Saturday, 23 February 2008

More on the Archbishop

I have rather moderated my views on the Archbishop of Canterbury's Sharia intervention after reading a couple of articles in last week's Tablet. They have some very interesting things to say, and things that one might be a little surprised to read in that publication. I was interested to note (as you can read in the second extract) that Rowan Williams gloried in precisely the thing I blogged on the other day; stating that he had a right to speak for other religions because of the Cof E's established status. Hm.

This is an extract from the article 'Quiet voice of modernity's enemy' by Theo Hobson.
Above all, [Williams] refused to combine Anglo Catholicism with a general liberal agenda. Indeed he revived the Anglo-Catholic suspicion of secular liberalism that dates back to Newman. The liberal state, in this view, offers itself as an alternative community of salvation; it tempts us into supposing that we can dispense with the Church, or at least water it down, and develop a more progressive form of Christianity. This leads to weak forms of Christianity that are unable to resist dangerous ideologies: most obviously, the liberal Protestants of Germany embraced Nazism. It is Williams' anti-liberal ecclesiology that is the root cause of the present controversy. In a sense it's not really about sharia law, or Islam: it's about the relationship between a Catholic conception of the Church and liberalism.
For Williams, authentic Christianity occurs within a clearly defined social body, an "ethical community" as he has sometimes put it. Without this, Christian culture will be dispersed by the cold winds of secularism. There is a need for strong resistance to the various negative spirits of the age: consumerism, celebrity, hedonism and so on, and this resistance can only occur within an alternative social world, walled off from mainstream culture.
Only from within a religious subculture can secular modernity be seen for what it is: dehumanising. He has referred to secularism's "unspoken violence", and to modernity as "an atmosphere in which people become increasingly formless, cut off from what could give their lives ... some kind of lasting intelligibility': He sees secular liberalism as a quietly nihilistic force that robs human life of full significance, as a demonically subtle tyranny that looks and feels like freedom.

This next bit is by Clifford Longley who these days (though perhaps not at certain times in the past) usually has something sensible to say and puts it well.

[The Archbishop] defended his intervention by de¬claring it to be the privilege of the established Church to represent the concerns of other faith communi¬ties. Clearly many of his critics inside the Church of England think his only business is to stand up for its own interests, indeed to act as a brake against the inroads of Islam rather than as a lubricant. But the real clash visible in the media this week was not Christianity versus Islam, but religion versus secularism. If Dr Williams analysed carefully much of the press comment, he would have observed that the rule of thumb was something like "the more Islamic they are, the more dangerous". To the secularist, however, this is just an ex¬ample of a more general principle - that all religions are dangerous; the more so, the more seriously their adherents take them. So the real question for Dr Williams is not how does British Islam live with British secularism, but how does the Church of England do so?
From Lambeth Palace the apparatus of the Anglican establishment may look solid and enduring. Establishment shelters Anglican¬ism from the full force of the secular prevailing wind. But the Catholic adoption agency issue last year was a significant straw in that wind. It signified that it is secular values, not those enshrined in the common law, that are be¬coming the dominant cultural determinant of British society. Those values are utilitari¬an. It is a world where ends justify means, where talk of the sacredness of life is scoffed at and human rights are the subject of mere fashion, human autonomy in the pursuit of pleasure is the only worthwhile value and no one is neighbour to another. It is indeed the job of religions - Anglican, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim and the rest - to be a threat to those values. And not to apologise for it.
Good stuff, eh?


Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed. Surprisingly good for the tablet. Theo;s piece is very insightful and lo and behold, Clifford Longley looks like he might have actually woken up. I still object to using Sharia like the bogey man to kick off this debate. I think he should just come out and say the truth that the secular state is anti-Christ.


Fr John Boyle said...

I'm glad to read this - it makes me feel less of a fool for having posted my comments last month which provoked a majority of hostile comments. The battle is secularism versus religion - that was what Williams was arguing about.