“We are made of goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to his family, this human family, God’s family.”
– Desmond Tutu
It was immensely satisfying to be intimately involved in the opening of the Black, White, Red & Yellow Art Exhibition this week on the colourful life of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. I grew up in a household during the Apartheid years where Tutu was considered to be the devil. I grew up learning to fear the Other – the things and people that were different and strange. He was even vilified in the propaganda press as the anti-Christ. This because of his stance against the evils of Apartheid society and his support of economic and cultural sanctions against the government of the day. Post-1994, after the first democratic election in South Africa, he continued speaking truth to power, and because of that, he was often side-lined and urged to be quiet.
I also grew up hating “the Otherness” of myself. It was a long journey to undo the hate, fear, judging and moralism of my youth. Seeking a place to belong, in my own body and amongst other bodies in this world, I read the words of Desmond Tutu somewhere in the 1990s, writing that it would be unlikely that Christ would be on the side of those that ostracise people based on their race, gender or sexual orientation, making them aliens, banning them from the household of God. Little did I know that years later I would defend my doctorate in the Netherlands with him on the stage and his daughter standing by my side.
Desmond Tutu played a crucial part in my journey to un-fear and un-hate, to find a place of belonging and acceptance ~ to become more human. Along the way, in some sense I became a stranger in my family and an Other in the church. But I do belong ~ with the black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to his family, this human family.
“Richard, Marlene & Vincent”: Photo credit/ copyright: Jacob Meiring
Paul Germond and Steve de Cruchy, “Aliens in the household of God. Homosexuality and Christian Faith in South Africa” (1997).