Bishop Tutu: “I’d Rather Go To Hell Than…”

Remember me?
Desmond Tutu, the once-famous Anglican bishop, made the news when he said yesterday, “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this…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.”

Now I was curious about this; I mean, about his level of earnestness. Everybody in the heat of political passion says stupid things (regular readers will agree), and the bombast required to get your name in the newspaper is increasingly noticeable, so it remains a healthy possibility that Tutu was either blowing off steam or exaggerating for effect. He hasn’t been talked about of late and perhaps he missed those heady days where his every word was weighed and marvelled at.

But while there may be elements of Look-At-Me! in his quote, I think there is another explanation.

The man is a bishop and therefore trained in the idea of Hell. Many modern Anglican theologians don’t believe in it. Not as an actual place where one is parked in the afterlife, but instead as a description of the aches and pains which must be endured here on earth. But if non-existence of Hell is also Tutu’s opinion, then there’s no literal point in saying he’d like to pay it an extended visit.

And then it’s not clear what Tutu’s belief in God is. Wearing of the dog collar is only positively correlated with belief and not certainly predictive of it. If Tutu is on the wrong side of belief, again there is no literal point in his statements.

But he’s on the right side, he must surely know that you cannot dictate to God about what’s right and what wrong. If God has decided, for example, that homosexual acts are a sin, why then they are a sin, even if Tutu (or anybody) doesn’t want them to be. It does not good whatsoever to rail against God. Thus again his statements cannot be taken at their face value.

What we’re left with is circumlocution. I believe what Tutu meant to say, in his literary and not literal manner, is not that he’d like to go to Hell but that he doesn’t believe homosexual (and other sexual) acts are sinful. And he doesn’t think you should think so, either. This is evident from the close of his statement: “I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.”

You cannot have a “campaign” to change what is sinful into what is not. You can have a campaign to change minds or to educate.

Along the same line, it is also possible that his statement not only means he’s “for” non-biological sexuality, but that since he well knows that, according to most interpretations, homosexual acts are indeed sinful, that he doesn’t believe in a God who would make this so. In other words, Tutu may be telling us that he doesn’t believe in the Western/Abrahamic God, either.

Of course, we cannot express an opinion on whether Tutu’s desire will be granted if he’s guessed wrong about the theology, other than to say let’s pray not.


  1. Nullius in Verba

    Do Christians have a choice about whether to be Christian or not? And on what basis do people decide to become so?

    Say you’re offered a choice between Christianity and Islam – one, you are told, condones slavery and military conquest, demands tribute, and passes sentence of death on apostates. The other promotes love and forgiveness and kindness to others.

    Are there not people who would decide to worship the Christian God because they thought he was worthy of such worship? Are there not people who would turn away from a God if they thought his doctrine was evil?

    According to Christian doctrine, humanity ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and thereby learned to distinguish good from evil by themselves. That might be a gift God didn’t intend mankind to have, but he has it nevertheless. So the archbishop can, according to doctrine, decide for himself that God made homosexuals that way and it would be wrong to punish them for something that was not their fault. I think he truly believes that God cannot be so wicked as to be homophobic, or to order the slaughter the male children of the Midianites and the enslavement of their daughters, or to order a man to sacrifice his own child on the altar, or to think one race was ‘God’s chosen’ and superior to other races, but that if hypothetically God was to become wicked, that rebellion *even against God* would be morally right – no matter the cost.

    It is an acknowledgement of the serpent’s gift. Man has the power to judge good and evil for himself, and so when the church (or the government, or the law, or society) says one thing and a man’s conscience says another, it is his duty to go with his conscience, and not to blindly follow orders.

    In the Old Testament, of course, blindly following orders was what it was all about. Humans were supposed to be dumb and obedient animals, naked and innocent. But with knowledge comes responsibility. You can’t say you were only following God’s orders: you yourself are responsible for doing so, and the sin of it is therefore yours too.

    But in that subtle fruit there were the seeds of rebellion against God and Church, and the overthrow of traditions passed down from the Creator of the Universe Himself. When even archbishops are arguing with it, and not Doing As They Are Told, the end is clearly nigh.

    Bishop Tutu has clearly switched to Satan’s side. There’s no other explanation.


  2. Ray

    I thought the Anglican church is a dating service for homosexuals.

  3. JH

    Tutu has secretly converted to Buddhism. So, instead, he’d be reborn and be a champion of life again. Yeah, this would be awesome.

    I attended Tutu’s speech many years ago. He spoke with a humility, enthusiasm and great kindness that rub off on me and the audience. A great human being he is!

  4. David

    How do we know again that homosexuality is a sin? I didn’t get the memo… If it’s from the Bible, then we would have to presume it is fail proof, and everything in it is true. Otherwise if there’s one thing wrong, there could be more, including the reference to homosexuality.

  5. Donatus

    All I can do is quote Jesus who said ‘You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.’ and ‘You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.’

    If Archbishop Tutu was truly humble, he would humble himself before God. We don’t know God’s thinking which surpasses our thinking as an adult thinking can surpass that of a worm. And yet Archbishop Tutu thinks he can call God out on his teachings.

  6. Ken

    IF you believe that a free society is best…then…you must believe that this includes the freedom to sin when the sins do not affect others. This, by the way, is from economist Milton Friedman — noted for his conclusions that minimal government and a free society has proven best (with “best” being the achievement of the highest standard of living).

    If you believe the US Constitution, with its “separation of church & state” is valid, you much accept it in total and not endeavor impose on all of society particular religious view. You must allow others their freedom to sin.

    The current Pope, Francis, had this to say this month (July 2013):

    “If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” he added. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society.”

  7. Howard

    As is so often the case, Tutu’s rambling statement in English can be more tersely expressed in Latin: “Non serviam.”

  8. I like to nitpick. So here goes: From our human perspective, some sexual acts are not sinful because God decided it so as an act of will, but because God intellectually decided what the nature of man was to be in creating him. In his Regensburg speech, Benedict XVI attributed the decline in western thought to the emphasis on the will of God over God’s intellect. Bishop Tutu is campaigning to delineate the will of God, as if the intellect of God, as evident in the nature of man, was irrelevant. Even from the perspective of will, homosexual acts are sinful because they are not acts of love.
    Nullius, before the fall, Adam and Eve were truly free, only knowing the good, having no experience of evil. Satan promised them that if they disobeyed God, they would experience evil like the fallen angels, i.e. the gods, who know both good and evil (Gn 3:5).

  9. Nullius in Verba

    “I like to nitpick.”

    Me too!

    “Even from the perspective of will, homosexual acts are sinful because they are not acts of love.”

    No, that’s not it. It’s because God commanded “Go forth and multiply” and sexual pleasure and love are only means to that end. The sin is in indulging in them for purposes other than procreation. That’s why contraception and Onanism are sinful too. You can do what you like so long as there is some chance that pregnancy will result. Homosexual sex is sinful because there is no chance of that. No other reason.

    “Satan promised them that if they disobeyed God, they would experience evil like the fallen angels, i.e. the gods”

    I think you might want to read it again. The fallen angels were not gods, the tree gave the *knowledge* of good and evil, not the experience, and God included himself in the category man had joined.

    “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

    Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.”

    But I found that an interesting perspective. I’ve not looked at it that way before.

  10. Didymus the twin twin

    Exactly NiV, as long as there’s a chance a woman will die in child-birth, sex is ok.

  11. Didymus the twin twin

    And I forgot to add: clearly God doesn’t hate fags, he hates women. Presumably the grudge goes all the way back to Eve.

  12. Tom

    “It’s always the people who believe in divine judgment who deserve it the most.”

  13. cminca

    “Desmond Tutu, the once-famous Anglican bishop…”

    I’d say Desmond Tutu is still famous-otherwise you Catholics wouldn’t be turning yourselves inside out about his statement.

    “He hasn’t been talked about of late and perhaps he missed those heady days where his every word was weighed and marvelled at.” I can assure you he gets much more press, and has much more gravitas, that Dolan–or you. And is that smarmy comment really the best you’ve got?

  14. cminca

    Tom–I’ve told others and I’ll say it to you–I think you should all be preparing an answer for when you arrive at the pearly gates and get asked the question “who were you to sit in judgment and despise my children”?

  15. kuhnkat


    while you are making ridiculous statemenet about the possibility of women dying in child birth, how about considering that LIFE is a GUARANTEE of physical death!!!

    You would appear to be in favor of no life at all??

  16. kuhnkat


    you apparently are judging people continuously. Why do you ASSUME that everyone who believes that homosexuals are sinning also despise them??

    In the old testament the Jews were commanded to kill those who performed homosexual ACTS!! Jesus was then sent and preached forgiveness for sin and to love even our enemies (he didn’t mention having sex with them that I remember). It is quite clear that we can consider someone a sinner, we ALL are, and still not despise them or especially wish them harm. Still, Jesus did NOT change ANYTHING about the LAW. He also regularly told people to stop sinning. For example, the woman he saved from stoning he told to go now and sin no more, he didn’t say it’s all cool baby.

    Oh, and one other item, the use of the term Judge or Judgement implies SENTENCING the person also. Is that what you intended?? I “judge” or discern all the time but do not try to set punishment for the people and myself.

    My personal opinion of the warning about judging others was not that we shouldn’t do it, but that we should insure we are as fair to them as we want our own judgement to be!!!

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