Sunday, 15 January 2012

God Is Not A Christian: A Review

"God Is Not A Christian" is a collection of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's public statements. Throughout he makes the case for interfaith co-operation, the full inclusion of Gays and Lesbians and the social gospel of his liberation theology. As a leading opponent of apartheid and a critical friend of later south African leaders he aligns himself with the tradition of the Old Testament Prophets in speaking "truth unto power". When I was a sixth former an evangelist (to my knowledge trained and endorsed by the Church of England) told me that as far as he knew, MK Ghandi must be "in Hell" because despite his "good deeds" he had not accepted the saving power of Jesus' atoning sacrifice. This was one of many factors that explain why my relationship even with the far more liberal Methodist tradition of my youth was troubled and why I am a Unitarian today. Tutu appears to contradict this "orthodox" view of redemption defined by "right belief" in saying, "we do scant justice and honour to our God if we want, for instance to deny that Mahatma Gandhi was a truly great soul, a holy man who walked closely with God. Our God would be too small if he was not also the God of Ghandi". He also acknowledges "many Christians would be amazed to learn of the sublime levels of spirituality that are attained in other religions , as in the best examples of Sufism and in mysticism, or the profound knowledge of meditation and stillness found in Buddhism. It is to do God scant honour to dismiss these and other religious insights and delusions, which they patently are not". There is very little to differentiate what Tutu is advocating from the universalism of mystics such as Julian of Norwich. Reading this book as a Unitarian I acknowledged that it is possible to take a particular view of who Jesus is with it not carrying the implication that people who take a different view are necessarily wrong. Hence I think what differentiates Unitarianism today from what is offered by a liberal Anglican "Inclusive Church" is less about belief as liturgy and practice. There is a qualitative difference between "Interfaith" pluralism and the "Multifaith" approach that is found in the more eclectic Unitarian congregations.
In general I recommend "God Is Not A Christian"  as an thought provoking, inspiring and accessible read. Under apartheid Tutu said, "in South Africa many books are prohibited. We say to the Government of South Africa 'you are too late, because the book you should have banned long ago is the Bible, for that is the most revolutionary book in a situation of oppression'".


Yewtree said...

Excellent - may I use this in The Unitarian?

Manfarang said...

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

John 14:2