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More Tutus needed! A man of the people

Archbishop Desmond Tutu laughs as crowds gather to celebrate his birthday by unveiling an arch in his honour outside St George's Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, October 7, 2017. [Reuters]

Once in a while, there are people who walk among us that live no doubt God is real. We affirm from their lives that there are such people as prophets. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, embodied the presence of God, and he did so in the hostile context of apartheid. Light is made for darkness. Such is the case with true greatness – it is exposed in times of difficulty. The past year has not been the easiest. Death has occurred in many forms, but it has revealed new layers of our will to live. In the midst of chaos and desperation, we have seen many, even those in Mukuru Kwa Njenga, look evil in the eye and fight back.

Tutu’s life was one of fighting and fighting back for others. We may not all be commissioned to give up our lives in his fashion, but we all need a serving of Tutuism. If only we lived more generously! Tutuism gives us eyes to see the sticky selfishness the world throws at us. Tutuism takes us beyond recognizing to rejecting this vice.

Selfishness is a moral sickness that eats up every trace of kindness. The result is a world starved of love. Love is life and without it we become the walking dead. To despise love is to love death. To be generous in the Tutu sense implies a readiness to give up your own life in love if such a giving contributes to the life of others.

What if we all understood ourselves as made for goodness? Tutu’s life echoed the words of the Creator who assessed and passed His creation as good. If you are what you were made for, then you are made for goodness.

Our country has many people who have a goodness that is made up - conjured to make a manipulative and deceptive impression. But as goes the title of the classic movie “A Few Good Men”, there is a remnant of Kenyans who still sow seeds of authentic goodness. Though evil mocks the virtuous, this country owns its sanity to this unknown army of the good.

Tutu was the renowned one, but he did not make it alone. Families often make great sacrifices to nurture the callings of their members. That is part of what family is for - cheering each other on even when the voices go hoarse. Sacrifices can come from others, but they taste different when they come from the family, for instance, an unselfish spouse.

His wife, Leah Nomalizo has experiences about Tutu that only she can narrate, angles to accounts that only she has and some stories she will keep in her heart never to tell. Without family, it is a lonely world. But having a family is one thing, having it functioning is a whole other zone. But those who put in the work go beyond just a functioning family to achieve a joyful one.  

What do you do when your daughter marries a woman? Well, Tutu continued to love his daughter, Mpho Tutu. He was a passionate advocate on behalf of LGBTQ people. Though this was and is not popular with African clergy even in his Anglican communion, his position was consistent, “If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn’t worship that God.” Years later he added, “I would refuse to go to homophobic heaven... I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”

Tutu was old in years, but contemporary in vision. He redefines the concept of the generational gap. He was in the realm of thoughts and strategies of freedom. Where people were oppressed the older you get the fiercer you become. To shout each other down over a digital-analogue argument is rendered shallow.

Leading people must be deeper than winning an election. To their Creator, people are an extension of His sacredness and those who want to lead the people must have this sense of reverence in their inner selves. But what we continue to see are power hunters who are too conscious of their ambitions that they are unconscious of the peopleness of the people.

The world heard Tutu’s sermons more from the public square than from the pulpit.  Even when it was unpopular, he still maintained a global view of his mission, “Anywhere where the humanity of people is undermined, anywhere where people are left in the dust, there we will find our cause.”  His characteristic purple robe was a symbol of salvation in the streets. Something happens when the clergy expand their pulpit to the community. The church has denominationalists, but the street has the world. Rev. Dr. Timothy Njoya belongs to the Tutu school, and we have seen him taking part in demonstrations clerically clad. This tells of a man of God amidst God’s people seeking freedom from reluctant and sometimes evil systems. In this leadership transition year, the street welcome clergy!

Mandela and Tutu could have had different philosophies, but they were united in a loathing for chains and a yearning for freedom. Tutu read a Bible that licensed anger against apartheid. His Bible armed him with words that became a sword. His Bible preached the full dignity of the African. His Bible located his purple robe in the public square. More copies of this Bible version are needed!  Though he be laid in the ground, he sours with wings on high as those he freed walk in the streets he loved.