Before saying what it is about him that puts my teeth on edge, let me say that all the impressions one gets are that he does have astonishing gifts, given in bud by God but developed by himself.
He started life in a black township, hauling himself up, turning back because of oppressive obstacles, and trying something new, over and over. So says Wiki.
Finally he rose like Moses, given the gift of the gab by God, putting words out onto the æther, off the cuff, with humour and charisma –holding the world in the palm of his hand because he entertained.
Allister Sparks has written, ‘During the years when the black political leadership was imprisoned, he stepped forward and played a major role so that whites were still able to hear a confident, outspoken, authentic black voice.’
He chaired the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission — a huge achievement of leadership, moral leadership, gift of the gab.
He has an educated sophistication with words — he looks for the right one and gets it bang-on, like ‘sneering’ for Trevor Manuel; and he criticized an investigative commission in apartheid days as being ‘like blind men judging the Chelsea Flower Show.’
But am I the only one revolted by his constant exhibition of his own goody–goody-gumdrops goodness and of his belief in humanity’s? Is there something wrong with the Church and with us all that we lap this stuff up?
For decades now he has billed and cooed, beamed and chuckled, and skipped his way around the world receiving prizes from the hands of men. What a way for a man of God to carry on! To Sepp Blatter, about to hand him a prize, he said, ‘Ooh, you would see I was blushing if it weren’t for the colour of my skin.’
He has authored books, his smiling face on the covers. The covers and reviews say: ‘Hope, Joy, Peace, Forgiveness, Lifetime of good works, The goodness we are made for, Rainbow nation, God’s dream….’
One of his daughters takes holy orders, and they cunoodle together on the sofa in mutual goodness and lovey-doveyness. He comes home from hospital, nustles up against his wife’s shoulder, and looks up at her in an even more revolting look of babyish lovey-doveyness.
He seduces us with his own baby innocent goodness and his belief in the goodness of Man, all delivered in a cheery chirpy Anglicanism. He considers all people to be angels till there is evidence to the contrary! This is the kind of Christianity that modern unbelievers warm to. Whatever happened to the old Christianity?
And he speaks in the idiom of a jolly middling white Brit: ‘Mugabe has gone bonkers’; ‘I would much rather go to the other place’; ‘Zuma should recuse himself.’ A jolly chap in a dog-collar beaming and chuckling like in dear old Blighty! A chummy and jokey acquaintanceship with God. Everyone refers to him as the Arch, and he does too. Facile left-liberal ideas on how to do good in the world. Photographs of him in the LondonGuardian looking a troubled elder — wise, patient and good. (And his own demonstrative acts of outraged goodness in the dusty townships, saving the life of at least one ‘sell-out’ about to be ‘necklaced’! – nothing wrong with that.)
Isn’t the revulsion I feel similar to what one feels when confronted by Pharisaism, the patting oneself on the back for being a goody-goody gumdrops by following God’s Law. Jesus was revolted by it, and so was Paul who went away and founded Christianity (which was the novel idea that all of us are sinners who can’t do any good at all unless we receive from heaven the faith that Jesus is God!)
He reduces and simplifies all world conflicts to something that fits under the South African one. A moral populist and simplisticist.
He is for everything good and against everything bad. He is genuinely heartbroken by suffering and injustice. He supports the existence of Israel but not what the Palestinians had to give up in the process, such as their homes.
He believes in the fellowship of Man on the Biblical basis that we are all made in God’s image, and he combines this with Ubuntu, the traditional African culture of warmth, empathy, forgiveness, helpfulness, and communitarianism, and of rulers owing their power to the will of the people! — Was this the culture that met the eyes of the first white missionaries and explorers?. Has it been the culture of post-liberation Africa which has gone back in large measure, I suspect, to the culture (including political culture) of old Africa. Of course not, Africans are only human for heaven’s sake. And the beaming Arch points to this liberation as an unmixed proof of God’s existence!
He bounces in the surf with Hollywood star Will Smith, and chats with Sir Richard Branson. He is an international celebrity like they are, and talks the same modern ideology of human goodness like they do.
He throws out cheap comparisons on all ideological sides with chirpy abandon like a British man in the street or pub: The Holocaust was no worse than apartheid’s forcible relocation of Africans, just quicker. “Apartheid is as evil and vicious as Nazism and Communism”. The Soviet bloc was just as bad as apartheid. ‘There is less freedom and personal liberty in most of Africa now than…during…colonial days.” And, “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. I would much rather go to the other place.” The ANC is “worse than the apartheid government” because it refuses to let in the Dalai Lama…. Africans in Zimbabwe “are treated like rubbish, almost worse than by rabid racists.”
But Palestine has a special place in his heart. He comes out of retirement in December 2017 to say: “God is weeping over President Donald Trump’s inflammatory and discriminatory recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Those who claim divine rights for themselves to physical property on earth are false prophets….”
What on earth is the Arch talking about? Jerusalem apparently has been the secular capital of Israel since 1948, and apparently there is complete religious freedom in the whole of it except that Jews aren’t allowed to worship on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, because the Muslims wouldn’t like it. And this, he feels, is the issue that makes God weep!
He tells world Jewry that they aren’t being sufficiently forgiving to those who did the Holocaust. He complains about their ‘monopoly of the Holocaust.’ (Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Response magazine, January 1990). http://www.nytimes.com/1989/12/27/world/tutu-urges-israelis-to-pray-for-and-forgive-nazis.html.
“The Jews thought they had a monopoly on God; Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings.” (Jerusalem Post, July 26, 1985)
Did he in the same speech compare features of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to the apartheid system? (Hartford Courant, Oct. 29, 1984). Perhaps not enough confirmation for that.
He says that Zionism has parallels with racism, the effect being the same, because it excludes people on ethnic or other grounds over which they have no control. (American Jewish Year Book1988, p.50). (Perhaps he thinks Zionism should be open to everyone. Oh no, he actually thinks it ought to be abolished.)
He says that Jews in the US are an arrogant and powerful lobby whom people need to stay on the right side of. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/apr/29/comment (He later replaced “Jewish lobby” with “pro-Israel lobby”.)
And he keeps saying in effect that, because of what the Jews have suffered, they mustn’t henceforward do anything the slightest naughty in their own interests and against others’. ‘We live in a moral universe. If you (meaning Israel) commit injustice, God will bring about your fall just as he did to Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Pinochet, Idi Amin and Milosevic,’ and to apartheid.
With his rosy view of humanity, he is socialist and pacifist. In 1986 he said: “All my experiences with capitalism…have indicated that it encourages some of the worst features in people. Eat or be eaten…the survival of the fittest. I can’t buy that. “ “Apartheid has given free enterprise a bad name”.
And for the same reasons, he is the loudest campaigner outside the Muslim world against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. It is just about the worst thing in the whole world! Israel’s behaviour there, and perhaps within Israel itself, is like apartheid or even worse, and he calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions, even against non-Israeli companies doing business with Israeli settlements! He says this to US churches and from other world podiums.
He sees no need for check-points and road-blocks etc. — it is all entirely gratuitous. To cheering crowds in the streets, he says that this is arguably the largest outcry in the history of the world! “My plea to the people of Israel: liberate yourself by liberating Palestine”. There should now be just two states living ‘amicably together as sisters and brothers’.
‘We in South Africa had a relatively peaceful transition. If the South African madness could end as it did, it must be possible to do the same everywhere else in the world. If peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to the Holy Land?’ (You see there is a single line for understanding incompatibility between peoples. At one far end are South African whites, and at the other are South African blacks, and everyone else, such as Hebrews and Arabs, fits in-between, so their problems can be solved too, especially with the help of The Elders (founded by Tutu and Mandela), available to solve your problems anywhere in the world.)
Is he a little bonkers about Jews? Yes — not a regular kind of anti-Jewism but it’s fair to recall that decades ago he used the term ‘the influential Jewish community’ — which is an Olde Britishism for ‘the illicit money power of the Jews’. And it seems that he did try to evade suspicion by saying “my dentist is a Dr. Cohen” – which sounds like that Olde Britishism, ‘Some of my best friends are Jews’. He studied theology in the UK in the sixties, under Anglican elders of that period.
And how about the present Arab horrors in Iraq and Syria? He blames them on Bush and Blair. They should be tried for war crimes. The Iraq war they started has “destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history“! (A flip statement of history, and an uncharacteristically conservative one! – ‘don’t overthrow ghastly regimes because you may get something worse’.)
He went so far as to act in a play about Guantanamo. He stated that Guantanamo was a stain on the United States, and that the British 28-day detention law without charge was similar. On Tony Blair’s attempt to make it 90 days, he said it was like South Africa during apartheid. (He seems to think that chaps suspected of driving planes into the Twin Towers in the belief they will get eternal life, can be treated like ordinary members of the criminal classes!) He said that the “war on terror” cannot be won, because there is too much global inequality. (Terror by jihadists is due to poverty, you see.) He urged Saudi Arabia not to execute 14 young people for protests.
Yet he can be toughly realistic in his own life –- his wife and he got a court injunction and laid charges against a grand-daughter for doing physical damage (flying crockery) to their family home.
If the Arch makes you cringe, then remember there are Princes of the Church even worse in their version of Christianity. But I suspect there are ones much better. I heard one once in Ely Cathedral. Where can one find them today?