There is something about Archbishop Desmond Tutu that you just have to like. With his disarming smile, diminutive stature and avuncular appearance, Tutu looks more like the grandfather at a family reunion than an international leader. But when he speaks, volumes of truth and knowledge flow from his mouth.Over the weekend, the 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke forcefully about American foreign policy and the sensitive issue of homophobia in the church. In a speech at Harvard University titled “Goodness Triumphs Ultimately,” Tutu offered hope to those who yearn for justice both here and abroad. And in an interview with BBC Radio, Tutu flatly denounced homophobia. "If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn't worship that God."
In the midst of an ongoing controversy with the Anglican Church that has been divided over the issue of homosexuality, Tutu criticized the church for losing its focus. He said the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, had failed to use his power to demonstrate that God is "welcoming" and questioned why the church was "obsessed" with the issue of gay priests instead of focusing on global problems such as the AIDS pandemic.
"Our world is facing problems - poverty, HIV and AIDS - a devastating pandemic, and conflict," Tutu told the BBC. "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."
In a direct reference to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Tutu asked: "Why doesn't he demonstrate a particular attribute of God's which is that God is a welcoming God?" The Anglican Church has been divided over the appointment of Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, as the bishop of New Hampshire in the United States. But Tutu said his church had been "extraordinarily homophobic" in handling the issue and said he felt "saddened" and "ashamed" by it.
But Tutu didn't stop there. He also rebuked religious conservatives who claim that homosexuality is a choice. Although some evangelicals argue that homosexuality is a perversion, Tutu turned the language on them and argued that homophobia is a perversion. "It is a perversion if you say to me that a person chooses to be homosexual. You must be crazy to choose a way of life that exposes you to a kind of hatred. It's like saying you choose to be black in a race-infected society."
Tutu is right on the money. The real problems facing the world are fear and hatred, not love. Homophobia is a true threat to our society, not homosexuality. And gays and lesbians do not choose to be homosexual any more than blacks choose to be black.
I'm tired of all the religious conservatives twisting the Bible to justify their hatred and fears. I'm tired of all the evangelicals who claim to be Christian but seem unwilling to follow the teachings of Christ. And I'm tired of all the cowards who fail to speak up in the face of obvious injustice and inequality in the world.Edmund Burke told us: All that is necessary for evil to prevail is that good men do nothing. But Desmond Tutu teaches us hope. Change happens when people who want change decide to make it happen. Goodness, he says, triumphs ultimately.
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