An informal interview with Nobel Peace Prize winner, human rights activist and world renowned author and lecturer Archbishop Desmond Tutu — who shares a few thoughts on his latest book God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time (Doubleday, 2004, Audio Book by Maui Media).
First of all, can you tell us a little bit about God’s Dream, and your vision of hope for our troubled times?
God’s dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion. In God’s family, there are no outsiders, no enemies. Black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight, Jew and Arab, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Buddhist–all belong. When we start to live as brothers and sisters and to recognize our interdependence, we become fully human. God’s love is too great to be confined to any one side of a conflict or to any one religion.
People are shocked when I say that George Bush and Saddam Hussein are brothers, that Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon are brothers, but God says, “All are my children.” It is shocking. It is radical. But it is true. If we can keep this in our minds and hearts, our individual and global suffering can be transformed into joy and redemption.
Why did you want to write this particular book at this particular time in history?
I wrote these words because we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in our world will ever end.
We are overwhelmed by so much conflict—or nearly overwhelmed. And one needed to say that God has not finished with God’s work. Creation is a work in progress. Evil is not going to have the last word. God has us as God’s collaborators, fellow-workers, and ultimately good—and those who strive for it—will prevail.
While your book obviously reflects your Christian beliefs, do you feel that your book has a message for people of all faiths?
I believe so very much. Because love is universal. I mean, you don’t have to tell somebody that loving is better than hating. You do not have to believe in God to know that stealing is bad. And we are trying to remind them that all of us are fundamentally good. The aberration is the bad person. God is not upset that Gandhi was not a Christian, because God is not a Christian. All of God’s children and their different faiths help us to realize the immensity of God. No faith contains the whole truth about God. And certainly Christians don’t have a corner on God. All of us belong to God.
How is this book different from your earlier books, and how is it the same?
This book is a cumulative expression of my life’s work and many of the ideas and beliefs presented here have been developed and delivered in earlier sermons, speeches, and writings.
For those who have followed my work, there will be much that is familiar. This is inevitable since, while my thinking has evolved, my core beliefs have remained the same over the years. With the help of my friend and collaborator Doug Abrams, I have tried to offer my understanding of what I have learned from the marvelous life with which I have been gifted and the extraordinary people I have met along the way. It is their faith and their courage that give me so much hope in the nobility of the human spirit.
What do you hope that your readers and or listeners will take away from your book?
We tend to suffer from a sense of insecurity and inadequacy in our lives because our culture sets such a high store on success. People forget that God loves them as they are. God marvelously, miraculously cares about each and every one of us. The Bible has this incredible image of you, of me, of all of us, each one, held as something precious, fragile in the palms of God’s hands. And God says to you, “I love you. You are precious in your fragility and your vulnerability. Your being is a gift.” I hope readers, whatever their religion, will have a new faith in themselves and realize just how beautiful they are, how precious they are, how much they truly matter.
So you would like readers to come away with a sense of optimism about their own future, and the future of the world?
Optimism relies on appearances and very quickly turns into pessimism when the appearances change. I see myself as a realist, and the vision of hope I want to offer in this book is based on reality—the reality I have seen and lived. God says to us all, I have a dream.
Please help me to realize it. It is a dream of a world whose ugliness and squalor and poverty, this war and hostility, its greed and harsh competitiveness, its alienation and disharmony are changed into their glorious counterparts.
When there will be more laughter, joy, and peace, where there will be justice and goodness and compassion and love and caring and sharing, I have a dream that my children will know that they are members of one family, the human family, God’s family, my family.
For more information on God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, please visit www.godhasadream.com
Image of Desmond Tutu is Copr. © 2004 Maui Media and Desmond Tutu (used with permission). Article is Copr. © 2004 by Neotrope® and Christopher Laird Simmons. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.