TAG | Rowan Williams
Iain Martin, writing in the Daily Telegraph:
The Church of England’s Archbishops’ Council, headed by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has made a submission on Europe to the Foreign Affairs select committee.
It urges the Government to be more constructive and positive in its attitude to the EU, and warns that David Cameron’s “veto” last December cost the UK credibility. Leaving the EU would be a “travesty”, they claim. Quite a lot of Britons now disagree and think that leaving would be rather a good idea. But the Archbishops explain that they are speaking out because the C of E is “by virtue of its history a European Church”.
Good grief. If the Church of England doesn’t even understand the circumstances of its birth, then how can it expect anyone else to care about what it says?
The British politician, Enoch Powell, a British politician who took the role of the Church of England (if not necessarily either its beliefs or its clergy) very seriously, would have been unsurprised by the invincible ignorance of these archbishops.
Here’s what he had to say back in 1972:
The relevant fact about the history of the British Isles and above all of England is its separateness in a political sense from the history of continental Europe…When Henry VIII declared that ‘this realm of England is an empire (imperium) of itself’, he was making not a new claim but a very old one; but he was making it at a very significant point of time. He meant—as Edward I had meant, when he said the same over two hundred years before—that there is an imperium on the continent, but that England is another imperium outside its orbit and is endowed with the plenitude of its own sovereignty. The moment at which Henry VIII repeated this assertion was that of what is misleadingly called ‘the reformation’—misleadingly, because it was, and is, essentially a political and not a religious event.
That’s true, if one considers that Powell was writing in an English context: Henry went to his deathbed considering himself a good Catholic. His dispute with Rome was not over theology, but power. Henry wanted more of the latter (and Anne Boleyn too) but the underlying (and ultimately more important) question was whether England should be governed by English laws or those of some alien authority. Henry VIII, quite correctly, if for self-interested reasons, said that the law begins at home.
Back to Powell…
The whole subsequent history of Britain and the political character of the British people have taken their colour and trace their unique quality from that moment and that assertion. It was the final decision that no authority, no law, no court outside the realm would be recognized within the realm. When Cardinal Wolsey fell, the last attempt had failed to bring or keep the English nation within the ambit of any external jurisdiction or political power: since then no law has been for England outside England, and no taxation has been levied in England by or for an authority outside England—or not at least until the proposition that Britain should accede to the Common Market [the future EU].
That was not something that Thomas Becket (not so surprisingly a traitor in the view of both Henry VIII and Charles I—the last Anglican saint) would have understood or appreciated, so good riddance to him. But Becket was at least Archbishop of Canterbury nearly four centuries before Henry VIII declared England’s independence.He has an excuse, of sorts. The current Archbishop, Rowan Williams, does not. The explanation for what he has said about Europe rests, as it has done so often throughout his disreputable and unpleasant career, in his willingness to put ill-thought, but fiercely-believed, dogma (usually of a leftish variety) before honesty. His upcoming resignation cannot come soon enough.
Writing over on the Corner, I’ve put up a few posts on the hand-wringing in Europe over the allegedly unseemly American response to the death of bin Laden, not to speak of the (manufactured) outrage over the the failure to bring him to trial.
As one might expect, England’s idiot savant Archbishop of Canterbury has been prominent amongst the hand-wringers, but it’s his German brethren who have really taken the lead, prompted, it seems, by a few mild words from Angela Merkel.
The Financial Times has a useful summary here:
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is a cautious and risk-averse leader who normally chooses her words with great care. Above all, she avoids saying anything to alarm the supersensitive German electorate. On the subject of the US operation that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden, however, she has risked the wrath of many voters to demonstrate her solidarity with Washington.
It is good news. I am happy that they have succeeded in killing bin Laden,” Ms Merkel declared at a press conference shortly after his death was announced on Monday.
Ever since, she has been the target of criticism from all political parties, including her own, as well as from representatives of leading German churches. Alois Glück, president of the central committee of German Catholics, called her words “mistaken and very annoying”. Martin Dutzmann, army bishop for the Protestant evangelical church, said: “It would have been good news if he had been arrested, leading to a proper judicial process.”
From within her own Christian Democratic Union – a party that boasts strong Christian roots – came sharp words from Siegfried Kauder, brother of the party’s parliamentary leader Volker Kauder, and chairman of the legal affairs committee in the Bundestag. “The principle that the end justifies the means has no legal foundation,” he said.
Eberhard Schockenhoff, a Catholic theologian, whose brother Andreas is the foreign affairs spokesman for the CDU in parliament, said: “The violent death of a man should never be a cause for joy.”
These people really need to get over themselves.
When, writing in Bloomberg News, George Walden begins his review of a new book on the colossal Mao-manufactured famine that was among the most hideous atrocities of the twentieth century, he does so in a curiously forgiving way:
When Julie Nixon Eisenhower met Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing in 1976, she wore a Mao badge — and thought it fun. More recently, the Archbishop of Canterbury [Rowan Williams] lamented the loss of a China that, under the chairman, had “guaranteed everyone’s welfare.”
After “Mao’s Great Famine,” Frank Dikotter’s chronicle of how that regime killed at least 45 million people in what he calls the greatest man-made famine the world has seen, no one will have any excuses for modish Maoism.
That’s too kind. No-one had had much of an excuse before, either. The horrors of Maoism have been well-known for decades, and the famine the Chairman created has been well chronicled (a good starting point is Jasper Becker’s brilliantly furious Hungry Ghosts from 1996).
One shouldn’t perhaps make too much of Julie Eisenhower’s fashion faux pas (Mao, after all, was, like the badge that bore his face, in some sense a Nixon family trophy), but the case of Rowan Williams is something else altogether different. All too often this over-promoted, and somewhat malevolent, parson is treated as a good-hearted holy fool. He is anything but. Williams, who has described himself, with sly self-deprecation, as a ‘bearded lefty’ is in reality an unpleasantly hard line ideologue. He would have known perfectly well about the hecatombs of Chinese communism (if you look at Williams’ words in their original context you can see that he is specifically referring to the time before the Cultural Revolution, in other words to a time that included the great famine), but this revolting prelate either didn’t care – or he felt that it was an inconvenient truth that could not be allowed to muddy the image of the egalitarian ‘social justice’ he is always so busy promoting.
If religion is pushed into private spaces, as increasingly it tends to be by our public discourse, we lose one of the most emotionally and imaginatively resourceful ways of seeing human behaviour; we lose something of the sense that certain acts may be good independently of whether they are sensible or successful in the world’s terms. I suppose you could say that we lose the “contemplative” dimension to ethics, the belief that some things are worth admiring in themselves.
Most of the passage that Andrew cites is what you’d expect a clergyman to say, so, however foolish, it’s nothing to be worried about. The opening passage, however, is intriguing either as delusion or attempt to delude:
If religion is pushed into private spaces, as increasingly it tends to be by our public discourse…
Good grief. Has this poor parson not noticed that there is a religion called Islam that now has a significant presence in Britain? You can think what you want about that faith, but the one thing you cannot say is that it has been pushed into a “private space”.
Andrew, meanwhile, goes on to add this:
If you haven’t read Marilynne Robinson’s “Absence Of Mind”, it speaks powerfully to the civilizational loss that a failure to grapple with, let alone understand, religious discourse and culture can bring.
Life is probably too short for me to want to find time to read Ms. Robinson’s book, so I’m a little reluctant to comment in too much detail, but “civilizational loss” is quite some claim. While a decent working knowledge of the more important varieties of religious belief is undeniably essential for an understanding of mankind’s history, present and, let’s face it, future, “grappling with” religious discourse is a more dubious activity—something about angels and pinheads, if I recall—of interest to some, of none to others, and mainly of benefit as a brake on fanaticism within the ranks of the faithful, except, of course, that all too often it is just the opposite…