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A Vision of Hope for Our Time

Written by Desmond TutuAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Desmond Tutu

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On Sale: March 16, 2003
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-385-51262-6
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu has long been admired throughout the world for the heroism and grace he exhibited while encouraging countless South Africans in their struggle for human rights. In God Has a Dream, his most soul-searching book, he shares the spiritual message that guided him through those troubled times. Drawing on personal and historical examples, Archbishop Tutu reaches out to readers of all religious backgrounds, showing how individual and global suffering can be transformed into joy and redemption. With his characteristic humor, Tutu offers an extremely personal and liberating message. He helps us to “see with the eyes of the heart” and to cultivate the qualities of love, forgiveness, humility, generosity, and courage that we need to change ourselves and our world.

Echoing the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., he writes, “God says to you, ‘I have a dream. Please help me to realize it. It is a dream of a world whose ugliness and squalor and poverty, its 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.’”

Addressing the timeless and universal concerns all people share, God Has a Dream envisions a world transformed through hope and compassion, humility and kindness, understanding and forgiveness.

Excerpt

1



God Believes in Us



Dear Child of God, it is often difficult for us to recognize the presence of God in our lives and in our world. In the clamor of the tragedy that fills the headlines we forget about the majesty that is present all around us. We feel vulnerable and often helpless. It is true that all of us are vulnerable, for vulnerability is the essence of creaturehood. But we are not helpless and with God's love we are ultimately invincible. Our God does not forget those who are suffering and oppressed.

During the darkest days of apartheid I used to say to P. W. Botha, the president of South Africa, that we had already won, and I invited him and other white South Africans to join the winning side. All the "objective" facts were against us--the pass laws, the imprisonments, the teargassing, the massacres, the murder of political activists--but my confidence was not in the present circumstances but in the laws of God's universe. This is a moral universe, which means that, despite all the evidence that seems to be to the contrary, there is no way that evil and injustice and oppression and lies can have the last word. God is a God who cares about right and wrong. God cares about justice and injustice. God is in charge. That is what had upheld the morale of our people, to know that in the end good will prevail. It was these higher laws that convinced me that our peaceful struggle would topple the immoral laws of apartheid.

Of course, there were times when you had to whistle in the dark to keep your morale up, and you wanted to whisper in God's ear: "God, we know You are in charge, but can't You make it a little more obvious?" God did make it more obvious to me once, during what we call the Feast of the Transfiguration. Apartheid was in full swing as I and other church leaders were preparing for a meeting with the prime minister to discuss one of the many controversies that erupted in those days. We met at a theological college that had closed down because of the government's racist policies. During our discussions I went into the priory garden for some quiet. There was a huge Calvary--a large wooden cross without corpus, but with protruding nails and a crown of thorns. It was a stark symbol of the Christian faith. It was winter: the grass was pale and dry and nobody would have believed that in a few weeks' time it would be lush and green and beautiful again. It would be transfigured.

As I sat quietly in the garden I realized the power of transfiguration--of God's transformation--in our world. The principle of transfiguration is at work when something so unlikely as the brown grass that covers our veld in winter becomes bright green again. Or when the tree with gnarled leafless branches bursts forth with the sap flowing so that the birds sit chirping in the leafy branches. Or when the once dry streams gurgle with swift-flowing water. When winter gives way to spring and nature seems to experience its own resurrection.

The principle of transfiguration says nothing, no one and no situation, is "untransfigurable," that the whole of creation, nature, waits expectantly for its transfiguration, when it will be released from its bondage and share in the glorious liberty of the children of God, when it will not be just dry inert matter but will be translucent with divine glory.

Christian history is filled with examples of transfiguration. An erstwhile persecutor like St. Paul could become the greatest missionary of the church he once persecuted. One who denied his Master not once but three times like St. Peter could become the prince of apostles, proclaiming boldly faith in Jesus Christ when only a short while before he was cowering in abject fear behind locked doors.

I doubt, however, that we could produce a more spectacular example of this principle of transfiguration than the Cross itself. Most people would have been filled with revulsion had someone gone and set up an electric chair or a gallows or the guillotine as an object of reverence. Well, look at the Cross. It was a ghastly instrument of death, of an excruciatingly awful death reserved for the most notorious malefactors. It was an object of dread and shame, and yet what a turnaround has happened. This instrument of a horrendous death has been spectacularly transfigured. Once a means of death, it is now perceived by Christians to be the source of life eternal. Far from being an object of vilification and shame, it is an object of veneration.

As I sat in the priory garden I thought of our desperate political situation in the light of this principle of transfiguration, and from that moment on, it has helped me to see with new eyes. I have witnessed time and again the improbable redemptions that are possible in our world. Let me give you just one example from our struggle in South Africa, which I know best, but such transfigurations are not limited to one country or one people. This story took place almost twenty-five years after that first experience in the priory.

It was just before April 1994 and we were on the verge of disaster, literally on the brink of civil war and threatened with being overwhelmed by a bloodbath. We had witnessed the stunning release of Nelson Mandela and other leaders in 1990 and the miraculous move toward universal elections, but between 1990 and 1994 we had been on a roller-coaster ride, exhilarated at one moment, in the depths of despair the next. Thousands of people had died in massacres during the transition, such as one at Boipatong, near Johannesburg, in which about forty-five people were killed in one night. The province of KwaZulu-Natal was a running sore as a result of rivalry between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the African National Congress. Some of us said that a sinister Third Force, including elements of the government's security forces, was behind a spate of indiscriminate killings on trains, at taxi ranks and bus stops. We were usually pooh-poohed by the authorities. Just before the election, there was an insurrection in one of the so-called independent homelands, which was run by black leaders who were prepared to work within the apartheid policy. A neo-Nazi Afrikaner group who wanted to sabotage the transition intervened in the rebellion. Inkatha, a major party in KwaZulu, was boycotting the election. Attempts were made to destabilize and intimidate the black community and to scare them away from voting. Our impending election looked like a disaster waiting to happen. We were all gritting our teeth, expecting the worst. But in the weeks leading up to the election, the insurrection failed and the neo-Nazi group was ignominiously routed. At the proverbial eleventh hour, we heaved a sigh of relief as Inkatha was persuaded to join the election.

Elections are usually just secular political events in most parts of the world. Our elections turned out to be a spiritual, even a religious, experience. We won't so quickly forget the images of those long queues snaking their way slowly into the polling booths. People waited a very long time. John Allen, my media secretary, said there was a new status symbol at the time in South Africa. Someone would say, "I stood for two hours before I could vote!" And someone else would say, "Oh, that's nothing--I waited four hours. . . ." There was chaos in many places, not enough ballot papers or ink or whatever. It was a catastrophe about to take place. It never did. After I had cast my vote, having waited all of sixty-two years to do so for the first time, I toured some of the voting stations. The people had come out in droves and they looked so utterly vulnerable. It would have taken just two or three people with AK-47s to sow the most awful mayhem. It did not happen. What took place can only be described as a miracle. People stood in those long lines, people of all races in South Africa that had known separation and apartheid for so long--black and white, colored and Indian, farmer, laborer, educated, unschooled, poor, rich--they stood in those lines and the scales fell from their eyes. South Africans made an earth-shattering discovery--hey, we are all fellow South Africans. We are compatriots. People shared newspapers, picnic lunches, stories--and they discovered (what a profound discovery!) that they were human together and that they actually seemed to want much the same things--a nice house in a secure and safe neighborhood, a steady job, good schools for the children, and, yes, skin color and race were indeed thoroughly irrelevant.

People entered the booth one person and emerged on the other side a totally different person. The black person went in burdened with all the anguish of having had his or her dignity trampled underfoot and being treated as a nonperson--and then voted. And said, "Hey, I'm free--my dignity has been restored, my humanity has been acknowledged. I'm free!" She emerged a changed person, a transformed, a transfigured person.

The white person entered the booth one person, burdened by the weight of guilt for having enjoyed many privileges unjustly, voted, and emerged on the other side a new person. "Hey, I'm free. The burden has been lifted. I'm free!" She emerged a new, a different, a transformed, a transfigured person. Many white people confessed that they too were voting for the first time--for the first time as really free people. Now they realized what we had been trying to tell them for so long, that freedom was indivisible, that they would never be free until we were free.

Yes, our first election turned out to be a deeply spiritual event, a religious experience, a transfiguration experience, a mountaintop experience. We had won a spectacular victory over injustice, oppression, and evil. There we were--people who as a matter of public policy were deliberately tearing one another apart, declaring that human fellowship, togetherness, friendship, laughter, joy, caring, that these were impossible for us as one nation, and now here we were becoming, from all the different tribes and languages, diverse cultures, and faiths, so utterly improbably, we were becoming one nation. Now who could ever believe that that was possible? Only in 1989 police had threatened to use live ammunition to get people to disperse who were protesting against beach apartheid. In 1989 they were ready to kill to maintain apartheid and to keep the beaches just for the whites. And just a few years later there we were a nation that had elected as president Nelson Mandela. This man who languished in jail for twenty-seven years, vilified as a terrorist, and who eventually became one of the moral leaders of the world.

I remember sometime after the election there was a lunch he hosted for the widows of political leaders. There the widow of black consciousness activist Steve Biko was chatting with the widow of B. J. Vorster, who was the prime minister when the police killed Steve. Totally improbable, totally unlikely material for triumph, and yet it has happened. It was a transfiguration. If you had said a few years before that South Africa would be a beacon of hope, people would have taken you to a psychiatrist. And yet it was so. Our problems are not over--poverty, unemployment, and the AIDS epidemic--because transfiguration is ongoing. But just because there is more to be done, we should not forget the miracles that have taken place in our lifetime.



Many of us can acknowledge that God cares about the world but can't imagine that God would care about you or me individually. But our 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 that you and I exist only because God is forever blowing God's breath into our being. And so God says to you, "I love you. You are precious in your fragility and your vulnerability. Your being is a gift. I breathe into you and hold you as something precious."

But why, we ask in our disbelief and despair, would God care about me? The simple reason is that God loves you. God loves you as if you were the only person on earth. God, looking on us here, does not see us as a mass. God knows us each by name. God says, "Your name is engraved on the palms of My hands." You are so precious to God that the very hairs of your head are numbered. "Can a mother," God asks, "forget the child she bore?" That is a most unlikely thing, quite unnatural, but it could happen. God says, even if that most unlikely thing were to happen, God's love wouldn't allow Him to forget you or me. We are those precious things that God carries gently. God carries each one of us as if we were fragile because God knows that we are. You are precious to God. God cares for you.

Many people believe that they are beyond God's love--that God may love others but that what they have done has caused God to stop loving them. But Jesus by his example showed us that God loves sinners as much as saints. Jesus associated with the scum of society. And Jesus taught that he had come to seek and to find not the righteous but the lost and the sinners. He scandalized the prim and proper people of his day who believed that he was lowering standards horribly badly. Now anyone could enter heaven. He companied not with the respectable, not with the elite of society, but with those occupying the fringes of society--the prostitutes, the sinners, the ostracized ones. You see, Jesus would most probably have been seen in the red-light district of a city. Can you imagine if they saw me there walking into a brothel to visit with what are often called the women of easy virtue. Who would say, "We're quite sure the archbishop is there for a pastoral reason"? But that's exactly what Jesus did. Someone might look like a criminal or a drug addict, but these societal outcasts remain God's children despite their desperate deeds.

I saw the power of this gospel when I was serving as chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. This was the commission that the postapartheid government, headed by our president Nelson Mandela, had established to move us beyond the cycles of retribution and violence that had plagued so many other countries during their transitions from oppression to democracy. The commission gave perpetrators of political crimes the opportunity to appeal for amnesty by telling the truth of their actions and an opportunity to ask for forgiveness, an opportunity that some took and others did not. The commission also gave victims of political crimes an opportunity to unburden themselves from the pain and suffering they had experienced.
Desmond Tutu|Author Q&A

About Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu - God Has a Dream

Photo © Deborah Feingold

Desmond Tutu, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, retired as Archbishop of Capetown, South Africa, in 1996. He is active as a lecturer throughout the world and was recently a visiting professor at Emory University in Atlanta.

Author Q&A

What is the central message of your book?

The central message is to tell that we are all members of one family, God’s family, the human family, and to live out the full implications of that truth. It is also to assert that wrong and injustice will not have the last word, for we are made ultimately for goodness, for love, for compassion.

In your book, you discuss the redemptive power of suffering. How do you reconcile the presence of human suffering with the existence of a merciful God?

We need to have a proper agnosticism, for we do not know all there is to know. Ultimately, innocent suffering is especially a mystery and we should not be too facile in our responses. It certainly is blasphemous to suggest that it is God’s will. The God I worship is all-sufficient and yet created us to be persons with freedom to choose to love or not to love, to obey or not to obey God and God’s laws. God has a deep reverence for our autonomy and does not intervene to stop us from making wrong decisions. We inhabit a universe subject to laws that make it a cosmos and not a chaos. So when a baby falls out of a second-floor window, gravity will mean she falls to the hard ground, which does not turn soft for her. If God had to be always intervening to save us from bad consequences, then ours would be an unpredictable and chaotic world. A great deal of the suffering in our world is caused by our choices: the holocaust, war, bombing innocent civilians, substance abuse, violence against vulnerable ones, etc. In a real sense, the existence of evil and suffering could be said to be evidence of the profound respect God has for us and our proper autonomy as persons. And yet God does not look on with indifference at our plight. We Christians claim that God took on our human nature and suffered to redeem the entire creation. This God is Immanuel, God with us, there in our anguish, our desolation, our distress. And suffering frequently ennobles people, making them more compassionate, more magnanimous than they might otherwise have been. Of course, suffering can also embitter.

In recent years, there has been heightened tension between Western–majority Judeo-Christian–society and Eastern–majority Muslim–society. What type of reconciliation do you envision between these two groups?

Religion is morally neutral like, say, a knife. When you use it to cut sandwiches, then a knife is a good thing; but if you use it to stick in someone’s guts, then it is a bad thing. Religion can make people caring, compassionate, and concerned about justice and peace. Religion can also make people bigoted and intolerant of others with different views. So Christians can turn on fellow Christians as in Northern Ireland, or they can use it to justify injustice and oppression, as some Christians did to justify slavery in the United States or apartheid in South Africa. In our antiapartheid struggle, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, et al, marched together and were united in their opposition to that evil. It is possible, therefore, for people of different faiths to work harmoniously together. There are bad Muslims, as there are bad Christians. We should avoid generalizing and stereotyping as when we say: “All (whatever) are…” No faith that I know believes injustice, oppression, poverty, war, etc., are good. Adherents of different faiths can and do live together harmoniously and can and do coexist in so many countries and so can be reconciled when they fall out. They are not inherently and in principle irreconcilable. It is not Islam that wages war against Christianity. It is certain Muslims fighting against certain Christians and vice versa. No faith has a monopoly on God or on goodness–and not on badness either! God has no enemies. Certainly, my enemies are not God’s enemies.

What message would you like to send to the leaders of these peoples?

I would say, please exhibit the best attributes of your particular faith and do encourage your followers to take off their shoes, metaphorically, as they tread on what others believe is their holy ground.

When you were struggling to end apartheid in South Africa, how did you maintain your own hope, and encourage those fighting against apartheid with you?

Central to the Christian message is triumph over seeming ignominious defeat, life comes from death paradoxically, resurrection after crucifixion, Christians would be prisoners of hope. People prayed for us all over the world and we knew that those who were for us were many times more than those against us. And we believed that this is a moral universe. The perpetrators of evil had already lost even whilst they wielded enormous military might. We knew that evil and injustice could, ultimately, not prevail.

What do you think God most wants of his people?

God wants so very passionately that we will realize our high destiny as members of God’s family and that we should behave as those who are sisters and brothers where all belong with none being an outsider.

Why did you decide to write this book now?

We may sometimes be overwhelmed by the depressing news of wars and conflict, of famine and natural disaster, of oppression, and injustice. We need to be reminded about all the good that is happening all this time too: people caring for AIDS sufferers, pouring themselves out prodigally in compassionate service for others; and that we are made for goodness, for love; that it is these that will have the last word, and not their ghastly counterparts, much prevailing evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Julian of Norwich, a great English contemplative, was assured by God that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

What role does faith play in your vision of hope?

Without faith I certainly would not have survived in the struggle against apartheid’s injustice. It was believing that this is God’s world and that God is in charge that sustained us. When we believe, for instance, that each person is of infinite worth because she is created in God’s image, then we could hardly be indifferent to a system that treated her as less than this. It was our faith, not any political ideology, that spurred us on.

Is conflict necessary for peace?

War/conflict is not a prerequisite to peace. True peace and harmony have existed between and within nations before being shattered by war. True peace requires justice and equity. God longs for the time when we will beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks, when the lion will again lie down with the lamb, for God dreams that we will come to realize we are family.


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

Advance praise for God Has a Dream
“I have the highest regard for my good and trusted friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I admire him for the wonderful, warm person he is and especially for the human principles he upholds, and I have no doubt that readers will enjoy and benefit from what he has to say in God Has a Dream.”
—His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“Desmond Tutu shows each of us how to transform our pain and sorrow into hope and confidence in the future. Whether you are the head of a country or the head of a household, you will cherish his words.” 
—Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize recipient

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before him, has offered us a luminous vision of love and hope. God Has a Dream shows us how our personal and global suffering can be transformed into joy and redemption. With his great warmth and compassion, Archbishop Tutu offers a spiritual message that if heeded can change lives as well as history.”
—Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States and Nobel Peace Prize recipient

“Like Desmond Tutu’s life, this book is a testament to the power of faith and optimism in human affairs.”
—Senator George J. Mitchell

“This book is a small miracle, an elegantly simple testimony to the shining spirit and unquenchable faith of Bishop Tutu and of all humanity. It will inspire your heart and reaffirm your faith.”
—Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart

“While the world is plagued by religious fanaticism Archbishop Tutu brings refreshing African wisdom like a soothing balm…a must read.”
—Arun Gandhi, founder/director, M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, Memphis, Tennessee

“We all want to know what produces larger-than-life people.  We all need to know the mind and heart of greatness.  Desmond Tutu gives you all the clues in this marvelous book of ‘dreaming.’ ”—Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation
Reader's Guide

About the Book

Postscript II

Sharing God’s Dream: Questions for Reflection and Discussion

Dear Child of God, the following quotes and questions are provided as an opportunity to help bring God’s dream more deeply into your life and the life of those in your family and community.

I hope you will take some quiet prayer and meditation time to reflect on these questions. Often when I pray, I visualize myself witnessing the actual scenes inthe Bible and this helps me to understand their teachings. If we can see something in our mind, we are often more likely to experience it in our lives and realize it in our world. Try to truly see and feel your answers, not just to think about them. Do not fear strong emotions, even tears. Only by opening our heart can we hope to transform and redeem the pain we carry. As we unburden ourselves, we are less likely to act out our suffering on others, and we move closer to realizing God’s dream for us.

As brothers and sisters in God’s family, it is equally important to share God’s dream with one another and to gain support and sustenance for the challenges we face. Who in your life is suffering and is in need of hope? Who could benefit from hearing of God’s dream? You may also wish to consider organizing a study group at your church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or simply among your friends and family. Together, arm in arm, heart to heart, there really is nothing that can stop us—no suffering that cannot be transfigured, no injustice that can withstand God’s love expressed through our caring and conviction.

Introduction
. . . 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. (p. vii)
Where in your life are you experiencing sadness, despair, and suffering? Consider the hardships that exist in your own life and in the lives of your close friends and family. What might help transform this suffering? Now take a moment to focus on the suffering in our world that we try so hard to ignore. What might help transform it?

The most likely person, the most improbable situation— these are all “transfigurable”—they can be turned into their glorious opposites. (p. viii)
We have all witnessed some amazing turnarounds. Can you think of a person—maybe you—or a situation that looked like it was unredeemable and yet was transfigured? What happened? What allowed the transformation to take place?

1. God Believes in Us
This is a moral universe, which means that, despite all the evidence that seems to be to the contrary, there is no way that evil and injustice and oppression and lies can have the last word. (p. 2)
Do you believe this statement? If so, what supports your belief? If not, what calls it into question?

God marvelously, miraculously cares about each and every one of us. . . . And so God says to you, “I love you. You are precious in your fragility and your vulnerability. Your being is a gift.” (pp. 8–9)
Do you feel God’s love for you? Where do you feel fragile and vulnerable in your life? How would you live differently if you felt that God truly cared about you and loved you and that your life was a gift to you and to the world?

Many people believe that they are beyond God’s love....God’s love is not cut off from anyone. However diabolical the act, it does not turn the perpetrator into a demon. When we proclaim that someone is subhuman, we not only remove for them the possibility of change and repentance, we also remove from them moral responsibility. (pp. 10–11)
Are there things about you or things you have done that you sometimes believe make you unlovable? Are there things that othershave done to you that you think make them unlovable to God? Can you see them as God does, with love, as precious, as his children?

Our ability to do evil is part and parcel of our responsibility to do good. One is meaningless without the other. Empathy and compassion have no meaning unless they occur in a situation where one could be callous and indifferent to the suffering of others. To have any possibility of moral growth there has to be the possibility of becoming immoral. (p. 13)
When have you shown empathy and compassion when you could havebeen callous and indifferent? When were you callous and indifferent? When could you have been more loving to a family member or friend?

It is this fact that we were created to be free that is the reason that all oppression must ultimately fail. Our freedom does not come from any human being—our freedom comes from God. ... People are made for it just as plants tend toward the light and toward water. (pp. 14–15)
There are people throughout our world who are still struggling for freedom. Do you have faith in their victory? Do you pray for them with this confidence? What can you and your community do to help them to be free, to be fully human?

2. God’s Dream
God’s dream wants us to be brothers and sisters, wants us to be family. (p. 21)
What would it mean for you to see everyone around you as a brother or sister? How would you treat them differently? What keeps you from welcoming them into your family? As you see people in the street, and opinions, judgments, and prejudices leap to mind, can you see them as not this or that, but as a child of God, as your brother or sister?

You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you as you are to them. Perhaps if we could, we might have chosen different brothers and sisters. Fortunately or unfortunately we can’t. We have them as they have us. (p. 22)
Can you see the face of one of your relatives who you might not have chosen? In what ways might they be a gift in your life? What might they be able to offer you or teach you? Now think of a difficult person in your life who is not a relative. What might this fellow member of God’s family have to offer you or teach you?

We are made for companionship and relationship. It is not good for us to be alone. In our African idiom we say: “A person is a person throughother persons. . . .” In Africa recognition of our interdependence is called ubuntu. . .
(p. 25)
Where do you feel alone in your life? How might you reach out for companionship and relationship? How might you strengthen your family ties and community relationships? What one action—a phone call, a letter, a visit, an apology—can you take to start strengthening the human bonds that give meaning to your life?

A person with ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole. (p. 26)
Where in your life have you been unwilling to be open and available to others? With whom have you been less vulnerable, less affirming than you would like? Can you see yourself radiating ubuntu into the world? How would you live your life differently if you felt more connected with your family, friends, and community?

In our world we can survive only together. We can be truly free, ultimately, only together. We can be human only together, black and white, rich and poor, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jew. (p. 27)
How would we live differently if we knew that our very survival depended on one another? How might you act differently if you lived with this understanding?

3. God Loves You as You Are
We too often feel that God’s love for us is conditional like our love is for others. We have made God in our image rather than seeing ourselves in God’s image. We have belittled God’s love and turned our lives into an endless attempt to prove our worth. (p. 32)
In what ways do you feel like your life and your worth are conditional? What if you did not have to do anything, be anyone, accomplish anything in order to be fully loved and accepted? How would your life be different if you truly knew God’s love for you was unconditional?

...we should not try to push [our children] into our mold of success, but rather let them experience life on their own terms. We cannot make them into small versions of ourselves or into the people we wish we had been. God gives us freedom to be authentically ourselves and so must we give our children this same freedom. (pp. 33—34)
How are you communicating to your children–even in small ways–that they are only acceptable or lovable if they live up to your expectations? How did your parents put the same expectations on you? In what ways can we give our children the freedom to be authentically themselves?

We are that ultimate paradox, the finite made for the infinite. Anything less than God cannot satisfy our hunger for the divine. Not even success. That is why everything else, if we give it our ultimate loyalty–money, fame, drugs, sex, whatever–turns into ashes in our mouths. (p. 34)
What have you been told is the ultimate measure of your worth? What clamors for your loyalty? What undermines your ultimate loyalty to God?

Our capitalist society despises weakness, vulnerability, and failure, but God knows that failure is an inevitable part of life.... It is through this weakness and vulnerability that most of us learn empathy and compassion and discover our soul. (pp. 36—37)
What are some of your most splendid failures? What have you learned from them? How have your weaknesses and vulnerabilities helped you to discover your humanness?

One of the most blasphemous consequences of injustice and prejudice is that it can make a child of God doubt that he or she is a child of God. But no one is a stepchild of God. No one. (p. 40)
Where have you or loved ones suffered from injustice or prejudice? Have you ever felt like a stepchild of God? Can you see that no matter what you were taught to believe, you are a beloved child of God?

4. God Loves Your Enemies
...if we are truly to understand that God loves all of us, we must recognize that he loves our enemies, too. God does not share our hatred, no matter what the offense wehave endured. We try to claim God for ourselves and for our cause, but God’s love is too great to be confined to any one side of a conflict or to any one religion. (p. 43)
Who have you seen as your enemies and the enemies of your country? Can you see them as being loved by God, as being children of God?

In war. . . we keep score of our casualties and their casualties to see who is winning. God only sees His dead children,and these statistics hide the mourning and suffering of themothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, and brothers of those who have been killed. (p. 46)
Think of your “enemies” dead on the battlefield. Can you open your heart to their mothers and fathers, their children mourning their loss? How do we as individuals and as governments stop ourselves from seeing their humanity?

When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent on recognizing the humanity in others. (pp. 49—50)
How are you or your country becoming what you hate? How do you or your country become oppressed when oppressing others?

True reconciliation is based on forgiveness, and forgiveness is based on true confession, and confession is based on penitence, on contrition, on sorrow for what you have done. (p. 53)
Can you think of something that you feel sorrow for having done? Can you confess what you have done to the wronged person and ask for forgiveness?

Not to forgive leads to bitterness and hatred, which, just like self-hatred and self-contempt, gnaw away at the vitals of one’s being. Whether hatred is projected out or projected in, it is always corrosive of the human spirit. (p. 54)
What do you need to forgive? Can you let go of your bitterness and hatred?

...because we will hurt especially the ones we loveby some wrong, we will always need a process of forgiveness and reconciliation to deal with those unfortunate yet all too human breaches in relationships. (p. 57)
What breaches in your relationships need healing? Who in your life and in your community do you need to reconcile with? Does your community have a process that encourages forgiveness and reconciliation?

5. God Only Has Us
Do you realize that God needs you? Do you realize that you are God’s partner?. . .Without us, God has no eyes; without us, God has no ears; without us, God has no arms. God waits upon us, and relies on us. . . .You should not be daunted by the magnitude of the task before you. Your contribution can inspire others, embolden others. . . (pp. 59—62)
How do you feel knowing that you are God’s partner, knowing that you are part of God’s divine plan? Can you see that you are not alone and that your efforts contribute to everyone else’s? What can you do to further God’s dream? What can you do in your family, in your community, in the world to create more caring, more sharing, more compassion, more laughter, and more peace?

There is no neutrality in a situation of injustice and oppression. If you say you are neutral, you are a liar, for you have already taken sides with the powerful. Our God is not a neutral God. We have a God who does take sides. . . who will not let us forget the widow and the orphan. (pp. 65—66)
Where have you been willing to accept injustice, to be “neutral” when you needed to stand with the powerless?

When we look squarely at injustice and get involved, we actually feel less pain, not more, because we overcome the gnawing guilt and despair that festers under our numbness. (p. 68)
Where are you feeling guilty and numb about the suffering around you? How can you begin to look at this injustice and get involved?

6. Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart
...if we are to be true partners with God, we must learn to see with the eyes of God–that is, to see with the eyes of the heart and not just with the eyes of the head. The eyes of the heart are not concerned with appearances but with essences. . .(pp. 71—72)
Can you soften your eyes and look around you with your heart? Can you see through the physical appearances to the divine essence in each person around you and in your life?

...in the universe we inhabit there will always be suffering....This should not discourage us. It should simply allow us to see suffering–and our role in decreasing it– differently....In our universe suffering is often how we grow, especially how we grow emotionally, spiritually, and morally. That is, when we let the suffering ennoble us and not embitter us. . . . The texture of the suffering is changed when we see it and begin to experience it as being redemptive, as not being wasteful, as not being senseless. We humans can tolerate suffering but we cannot tolerate meaninglessness. (pp.72—75)
How has your suffering been redemptive? How have you found meaning in it? How has it helped you to grow emotionally, spiritually, and morally?

We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another....instead of accepting that perhaps I am not as good as someone else in some ways and being comfortable with who I am as I am,I spend all of my time denigrating you, trying to cut you down to my self-perceived size. The sad problem is that we see ourselves as being quite terribly small. Instead of spending my time being envious, I need to celebrate your and my different gifts, even if mine are perhaps less spectacular than yours. (pp. 76—77)
Whose gifts do you envy? Can you find a comfort with who you are, whatever your gifts may or may not be? Can you celebrate the gifts of those you envy?

We tend to think love is a feeling, but it is not. Love is an action; love is something we do for others. Development in the spiritual life, in the moral life, occurs when we have to make choices. You have a choice to follow your feelings of jealousy or hatred or to use your will to do something loving instead. Our freedom is based on our ability to rise above our feelings and to act based on our will....The extraordinary thing is that when you act lovingly you can begin to feel love. (pp. 78—79)
Do you see love as a feeling or as an action? Think back to a time that you were irritable or angry and acted lovingly instead. What allowed you to control your feelings? Sometimes simply reminding ourselves that we want to love can help. Sometimes the best we can say is I want to want to love.

...everything we do has consequences. A good deed doesn’t just evaporate and disappear. Its consequences saturate the universe and the goodness that happens somewhere, anywhere, helps in the transfiguration of the ugliness. But also it is true that a bad deed–or what the Bible calls a sin– doesn’t just evaporate and disappear, its consequences saturate the universe, too. (pp. 80—81)
Think back on your day or week. What good deeds did you do? Where were you less than you could be, where did you miss the mark of your potential to be a fully loving and caring human being?

So often when people hear about suffering in our world, they feel guilty, but rarely does guilt actually motivate action like empathy or compassion. Guilt paralyzes and causes us to deny and avoid what is making us feel guilty. The goal is to replace our guilt with generosity....We each must do what we can. This is all that God asks of us. (pp. 87—88)
Are you often motivated to give to others by your guilt instead of your desire to help? How would you act personally and politically if you gave out of true generosity instead?

Being courageous does not mean never being scared; it means acting as you know you must even though you are undeniably afraid. (p. 88)
Where have you been afraid to act? How can you find the courage to do so? Whose help do you need?

...as you begin to see with the eyes of God, you start torealize that people’s anger and hatred and cruelty come from their own pain and suffering. As we begin to see their words and behavior as simply the acting out of their suffering, we can have compassion for them. We no longer feel attacked by them, and we can begin to see the light of God shining in them. (p. 97)
How are people in your life acting out their pain and suffering? How are you acting out yours?

7. Stillness: Hearing God’s Voice
. . . each one of us is meant to have that space inside where we can hear God’s voice. God is available to all of us. God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (pp. 99—100)
When are you quiet enough to hear God’s voice? When can you find time to be still with God in your life, to be quiet, uncluttered, and undistracted? Can you take even a few minutes each morning or at some point in your day?

We have not always learned just to be receptive, to be in the presence of God, quiet, available, and letting God be God, who wants usto be God. We are shocked, actually, when we hear that what God wants is for us to be godlike, for us to become more and more like God. Not by doing anything, but by letting God be God in and through us. (p. 100)
What would your life be like if you let God be God through you? How would you be more godlike? What is God like?

God hears you as you are, even if you are tired, even if you are angry....there is an authenticity in being who we are in the presence of God. (pp. 103—104)
When do you feel like you cannot pray? What would you say that you think God can’t hear? Don’t worry, God has heard it all.

It is dangerous to pray, for an authentic spirituality is subversive of injustice. Oppressive and unjust governments should stop people from praying to God, should stop them from reading and meditating on the Bible, for these activities...will not permit us to luxuriate in a spiritual ghetto, insulated against the harsh realities of life out there as most of God’s children experience it. (pp. 107—108)
Do you think prayer can change history? Can it change your heart? How have you witnessed the power of prayer? Can you use prayer to hear God’s voice and further God’s dream?

8. In the Fullness of Time
God says there is no way in which we can win the war against terrorism as long as there are conditions that make people desperate. It is the logic of being human. It is something we should have learned long ago and we keep not heeding–we cannot be human on our own. We can be human only together. (p. 118)
How can you, your community, and your country help to end desperation? What is it about us that we can be human only together?

Peace is not a goal to be reached but a way of life to be lived. Violence erupts in moments of hatred and rejection, but peace is created in long years of love and acceptance. (p. 120)
How can you work in your community to foster love and acceptance, to create the conditions for true peace? How do your daily interactions in the world promote or prevent peace?

Jesus tried to propagate a new paradigm of power.... Power in this new paradigm is for service–for being compassionate, for being gentle, for being caring–for being the servant of all. (p. 121)
We all have power in our families, at our jobs, and in our communities. How can you use your power for service?

God works through history to realize God’s dream. God makes a proposal to each of us and hopes our response will move His dream forward. But if we don’t, God does not abandon the goal, He does not abandon the dream. (p. 122)
Where do you think God is making a proposal to you in your life today? What is your response?

Institutions or corporations or governments have no life of their own....They are only groups of people. They are people like you and me, making choices, deciding whether to heed God’s call or not, to accept God’s proposal or not, to become God’s partner or not. (pp. 122—123)
How can you help transform the institutions you are a part of– your church, your company, your government–to heed God’s call and realize God’s dream? Can you think of specific ways that you might be able to help make them more responsive, more caring, more sharing?

How we interact with the people in our lives–whether we are centers of peace, oases of compassion–makes a difference. The sum total of these interactions determines nothing less than the nature of human life on our planet. (p. 123)
What prevents you from being a center of peace and an oasis of compassion? What can you do to have your interactions reflect your intention to be God’s partner?

  • God Has a Dream by Desmond Tutu
  • April 26, 2005
  • Religion
  • Image
  • $14.00
  • 9780385483711

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