The moral authority of organized Christianity lies in tatters. With some of that religion's loudest adherents claiming that Donald Trump was anointed by God to re-order the world, who could find inspiration there? It was not always thus -- as the death of Desmond Tutu should remind us. South African journalist Redi Tlhabi writes:
To understand Archbishop Tutu, we must return to the dark period of South African apartheid. Fear and despair hung like an albatross around our necks. It was a time of unprecedented bloodshed. The townships, where Black people lived, were on fire and the police and army ruled the streets through the barrel of a gun, killing and maiming many.
That’s when a diminutive clergyman came into the scene. He walked through the streets of the burning townships, confronting the police, calming angry crowds, trying to quell the inferno with his authoritative voice. He spoke at mass funerals, condemning the apartheid state whilst risking his credibility among Black youth who were fired up and thirsty for revenge.
We live in what some have called "The Post Truth Era." For Tutu, Truth was everything:
Archbishop Tutu’s weapon of choice was the truth. He spoke it in all circumstances. He campaigned fiercely against apartheid and took his message to the world. This earned him the Nobel Prize in 1984.
His service to South Africa did not end with the fall of apartheid. He chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC, despite its limitations, unearthed the atrocities of the past in shocking detail. Families got to hear how their loved ones were tortured and killed by apartheid’s machinery. It was raw and Tutu would often bow his head and weep during the hearings.
Some anti-apartheid activists became too comfortable once they reached power. Tutu was consistent and chastised the same African National Congress leaders he supported during apartheid. Their corruption and lack of accountability were anathema to him.
Former President Thabo Mbeki earned Tutu’s wrath for his denialism of the AIDS epidemic, which cost hundreds of thousands of lives, according to some estimates.
Tutu was coherent and demanded the same from all of us. There was no course too difficult or too dangerous. His quest for justice went beyond South Africa. The power of his moral clarity was undeniable. Mandela was correct when he said his voice “will always be the voice of the voiceless.”
To the core of his being, Tutu affirmed the lyrics of the Irish folksong, "All God's Creatures Got A Place In The Choir." He -- and his example -- will indeed be missed -- because he was the real thing.
Image: Al Jazeera