Ecumenical Monday – Disagreeing With Desmond Tutu

Today’s post comes from the key quote in the Huffington Post article “God Is Not A Christian: Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama’s Extraordinary Talk on God and Religion.

I’m going to start right out by disagreeing with Archbishop Tutu.  I get where he’s headed with his deliberately, delightfully provocative statement.  I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, but I don’t disagree with every one of them either.  I do, however, take issue with his attention-getting statement that God is not a Christian.

In one sense, it’s true.  God isn’t a Christian, in the sense of someone who has accepted Christ’s salvation, because God can’t get saved.  God hasn’t sinned, so he doesn’t need Christ’s salvation, and also he IS Christ, and if your brain is starting to feel a little pretzelish then you’re on the right track.

But the statement is meant not only to challenge thought processes but to make a statement:  that God is somehow “above” Christianity, greater than Christianity, more than Christianity, more than … Christ?

And that’s where we run into trouble.  “Being a Christian” isn’t a state one can be born into, or randomly drift into because of a move to a new city or a change in the weather.  It is a becoming, a change, a decision.  To those who understand the term as “Christ-follower”, not “person who was brought up in a Western society and is nominally Catholic or Protestant and probably American”, it is a result.

God can no more become a Christian than dirt can get dirty or water can get wet.  Try to explain it, and you end up laughing and shaking your head in confusion because wetness IS water, water IS wet, you can’t separate them.  Dirt would not be dirt if it wasn’t made of dirt.  (Yes, thank you, brilliant bit of rhetoric, I know.)  It’s not like it can get MORE dirty if you rub dirt on it – it just continues being its wonderful earthwormy nutrient-filled life-giving self, regardless of the silly people standing on it and talking philosophy about it in the brief span of years before they return to it.

I disagree with Tutu’s statement, and with his unfortunate conclusion that God is bigger than everything including Christianity, since in doing so he reduces Christianity to another human philosophy that tries to point in the general direction of God.  However, several paragraphs into the article he describes God in a way that makes my hair stand on end, so I’m just going to paste it in verbatim and let him speak in his own words.  I might disagree with him, but there are some good reasons he has a zillion people listening to him and I only have about six.

He weeps when he sees us do the things that we do to one another.  But he does not send lightning bolts to destroy the ungodly.  And that is fantastic.  God says, “I can’t force you.  I beg you, please for your own sake, make the right choice.  I beg you.”

When you do the right thing, God forgets about God’s divine dignity and he rushes and embraces you.  “You came back, you came back.  I love you.  Oh how wonderful, you came back!”


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