Now that I’ve spent my first post on eviscerating something stupid an ignorant Christian said, let me balance that out with something astounding a brilliant Christian has said.
On Friday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how I feel about this.” He continued: “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.”
Tutu weighed queer equality for all against everlasting life for himself and, even though he is not queer himself, chose equality if the two are mutually exclusive. I have never heard as profound a statement from a Christian, and I’m unlikely to hear one again. For Christians, heaven is the ultimate reward. It’s what every Christian dedicates their entire life to earning. And for Desmond Tutu, if his queer brothers and sisters can’t have that reward, he won’t accept it for himself. He would rather spend an eternity in unendurable torment than live in an eternal paradise that was hetero-exclusive.
Christopher Hitchens offered a challenge in his later years: “Name one moral action performed by a believer that could not have been done by a nonbeliever.” To date, this challenge has not been answered in any satisfactory way, and not for lack of trying. I honestly feel, though, that Tutu comes close. A believer in heaven and hell believes that the stakes of the afterlife are infinitely higher than the aggregate of all the stakes you face in your real life. Tutu placed what he truly believes will be eternal punishment and reward on the line for a movement of global queer groups demanding equality. I have nothing of perceived comparable value to wager. Only a believer in heaven and hell could make this statement, and what a powerful statement it is!
Tutu: “I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.”
And, in a final show of genuine admiration, he equates the same work that consumed his long life and earned him his renown as a worldwide spiritual and activist leader to the work that is being done in the queer movement today. He lends every ounce of dedication and credibility he has for his personal work in ending Apartheid to the ending of anti-gay discrimination. Whereas his former statement about the afterlife, while impressive, wagers nothing of real value (heaven isn’t real), this follow-up cements his view just as firmly on the side of reality. Hardly anyone doubts his hard work, suffering, and wise leadership in the cause to end Apartheid, and he is putting the legacy of that same work, suffering, and wisdom on the line to whole-heartedly support queer rights.
Desmond Tutu, your religious words have duly impressed this atheist.