Desmond Tutu: A Spiritual Biography of South Africa’s Confessor
Hardback: WJK Books, 2021
The first biography of its kind about Desmond Tutu, this book introduces readers to Tutu’s spiritual life and examines how it shaped his commitment to restorative justice and reconciliation. Desmond Tutu was a pivotal leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and remains a beloved and important emblem of peace and justice around the world. Even those who do not know the major events of Tutu’s life–receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, serving as the first black archbishop of Cape Town and primate of Southern Africa from 1986-1996, and chairing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 1995-1998–recognize him as a charismatic political and religious leader who helped facilitate the liberation of oppressed peoples from the ravages of colonialism. But the inner landscape of Tutu’s spirituality, the mystical grounding that spurred his outward accomplishments, often goes unseen.
Rather than recount his entire life story, this book explores Tutu’s spiritual life and contemplative practices–particularly Tutu’s understanding of Ubuntu theology, which emphasizes finding one’s identity in community–and traces the powerful role they played in subverting the theological and spiritual underpinnings of apartheid. Michael Battle’s personal relationship with Tutu grants readers an inside view of how Tutu’s spiritual agency cast a vision that both upheld the demands of justice and created space to synthesize the stark differences of a diverse society. Battle also suggests that North Americans have much to learn from Tutu’s leadership model as they confront religious and political polarization in their own context.
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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
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