Mpho Tutu, 46, grew up in the shadow of her father, the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and his struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. Inspired by her mother's capacity to listen and her father's unyielding joy, Tutu followed in her father's footsteps and was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 2003. She resides in the Northern Virginia suburbs, where she serves as founder and executive director of the Tutu Institute for Prayer & Pilgrimage. She and her father recently published a book titled "Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference." Tutu spoke with The Washington Examiner about her faith in God, and why it gives her such hope for this world.
Do you consider yourself to be of a specific faith?
I am a Christian, and I identify as an Episcopalian -- an Anglican, more so, in the sense of being part of a worldwide communion of this faith. I appreciate that we rely upon tradition, and reason, and Scripture -- that we're not expected to park our minds at the door when we enter the dialogue of faith. Scripture and experience and reason each have something to say in the way in which our faith is expressed.
You've said that throughout your adulthood, you felt God gently urging you toward the priesthood. Is God still in the business of calling us to action? What does that feel like? And what do we risk by ignoring it?
Absolutely. I suspect it feels differently for different people, and in different situations. My father describes it as "God-pressure." I've heard people describe it as a burden on their hearts. Those are good descriptions, but inexact. Sometimes it is presented as a door closing, a gentle ushering in a different direction. Sometimes it's a door opening to a path that was unexpected. For me, it's often been a feeling of "Oh, this shouldn't be -- this shouldn't happen this way." And then hearing a response as to how it should be happening, in a way that is life-giving. My experiences have been something of a physical urge -- a pressure, a burden, something physical. But for others, it could be different.
And what do we risk? We risk joy -- we risk our true joy. We risk really getting to experience what it feels like to be fully alive.
In "Made for Goodness," you and your father argue that humans, in a sense, are hardwired for goodness. So why do people continue to commit evil acts?
We are hardwired to be good, but we are free to choose how we act. Goodness is our default setting if we attend to it, but we are always able to override the default. So even though goodness feels good, sometimes it takes us slowing down enough to recognize what is the good -- it may not jump up and tap us on the shoulder! Giving ourselves time to slow down is one of our biggest tasks. And noticing -- just being mindful is another way of attending to what is good, and what is right. So much of our world is set for mindlessness, and generally what is mindless is not the best choice. When we stop being mindless, we start to recognize there are better choices we can make.
As technology has made our world seem smaller, the differences between us sometimes seem all the more stark and insurmountable. Are you convinced that despite our clashes, we're guided by a common morality?
I think that as we look across the major world religions, what holds to be central is how we are to treat one another. That is the golden rule, if you like, for almost every religion. I'm not sure I'd say we have a common morality, but we have a common call, or a common mandate, I think, to treat others as we would be treated. And that's something I am totally prepared to believe came from God.
At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?
I believe that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. I believe that each of us is infinitely precious to God. I believe that each of us has the capacity to live out of that recognition, or to turn our backs on that recognition. And I believe that if we really recognize how essentially -- at essence, at core, at heart -- how essentially beautiful we are, we would have a world that looks so much more like the world we yearn for.
- Leah Fabel