work toward truth and reconciliation. Here are a few choice tidbits:
“I mean, when you discover that apartheid sought to mislead people into believing that what gave value to human beings was a biological irrelevance, really, skin color or ethnicity, and you saw how the scriptures say it is because we are created in the image of God, that each one of us is a God-carrier. No matter what our physical circumstances may be, no matter how awful, no matter how deprived you could be, it doesn’t take away from you this intrinsic worth.”
“You discovered the thing you were fighting against was too big for divided churches, for divided religious community. And each of the different faith communities realized some of the very significant central teachings about the worth of a human being, about the unacceptability of injustice and oppression.”
“Do you really think that God would say, ‘Dalai Lama, you really are a great guy, man. What a shame you’re not a Christian.’? I somehow don’t think so. I think God is just thrilled because no faith, not even the Christian faith, can ever encompass God or even be able to communicate who God is. Only God can do that.”
In just a few sentences, Archbishop Tutu has become an enormous inspiration to me and my work as an interfaith minister and my life as an interconnected being on this earth.
Battling apartheid and its gruesome violence required a zoomed-out view of the problems facing his world. Like he said, he and other religious leaders realized that their differences were totally insignificant in comparison to the gravity of apartheid. Oppression affected them all, despite opposing religious beliefs. This makes me wonder why many nations continue to fight each other over religious and cultural differences, as if it mattered in the first place. Why not come together over climate change or feeding the hungry and tending to the sick? We have much more serious issues on our hands than theological debates.
Tutu recognizes that God is so much more than Buddhism or Christianity or anything else; God is the Great Mystery, the Ineffable, totally beyond my limited human consciousness. And, despite my humanness, in whatever form that may take – whatever race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. – I am a “God-carrier.” Every one of us has a bit of the divine, a bit of the great cosmos within us. Call it chi/shen/prana/life force/God/love/stardust/whatever, it lies within us all.