Bill Moyers Essay: Jerry Falwell’s Criticism of Desmond Tutu

  • submit to reddit

Bill Moyers reflects on Jerry Falwell’s criticism of the Nobel Peace prize-winning Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

BILL MOYERS: South Africa is one of the those places where there’s no apparent escape from the painful costs of injustice until there is first a perfect tragedy. Today, this year, perhaps for several years to come, whites can contain black rage and hold it off. But the numbers foreshadow the end. There are six times as many blacks as whites and blacks are increasing twice as fast as whites. A white minority that governs by the gun is likely one day to be governed by the gun. Perfect tragedy means the chickens come home to roost. There’s little the U.S. can do. President Reagan’s constructive engagement increases black anger. They see us aidjng and abetting their persecution. Sanctions, on the other hand, are a form of cheap grace, soothing to dispense from afar, but dangerous for creating illusion they really make a difference.

Too many Americans, safely removed, are throwing gasoline on the flames of passion and prejudice in South Africa. The latest is the Reverend Jerry Falwell, who yesterday spoke of Bishop Desmond Tutu as a phony. It was an unfortunate remark. When Bishop Tutu was deciding to put his life on the line to oppose racial apartheid in South Africa, Reverend Falwell was defending racial segregation in the American South. He said the Supreme Court would never have integrated the schools if the Justices understood the word of God, and he castigated clergymen who marched for civil rights.

Later, Reverend Falwell claimed to have been born again on racial equality, to have seen the light; but he hardly has credentials to denigrate Desmond Tutu or to judge who speaks for South African blacks. Bishop Tutu never set out to speak for anyone but himself, not even for a moral majority; but he is heard today because, in speaking truth to power, he speaks for justice. This is a lonely and suffering witness. In the tradition of John Milton, who said, “My conscience I have from God and cannot give it to Caesar,” so Bishop Tutu has something to teach even Reverend Falwell.

This transcript was entered on June 16, 2015.

  • submit to reddit