Tag Archive: Desmond Tutu


book

i am busy reading this book, that my friend Steve Graybill sent to me while we were in Americaland [after i asked for one of the books he had recently read that was worth reading] and it has been such an interesting read. Steve was the one who recommended ‘The Lemon Tree’ and ‘Blood Brothers’ which i gave a glimpse of over here, as i was trying to understand the Palestinian/Israeli crisis a little bit better. This is more of a theological/discussion book whereas the other two were stories and so a little easier to connect with in some ways. But there has been some very interesting thinking generated by this book – i’m not sure i agree with everything Naim Stifan Ateek says, but some very challenging ideas for sure [the proposal that Samson was the first ‘suicide bomber’ for example, really stopped me in my tracks, because…]

But without doubt the section of the book i really enjoyed and found interesting was this passage from a chapter entitled ‘Son of David or Suffering Servant’ which looks at four groups of people and how they responded to the Roman occupation at the time Jesus lived and how He chose a path different to all of them. It is a bit of a lengthy post but it is SO good, so make some time and dive in… The following section is from the book:

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“BIBLICAL CONTEXT

In the first century Jesus was born under the Roman occupation of His home country of Palestine. In fact, He lived all His life under the Empire and was killed in the end by the occupying forces. As a young man, Jesus, as well as many others in His generation, was attracted by different movements and groups within His society. Each had a basic philosophy about life and God, and each movement had its advocates and proponents as well as its adversaries and opponents.

For many centuries people in Palestine lived their entire lives under the Roman Empire. It was not a benevolent occupation. Any occupation is by nature oppressive because it refuses to grant people freedom and liberation. To a large extent, the options and choices that Jesus faced are still present in our different societies. While other comparisons are equally valid, our focus here compares the groups of Jesus’ time with their counterparts in Palestine today.

These groups arise from our basic nature as human beings and our propensity to relate to people of power, especially in situations where people live under foreign occupation. This was as true for the people of Jesus’ time who lived under Roman occupation as it is for Palestinians today who live under Israeli occupation.

The Zealots

Without doubt, the group most attractive to many young people in Jesus’ day was the Zealots. They were the revolutionaries who believed that the only way to relate to the occupation of their country by the Romans was through armed struggle. The model of violent struggle was not foreign to them; there was a strong tradition for such action. The most recent paradigm was that of the Maccabees who had risen up against the Greek occupation of their country and won their independence. In Jesus’ time, in their struggle against the Romans who had usurped control of their country, the Zealots used the tools of revolutionary violence, countering violence with violence. They believed that their god would fight for them in their righteous struggle.

There were some more extreme factions within the Zealot movement. The Sicarii not only killed their Roman enemies but were ready to assassinate any fellow Jews suspected of collaboration with the Romans. And all of this was done in the name of God.

Scholars tell us it is likely that a number of the disciples of Jesus were Zealot revolutionaries. They saw in Him a leader who could command a great following and contribute to the liberation of the country. There are references in the Gospels that indicate such a temptation. John 6.15 offers an example: “When Jesus realised that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” Yet Jesus constantly rejected such temptations throughout His ministry, from the temptations of the devil’s offer of the kingdoms of the world (Matt. 4:8-10; Luke 4.5-8) to the cries of the crowd to make Jesus king when He entered Jerusalem near the end of His life (John 12.12-19). The political language of these passages indicates that Jesus could have seized several opportunities to incite a mass insurrection against the Romans, which surely would have involved armed resistance.

The temptation to join the Zealots would have been very real because they shared many of the same goals as Jesus and His disciples. Jesus shared their concern for the poor, and their passion for justice. They were both very committed to the cause, even to the point of death. Roman suspicion that Jesus was a Zealot certainly played a major role in His death.

Today in Palestine the equivalent to the Zealots are groups like Hamas and Al-jihad Al-islami. They believe in revolutionary violence as the means to counteract Israeli state violence and force the Israeli army to end its occupation. They, too, are disciplined and committed to the cause of justice for their fellow Palestinians and have been very compassionate toward the poor and needy in their communities.

The Essenes

This group, disenchanted with the religious system of Jerusalem, left their towns and villages and withdrew into the desert. In the desert, they established communities, busied themselves in copying different texts of the Old Testament scriptures, and developed rules for the daily life of their communities. They avoided involvement with what went on outside.

The Essenes represented an escape from the reality of life, an escape that is still attractive to many people today. This option was open to Jesus: “He could have withdrawn from the tensions and conflicts of the urban center where government and commerce constantly polluted even the most well-intentioned sons and daughters of the law; He could  have sought out a place where He could be pure and perfectly faithful.” Such an approach of escape or isolation can take various forms. People do not have to be enclosed within a monastery to live this way, although some do. Some people emigrate from the area of conflict, leaving everything behind. Others escape by totally withdrawing even within their community, living in isolation from the daily affairs of life.

The Herodians and Sadducees

These were the pragmatists and realists. The Herodians supported King Herod, believing it better to give allegiance to the king who was closer to kin than the alien Romans. The wealthy and conservative Sadducees controlled the temple in Jerusalem and benefitted immensely from it.They stayed on good terms with the people of power to expedite and facilitate daily solutions to contentious problems. They accepted the political situation in Palestine and to a larger extent collaborated with it. They believed that since they could not change the occupation of their country, they might as well not only with it but make the best of it. They made sure that worship in the temple was conducted properly and that nothing should disturb it.

In the conflict over Palestine, many Palestinians have arrived at such realism, accepting the Israeli occupation of their country. In order to advance their business activities or for reasons of prestige, they have allowed themselves to get close to the power and cooperated with the occupation. In some cases their pragmatism has taken on a more sinister aspect, becoming blatant collaboration.

The Pharisees

These were religious fanatics who adhered to the letter of the law. Although the word “pharisee” means separatist, they lived among the people in the village and urban centers of the land, yet separated themselves from anything that in their opinion would defile them. They prided themselves in keeping the purity of the law in meticulous detail as regards eating and drinking, keeping the Sabbath, and many other aspects of daily life. Jesus criticised them for payiing attention to the minute details of the law yet forgetting the more important issues of life such as justice, faith, and mercy (see Matt.23).

The Pharisees comprise a sizable segment of our communities; regardless of the political environment, they continue to practice the rituals and ceremonies of their religion while ignoring the “weightier matters” of justice and love (Matt. 23.23; Luke 11.42). Many cling to the observance of the laws and regulations of religion because they have defined religion in terms of strict adherence to the teachings of the church, mosque, or synagogue regarding worship, fasting, feast days, and so on.

THE NEW WAY OF JESUS

These four options that confronted Jesus confront us today.People are attracted to one or another of them. Many societies offer similar options or philosophies of life that appeal to our human nature. We are always challenged by the “righteous” violence of revolutions, or by escapism and isolationism, or by pragmatism and realism, or by established and popular religion. Each has its attraction, and Jesus must have realised that.

But Jesus chose another way, a way that draws on the best that these paradigms can offer and yet takes religion and faith to a deeper dimension. This is the way of faithfulness to God. Jesus rejected the way of violent revolution and refused to walk the way of collaboration. He would not accept the option to escape life and be uninvolved, and He saw the pitfalls of superficial religiosity where observance and rituals replace morality and authentic relationship with God.

What is the way of Jesus? It is the way of allegiance to God’s kingdom. The way of Jesus is (1) to stand for justice and truth without picking up the sword – that is, to resist evil without using evil methods; (2) to rise above the ways of the world without abandoning involvement and commitment to the poor and oppressed; (3) to seek the humanity of the oppressor without losing integrity by appeasement or collaboration; and (4) to love and worship God without adhering to a strict and closed religion.

Jesus presented God as a loving father/mother who loves and cares for all people equally, a God who is just and merciful. He called into being a distinct community whose basic rule of life is love: the love of God, God’s unconditional love of humans, and the inclusive love of neighbour that denies boundaries. He inspired His disciples to walk a path of nonviolence and to accept God’s will and rule over their life. Jesus asked His community to be salt and light to all those around them. He modelled His understanding of nonviolence as a path that must be followed even if it leads to suffering and death. And Jesus showed that a person can, at one and the same time, live in the world, in the midst of community and serve it and heal it, without conforming to the ways of the world. This is the sabeel of Jesus.

Could Jesus have looked at the availability of these four ways of life and decided not to choose any of them? He must have seen that none of them agreed with the heart of the faith tradition.. He must have felt that while each contained some attractive features, on the whole they strayed from the essence of faith.

He did not choose the way of armed struggle, which later ended disastrously for the Jewish people with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE. He did not choose collaboration with the occupying forces, which was a life of deception and destructive to one’s soul. He did not choose escape into the desert, but sought involvement with the poor and wretched of His time. And while Jesus instructed His followers in prayer, He did not choose religiosity, often used to disguise a lack of faith. He chose a different way.

Perhaps Jesus looked back at His tradition of faith. The exile, several hundred years earlier, did not end the suffering and misery of His people. The strong empires of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia had been replaced by even greater Greek and Roman empires. The people still longed for liberation. Such a passion for freedom seems natural. People talked about their religious tradition that referred to the coming of a messiah who would provide redemption and liberation. The fervour for the coming of such a person must be understood against the conditions of their miserable existence. Jesus surely must have been aware of the many so-called messiahs who had come and gone and yet no liberation had been achieved.”

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This is really just a taste, and if you are trying to get your head around the severely complicated context of everything happening in that area of the Middle East, this is a book worth checking out.

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Avuyile

A rendition from the heart:

Wouldn’t it be great to wake up one day and see everyone living at peace with each other?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful that no one harboured feelings of resentment and injustice with the other instead we stand side by side as brothers? I yearn and hunger for a South Africa of equality in life and in living standards. I long for a land where the needs of the majority are taken care of, a land where the people do share in its wealth.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to live in a country whereby the people speak in the same voice and do things together? Where prejudices and preconceived ideas that have distorted and bruised any self-pride of the other.

Oh what a sight to behold, a land where equality reigns forever. This is 2015, a new year, a symbol of fresh beginnings, a chance to carve out a path never beaten before. Is it so hard to get out of your comfort zones to learn and to understand other races, other people and their ways? This is an opportunity to make new strides in achieving equity and a better life for all. This is a chance for all that inhabit this beautiful and precious land of South Africa, in fact the whole continent of Mother Africa to break away from the yokes and institutions left behind by their colonial masters.

This is the year whereby the rest of the world stood and watched how this beautiful land of ours stood and did what is indigenous to it. Where we do things our own way, the best way we know how. A precious moment to conform to our own standards, to things that are true to the African cause and our way of life, where we endorse systems that will emancipate, elevate and alleviate any poverty within our communities.

I yearn for a South Africa that alienates and nips out any form of racism and prejudice. Can we vow and decree to part take in this journey to a better South Africa for all not living under this farce that we are in a democracy? I yearn for a country where the value of women is recognised, the impact and the role they play in our society. A country that protects and rears their children with love, warmth and comfort, good morals and values and most importantly their culture.

It would be beautiful and pleasant to live in a country without any barriers and boundaries left behind by the institution of apartheid. How long do we continue to live in despairing and inhumane conditions? How long must we witness our own people suffer and be demoralised as we currently have?

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “South Africa is a country alive with many possibilities”, I truly believe it is, however, if only do what is right and for the benefit of the people. If we face our demons, if we are only brave enough to stand against the very things that bring pain to us, things that will make us vulnerable only to leave us in a better place. Hey South Africa, wouldn’t it be great where we live by our own systems, systems that will benefit the majority of the country. Where corruption has no place in our society, where crime is rooted out. A country where the value of a man is placed higher than maximising profit.

I dream of the day where the fall of the barriers of skin shall reign supreme and our beautiful country is a country for all. Let’s start 2015 in a positive way, let’s start the year gunning for change.

[To see what Rebecca Benn would say to South Africa, click here]

Boko Haram…

Charlie Hebdo…

Pupils in a Gauteng school re-enacting dog-fights…

Sometimes, far too regularly, it seems like the world has gone mad. What are we to do?

i was encouraged by this excerpt from a Dutch friend of mine who sent this as part of his end of year newsletter:

One thing has become clearer to me than ever before: Jesus Christ is the only hope for man and mankind. Especially studying the chapters 5-7 of Mathew’s gospel where we find the so called Sermon on the Mount, convinced me afresh of the incomparable life, mission and words of Jesus. Too easily the spiritual life is seen and interpreted as disconnected and separated from the world. Jesus however teaches how to live our lives well in a hostile world: there truly is hope! His mission was to restore the link between God and man, and between humans. It all starts with the restora-tion of the relationship between God and the individual. That restoration delivers man from his insatiable hunger for entitlement, power, money, and to be right. Being set free from all of these self-destructive attitudes and behaviors man is able to give himself to the other, no matter how strange, or impossible the other seems to be. [Jan Den Ouden]

This inspired me to spend some time reading Matthew 5-7. As in the whole thing. For the next couple of days. Too often we read through a passage and think some things and then move quickly on to the next one. i have learnt that it can be super helpful and enlightening to take a passage [or a book like i did with Philippians reading the whole thing every day for a month a few years ago] and immerse yourself in it. Once you get past the normal things you have taken from it before, you often have your eyes opened to other things God might be saying in there.

Too many people who call themselves ‘christian’ in the world seem to think the whole thing is about what they believe. Whereas with Jesus it was always about how you live. Life now, not a focus on heaven one day. How do you ‘Love God and Love people’ [including your neighbour and your enemy] in practical ways that improve the state of their lives and make the world a better place, right here and right now. How do you look beyond yourself to the needs of those around you.

ubuntu

 

Tutu and No_bob

 

Continuing with my share from  ‘Revisiting The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Faith Community Hearing’ as we look at some of the messages that came out of the second day:

FROM THE TWITTERER [Day 1 of 2]

While 140 character messages don’t capture the whole of what was experienced, hopefully they will help you to catch a bit of a glimpse:

General buzz in the air. Today it is a lot of testimony from other faith groups so should be interesting.

In our hunger for reconciliation maybe justice was held at bay. Economic justice. Restitution.

It’s as if, with the advent of democracy, we gave our mission and ministry to the government.

Without love, without justice, without genuine fairness, there can be no reconciliation.

 

Thulani Ndlanzi (Cong): we have promoted a non-racial community rather than a multi-racial community.

 [Thulani Ndlanzi just raised the bar with that presentation recognising so many vital local issues.]

 

Have we lost our minds? Link back to earlier devotion. Where we have grown complacent and normalized injustice.

 

 [Really enjoying Thulani Ndlanzi. Speaking it like it is. ‘it should be a given that when we drafting laws we focus on women’s rights.’]

Thulani Ndlanzi: We need to bring God back into schools. What good is it to have a good mathematician with no ethics?

Thulani Ndlanzi: What good is it to produce a great scientist who has no morals?

 

Nadine Bowers du Toit (TEASA): South Africans for the most part seem to have a love hate relationship with reconciliation.

 

Brigalia Bam (SACC): Quoting Mandela – You will need to re-interpret your theology that allowed you to accept apartheid.

Brigalia Bam quoting Mandela -Now is not the time for the churches to return to the cosiness of the sanctuary.

 

Malusi Mpumlwana (SACC): We hear more about social cohesion than we do about national reconciliation.

 

Hlengiwe Mkhize [panel]: Reconciliation is a generational issue.

 

Wow, Thandile Khona, black guy, really giving it to the Muslims in terms of black inclusion within Muslim leadership.

Thandile Khona is President of Muslim Youth Movement. Really interested to hear what Maulana Abdul Khaliq Allie has to say next.

Maulana Abdul Khaliq Allie (Sect Gen Muslim Traditional Council): We believe South Africans are waiting on the religious leaders today.

Maulana Abdul Khaliq Allie: As a religious community we have to be critical of our govt when it comes to corruption.

 

Yasmin Sooka: We all have our internal contradictions & in religion this often relates to how do we treat those who are different.

 

 [Really interesting session listening to the muslim representatives. Some great points.]

 

Nalini Gangen (Maha Sabha) just made it clear that all Indians should not be seen through the lens of that one family. #GuptasArentUs

Nalini Gangen: Hindu marriage not being recognised. Sale of house documents for eg would reflect them as unmarried.

Nalini Gangen: How we react to what happens and is happening is based on what we have seen.

 

Reuben Shapiro from South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace. This just got political. Gaza statement happening.

Reuben Shapiro – The Jewish voice in South Africa is not homogenous.

 

Big moment of humour as Tutu goes to a mic way too high for him and does a huge jump ‘to reach it’. [TbV hysterical].

 

 Tutu recounting story of man being tortured – ‘These are God’s children & they need me to help them recover the dignity they are losing.’

Tutu: As we listen i hope we hear more than just the words. That we remember that we are surrounded by some incredible people.

 [Inspirational break as Tutu gets up and recounts some stories of some of the people in the room.]

 

The post apartheid generation. Not sure where the segregation comes from. We need to create spaces to share our stories.

 

Frank Chikane: The job is not yet finished. South Africa has a long way to go to deal with the pain of the past. Black and white pain.

 

Imam Rashied Omar – It’s not the job of the state to do forgiveness.

Rashied Omar: Bicycle theology. You stole my bicycle. Years later you are sorry. But where’s my bicycle?

[Loved that analogy – found it really helped get my mind a little more about the idea of Economic and Land Reparation that still needs to happen]

Rashied Omar: Too much co-operation with the state. But we were co-opted by the state. Don’t fly flags in the church.

 

Eddie van der Borght (Amsterdam): The urgency of this moment, the momentum, should not be lost.

 

Nico Koopman – I think one of the reasons we live so distant from each other is because we still live with stereotypes of each other.

Nico Koopman – Please notice the abnormality in the normality.

Nico Koopman – Words are important because words create worlds. But we need to move beyond words to other types of action.

Nico Koopman. Forgiveness paves the way for reconciliation, restitution and reparation. It makes us hungry for more.

 

Tutu: This is one of the maddest countries. #TellingStoriesOfInsaneForgiveness

Tutu: This thing we are talking about [TRC] was a broken instrument. But God used it.

Tutu: We should be taking off our shoes. Cos this is holy ground.

Tutu: We are a country that is meant to show the world how we are supposed to be a family of God.

Tutu just threw away his closing address and is winging it by the Spirit. #PowerfulEnd

 

And let me close with some other Tweets from some others who were there:

 

@rogersaner “Somehow we haven’t been able to translate the large religious presence in SA into justice.” –

@changeagentSA “: Nyobole: “In the past we have neglected our role in education but are reclaiming our role”

@tutulegacy The biggest beneficiaries of apartheid were the business communities.

@tutulegacy Pillay: “Unity is a gift given to us by God. We need a bigger vision. Jesus calls us to be one.” 

@rogersaner An obvious need coming out of today is for white South Africans to do some serious work to face and own the past and privilege

@digitaldion ‘Now is not the time for the Churches to retreat to the safety of the sanctuary’ Nelson Mandela comment in 1997. Still true today!

@val_c_anderson We need a different kind of theology that can underpin action – “contextual theology”. 

@val_c_anderson “There’s no such thing as apolitical religion.” ~ Dr Rashied Omar. 

 

So there you have it. Does not do what happened the last two days immense justice, but hopefully gives glimpses and some challenging ideas and concepts to reflect on and wrestle with.

A big thing that came out looking back at the original TRC is that perhaps we focused too much on Truth that we overlooked justice.

Another big idea that was said on many occasions was the need for reparation and land reform [of which fairly little has been done] to add to the reconciliation and justice that did happen.

A big failure was that the church/faith communities as a whole seemed to sit back and hope the government would take the lead on Reconciliation , whereas the Government had initially hoped that the church would pick up and continue the work of the TRC in hundreds of little TRC’s all over the country [which never really happened and quite possibly because it was not well communicated enough]

The church/faith communities as a whole has failed to be involved enough in areas of Reconciliation and has a lot of work to do. The majority of the people in South Africa would fall into some kind of faith community and so it seems to make a lot of sense that if the faith communities as a whole got serious about this stuff it should and would happen.

And more… we closed off by singing the national anthem together which was a powerful moment.

[To return to the beginning of my reflections on these two days, click here]

 

 

 

 

 

buttoni just turned off a TED talk about a third of the way in.

for those of you who may not know what a TED talk is, they are these brilliant [normally] shortish [10 to 20 min] talks on a whole host of different areas of life. someone gets up and speaks an inspiring talk on something they’re passionate about and as i said they are usually really good. this one wasn’t, so i turned it off.

and a strange thing happened…

no-one died. well not that i am aware of.

in other news i just finished reading the biography of Archbishop Desmond Tutu which i had been looking forward to for a while, but which i didn’t overly enjoy. i just don’t think it was particularly well written and it focused too much on events and happenings and not enough on Tutu’s engagement with them or emotional response to them. so while there were glimpses, i don’t really feel i got to see Tutu’s heart concerning apartheid and a number of other incredible events and experiences he got invited into.

and i kinda knew that from half way in but i just kept on reading because i kinda wanted to see where it ended i guess.

i can’t get those hours of my life back [and it was a bit of a wadey book so it was a bunch of them]

i am someone who has walked out of a bunch of movies – not a crazy amount, but probably more than most. and i can’t remember ever walking out of a movie that i regretted or feel like my life became worse off for not having watched it. i can, however, think of a bunch of movies that i feel worse off for having watched at all or having stuck out [usually ‘to see how it ended’]. and sometimes it just a waste of time [the recent RIPD being one of the worst movies Val and i have ever watched and it really was curiosity about how it would end and i will never get that hour and a half of my life back] but other times it’s imagery and content that i really don’t want or need anywhere in my mind [like the recent Arrested Development series which Val stopped watching and i really wish i had – when paedophilia is the subject of the humour, safe bet to turn it off, Brett] and it is good to be able to get up and walk out, or turn it off, or put the book down.

because no-one will die. 

and people have different levels of what they see as okay and what is offensive and what i have learnt to some degree is that i don’t have to be input police for everyone else and so if someone else feels like something is okay, that’s fine but i don’t need to feel like i can’t make the decision to stop taking it in or on.

i have gotten a lot better at that with books in the last few years [because there are so many i really want to read] and with series there are SO MANY good ones out there that i never have to subject myself to something bad or unenjoyable. turn it off and find something you enjoy.

this thought feels so simple and yet so terribly profound.

how about you? ever walked our of a movie or stopped reading a book? what was the motivation for you? and any regrets on something you really wished you had stopped before the end?

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