Bishop Tutu, God & Democracy

Jan 1, 2022 by

by Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism:

South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu had critics and they included myself and my organization. IRD in the 1980s, before I joined the staff, sometimes critiqued Tutu’s friendly stance towards the African National Congress (ANC). At that point, the ANC was allied with the South African Communist Party and supported by the Soviet Bloc plus international malefactors like Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. In that Cold War context, there were concerns that a post-Apartheid South Africa might be Sovietized, and become even more oppressive, like its neighbors in Angola and Mozambique. At times, Tutu himself was at best uncritical of those nations’ then Marxist-Leninist regimes.

Providentially, the Soviet Union fell, 30 years ago this week, as did the appeal of Marxism-Leninism, which the regimes in Angola and Mozambique renounced. South Africa’s Communist Party became irrelevant. Nelson Mandela, after prison, emerged as a democrat devoted to national reconciliation. Tutu was supportive of this project, chairing Mandela’s National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, which gave Apartheid era officials the opportunity to confess their crimes and seek forgiveness. Tutu stressed the need for truth telling and mercy.

In more recent years I wrote occasionally about Tutu’s penchant for unfair and inaccurate anti-Israel rhetoric, which included Apartheid comparisons. He also made intemperate political statements such as calling for President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to be tried as war criminals for the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. And IRD has criticized Tutu for siding with Western liberal Protestantism against orthodox teaching and African Christianity, including its Anglican leaders, on sexuality.

No public life lacks controversy and misjudgments. But on the major themes of Tutu’s long public life, he was courageously correct. He opposed Apartheid resolutely, while also opposing violent revolution. He sometimes physically intervened to rescue alleged collaborators under mob attack. He understood that post-apartheid South Africa needed stability and continuity, not massive political upheaval. He shared Mandela’s vision for a biracial nation. He criticized subsequent ANC governments for arrogance and corruption. He criticized the despotic socialist dictatorship of Robert Mugabe, who had supported the anti-apartheid struggle.

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