As often happens at this time of year, I have been thinking about how much I have in common with people who consider themselves committed Christians. A couple of events have recently happened that have made me more reflective about the common values I share with progressive people of faith (I’m leaving fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals out of the equation just now). I’ll talk about one of them here. It happened during my recent trip to South Africa (which ended just yesterday).
Sarah and I decided to take two weeks off to go there, just for fun, no work involved. Incredibly, as much as we travel, we haven’t had two weeks alone together for fifteen years. The trip was amazing, between all of the things to see and do in Cape Town, to the scenic drive through the Garden Route, to the game drives/safaris we took up near Kruger National Park (a game reserve the size of Israel!).
A friend of ours helped us set up the trip; she had been to South Africa a number of times and for years had arranged the study abroad programs at UNC. So she was accustomed to setting up itineraries and working out arrangements, something that I’ve never much enjoyed doing myself. Among many, many other things, she arranged for us to have dinner with a very interesting Anglican clergyman who had been the personal chaplain of Desmond Tutu back in the 90s.
This fellow was, and is, of course, a very dedicated Christian priest. But he had almost no interest in discussing theology, or the Bible, or beliefs, or doctrines, or anything of the sort. He is, and always has been, far more interested in issues of justice and truth; he focuses most of his mental and personal energies on social and political issues. He was active in the anti-apartheid movement, and continues to be deeply involved in issues involving racial inequality, poverty, and peace. Those are issues that I too am deeply interested in. I have far more common ground with someone like him than with some of my agnostic, secular humanist friends, who, frankly, are not all that invested in dealing with problems that confront us as social communities and simply as human beings.
At our dinner he told us that Desmond Tutu ….
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