Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of South Africa’s greatest spiritual and political leaders, said in late July, “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.” He added, “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”
This is different from recent comments by Pope Francis in which he said he would not judge a sinner who is LGBTQ, especially a gay priest. The Pope still says he thinks homosexuality is a sin, yet God loves these people anyway. Although this is a different tone from the past, it remains a form of spiritual abuse.
Archbishop Tutu is saying something very different: that being LGBTQ and sharing your life with someone is not a sin. Someone repeatedly saying it is a sin doesn’t make it so. It merely creates an ingrained social and cultural wrong. His support for social and economic justice has long included calls for full acceptance of LGBTQ people. The archbishop’s outspokenness contributed to the adoption in Chapter 2, Section 9 of the South African Constitution, the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Culturally, the country still has work to do, but its laws show a progressiveness not found in other nations. The archbishop earned a reputation for his fierce, unwavering opposition to apartheid and commitment to reconciliation with those who are oppressed and persecuted, often viciously. He is a remarkable individual able to let go of pain and forgive.
Archbishop Tutu is saying something very different: that being LGBTQ and sharing your life with someone is not a sin. Someone repeatedly saying it is a sin doesn’t make it so.
There is a deeper significance to the archbishop’s decision to reject heaven, if God (meant gender neutral) is homophobic and excludes LGBTQ people. In considering heaven, do not think harps, angels and blissful forever-after sugary, Disney-like euphoria. He’s speaking to a cosmological unity, the spiritual community of humankind with its Creator. There is no division, no class ranking, just a large family with a loving parent.
The archbishop is drawing us into a deeper conversation about the meaning of sin and one’s place in society, and if you believe in some holy presence, the universe. It’s an invitation to see a larger perspective in society and our lives and the lives of others.
Archbishop Tutu invites us to ask thought-provoking questions. Who is the Creator? Is heaven a better, higher spiritual level where I am reunited with friends, family and furry four-legged children? Can I now have a personal relationship with God? What would a personal relationship be like? As an LGBTQ person, how do I start having a personal relationship with God?
“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.” —Desmond Tutu
It doesn’t matter if you are an atheist, Pagan, Wiccan, Muslim, Buddhist, humanist, devoted Episcopalian, cultural or practicing Jew, struggling or recovering Catholic, or something else. The archbishop calls you to transcend the mundane and temporal for something spiritual and universal.
There are few people whom I have a strong desire to meet and of the handful, number one on the list is Desmond Tutu. This living prophet is someone who fiercely speaks truth to power, while sharing a profound message of hope, love, acceptance, and community transcending the limitations humans put on themselves through ignorance and division that includes social status.
If you find religion distasteful and reading anything theological something to cure insomnia, yet have a spiritual hunger connecting you with something holy, then Archbishop Tutu’s books need to be on your reading list. He writes beautifully with direct, simple language that reaches everyone. He connects you with a personal God who doesn’t care about sexual orientation.
* Paul, an author, attorney, and a seminary trained, ordained priest in greater Albany, NY, does spiritual health and wellness counseling for LGBTQ persons of faith. Reach him through www.CorporateChaplaincy.biz.