Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Tuesday, March 23rd

I was among over a thousand people who heard Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu at Oklahoma City University Tuesday evening, March 23rd. There is no question that it is awesome to simply be in the same room, to breath the same air, as a man who has had such a profound affect on world history.

Archbishop Tutu spoke for about an hour. He began with the bold assertion that human beings are fundamentally good. As he said, "The fact we do not accept Evil proves it is not the norm." In other words, the day killing and bombing are no longer reported because they are considered "normal" is the day we have lost our humanity.

Now consider: Archbishop Tutu has lived his life in South Africa, where the native peoples have been treated like second-class citizens by invading Northern Europeans. He voted for the first time in 1994; this was the first time in history blacks were allowed to vote in South Africa. As chair of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation commission, following the fall of Apartheid, he heard the worst crimes people can perpetrate against each other.

And yet, he can still say that human beings are fundamentally good. In context, that is a powerful and awe-inspiring statement.

Related to this is his contention that South Africa has become a beacon of hope for the world. For, if forgiveness can occur in this — perhaps the worst oppression the world has known — it is certainly possible elsewhere.

For my ears, the Archbishop's presentation was primarily a sermon, with the title God's Dream For the World (coincidentally, the title of his latest book). Archbishop Tutu believes that God's dream for humanity is that goodness and gentleness would prevail. That all people, of all nations and faiths, recognize we are one family.

"For," he says, "if you recognize you are family, you cannot be a suicide bomber. You would not kill another member of your own family." The archbishop was very explicit on this point, that Sharon, Bush, bin Laden, and Arafat must come to know they are members of the same family.

I sensed a sort of aura about Archbishop Tutu that I have only sensed twice before. I sensed it first in Bishop Cox, now retired Assistant Bishop of Oklahoma. I sensed it again when watching an interview with the Dali Lama. That aura was one of serenity and acceptance. And, primarily, of unconditional love.

Therefore, it was easy to believe that he spoke with a prophetic voice. Which is to say, that God was speaking through Archbishop Tutu last night. Through this remarkable man, the divine was assuring us that we are unconditionally and individually loved for the unique person each one of us is.

I received a profound gift last night. I pray for the courage, strength, and forbearance to share that gift with others.

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