The Common Good
July 2010

Seeding Hope

by Becky Garrison | July 2010

Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes all the Difference, by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu. Harper One.

In Made for Goodness, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu offer a series of poignant reflections that speak about their lifelong quests to choose righteousness in a world gone awry. This slim volume of personal anecdotes illuminates how Desmond Tutu tried to embody an incarnational theology on a daily basis. Together, this father and daughter explore the foundations of the faith that enabled him to remain joyful and hopeful despite the carnage he witnessed in his lifetime. What sustained Tutu during his darkest hours of despair, when all signs indicated that the system of apartheid could never be dismantled?

Starting with the premise that we are made in the image of God, father and daughter illuminate how our perspectives can be changed when we start walking in the direction of God, who calls all creation to be made anew. Desmond Tutu notes, “The goal of human life is to live beyond the small, narrow prison of our own cares, wants, and worries. By learning to choose what is good and right, we give ourselves the keys to true freedom.”
Tutu freely admits to the struggles he’s endured in striving towards freedom. Throughout the book, his humility shines through as he gives repeated examples of the consequences that ensued when he failed to follow the path of goodness. By giving the audience glimpses into his prayer life and other spiritual disciplines, he illuminates how over the years he learned to chose to do good in spite of his natural instinct to seek retribution against his enemies.
The Tutus clearly speak from their own tradition as Anglican priests, though they include interfaith acts of goodness to demonstrate that such virtue is not exclusive to Christianity. In particular, the authors remind people of all faiths that we need to keep sowing the seeds of goodness even if we are in the midst of a hopeless scenario. Just because we cannot see signs of life on the horizon does not mean that the situation cannot change. The Tutus cite examples that demonstrate that when we choose goodness, we can know in the end that evil will be vanquished.
For instance, Desmond Tutu tells the story of Ambrose Reeves, the Bishop of Johannesburg, who was a major figure in preaching against the evils of apartheid before being deported to England in 1960, where he remained until his death in 1980. Even though he did not live to see the end of apartheid, Reeves sowed many of the seeds that led to the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela.
While the book contains some examples from Desmond Tutu’s work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, those expecting the sweeping narratives found in No Future Without Forgiveness may be a bit disappointed in the simple, dinner-table-style conversations in this book. But these straightforward stories of seeking to do right among one’s family, friends, and neighbors remind us that our actions matter both at home and in the public square.

Becky Garrison is a Sojourners contributing editor. Her next book, Jesus Died for This? (Zondervan), will be released in July.
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