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The Good Tutu

Just a few weeks ago, I criticized Desmond Tutu for one of his chronically outrageous statements about the Middle East. Of more interest to me, however, was that many use the "he's Desmond Tutu" line as if it that were … Read More

By / November 21, 2007

Just a few weeks ago, I criticized Desmond Tutu for one of his chronically outrageous statements about the Middle East. Of more interest to me, however, was that many use the "he's Desmond Tutu" line as if it that were in and of itself sufficient to defend him against charges that his rantings about the Jews and Israel are borderline anti-Semitic (not to mention how self-defeating and historically ignorant it is for him to compare the South African freedom struggle — which never had serious elements worshipping a cult of death or calling for the wholesale genocide of its enemies — to the Palestinian cause). I wrote:

Desmond Tutu is indeed a man of great stature; his criticism of the African National Congress for its unforgivable policies in support of Robert Mugabe and its AIDS denialism, as well as his calls for African Christians to be more accepting of homosexuality, have been exemplary and courageous. But he's not perfect, and happens to have rather odious views about the Middle East. I feel no amount of intellectual inconsistency embracing him for his honesty on Zimbabwe, AIDS and gays, while simultaneoulsy finding his words about Israel and Jews outrageous.

Lest my interlocutors at the time felt this avowal was a cop-out, I'll take this moment to praise Tutu for his latest moral declaration: lashing out at the Anglican Church for its "obsession" with gays. The years-long rift and coming split in the Church between its liberal, Western wings and the culturally conservative global south has not been lost on Tutu:

"Our world is facing problems — poverty, HIV and Aids — a devastating pandemic, and conflict," Tutu said. "God must be weeping looking at some of the atrocities that we commit against one another. "In the face of all of that, our church, especially the Anglican church, at this time is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality."

"If God as they say is homophobic I wouldn't worship that God."

Dem's fighting words. Contrast Tutu with Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria, who has to compete with Muslims for African converts (which is not to suggest that he doesn't believe the homophobic hatred he regularly spews) and has called homosexuality a "chronic aberration." No word yet on whether African Anglicans plan on matching the head of the Ugandan Muslim community's plan for a gay island.

 

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