Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu had a powerful op-ed yesterday in the Washington Post. Just reading it made me sit up a little straighter — this is how pastors are supposed to speak:

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God’s family. And of course they are part of the African family. But a wave of hate is spreading across my beloved continent. People are again being denied their fundamental rights and freedoms. Men have been falsely charged and imprisoned in Senegal, and health services for these men and their community have suffered. In Malawi, men have been jailed and humiliated for expressing their partnerships with other men. Just this month, mobs in Mtwapa Township, Kenya, attacked men they suspected of being gay. Kenyan religious leaders, I am ashamed to say, threatened an HIV clinic there for providing counseling services to all members of that community, because the clerics wanted gay men excluded.

Uganda’s parliament is debating legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment, and more discriminatory legislation has been debated in Rwanda and Burundi.

He grieves over what is being done, grieves again because it is being done in God’s name, and names the way things ought to be.

What hit me most, though, is that while the headline on Tutu’s piece is “In Africa, a Step Backward on Human Rights,” so much of what he says resonates with the situation here in the United States:

Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation. Nor should anyone be excluded from health care on any of these grounds.

Amen. And yet the Defense of Marriage Act combined with the Stupakian logic about money will mean that a same-sex married couple in Iowa will not be allowed to purchase a family health insurance policy in Iowa with a federal subsidy.

Again from the Archbishop:

That this pandering to intolerance is being done by politicians looking for scapegoats for their failures is not surprising. But it is a great wrong. An even larger offense is that it is being done in the name of God. Show me where Christ said “Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones.” Gay people, too, are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.

And again I say Amen. And yet, if you didn’t know Tutu was talking about Africa, it sure sounds like too many American politicians and religious leaders. “A wave of hate . . . pandering to intolerance . . . looking for scapegoats . . . ” This is precisely what Prop 8 was about, precisely how Roman Catholic leaders like Cardinal George and their colleagues among the Latter Day Saints justify the political pressure they exert, and precisely why Glenn Beck wants them to push harder.

Once more from Archbishop Tutu:

The wave of hate must stop. Politicians who profit from exploiting this hate, from fanning it, must not be tempted by this easy way to profit from fear and misunderstanding. And my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.

Amen, amen, and again I say amen. I, too, am a cleric who has been standing up like this, though without a Nobel Peace Prize to my name, I and others like me don’t get nearly the attention. But make no mistake: we are here.

If only there was an American Nobel Peace Prize laureate who could speak like this on behalf of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. If only there was an American Nobel Peace Prize laureate who could speak like this against the pandering, the intolerance, the fear, and the exploitation.

Oh, wait — there is.

Maybe I should have said “If only there were two.”

Photograph courtesy In My Name/Roger Friedman