No, this is not about Linux-based operating system. This is about diversity, love, hospitality and caring for on another.


A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed (Archbishop Desmond Tutu )

A traveller through our country would stop at a village, and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but Ubuntu has various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to improve (Nelson Mandela) ?

Now, I know that there are individuals that are scared of Ubuntu. They point to the humanistic philosophy. However, let’s take a look at this an see how it can play out in our daily lives, the lives of our church and with the individuals that we come into contact with on a daily basis.

I remember hearing Tutu speak in 2000. Here were some of the words:

“Africans have this thing called UBUNTU.

It is about the essence of being human, it is part of the gift that Africa will give the world. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being able to go the extra mile for the sake of others. We believe that a person is a person through another person, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with with yours.

When I dehumanise you, I inexorably dehumanise myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms and therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in belonging”.

This (the bold) is what stands out to me. I think that we as humans throw each other under the vehichle and run them over. We demoralize people. We put them down for their thoughts and their beliefs.

Here is something a little more indepth:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu embraced ubuntu and shaped a theology around it in rebuttal to the Christian faith taught in his South African context of apartheid that said one’s skin color was an indicator of one’s value as a human being. Tutu pointed to the person of Jesus through whose ministry, death and resurrection God claimed all people as valuable in God’s sight. It is in and through this community of the claimed, that we find our identity and worth as humans.

In Tutu’s worldview, in order to understand yourself, you do it through someone else. This is difficult for Western Christians to grasp. We may even resist it. We have been socialized into and through a worldview where personhood centers on the lone individual whose essential characteristic is that of self-determination. Our very faith is often tied to this reverence of individuality.

Youth are especially aware of the pressures to achieve, stand out in the crowd, be unique, succeed, prosper and to make something of themselves. In contrast to this, the African view of a person comes through interdependence with others. For Tutu, the practice of ubuntu grows out of God’s relationship with us in Christ Jesus, who sets us free from sin, thereby making it possible to know each other. Our true human identity, he says, comes only through absolute dependence on God and neighbor, even when that neighbor is named enemy or stranger or uncool or old, or… (you fill in the blanks).

In baptism we are brought into a community that shapes who we are. It is in that community that we learn how to think, walk, speak, behave and how to be human together on this earth. The way we understand and view life and community is through the life of Jesus Christ whose sacrifice on the cross reconciled all people to God.

I read the words of Bruce reacently. He is part of the Redeemer church in Cincy and I think that this is fantastic and that each church should participate or create this type of enviorment:

We are mnot going to throw anyone out for their theological opinions. The church is “passionate” that the process of talking with each other, of being in community, is more important than a winning outcome. We believe that without all points of view, without different kinds of people, we can’t be the church we are called to be. By living into our diversity, we are making room for the kingdom of God.

We cannot survive or thrive without one another (Tutu)

We need to break down the walls that we have built up. We need to live without walls. I think that we need to embrace diversity; yet most do not. I am not sure we can really call ourselves Christians if we have walls up.

~ by jeffgreathouse on October 24, 2007.

One Response to “Ubuntu”

  1. Jeff, Tutu’s book No Future Without Forgiveness talks about Ubuntu. One of my ten best books. The movie, The Interpreter, with Nicole Kidman also has an interesting dialog on Ubuntu.

    We need more Ubuntu.

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