Saturday, 9 February 2008

On sharia and hysteria: or, why Rowan Williams is right

It has been fascinating to observe all the hullabaloo over Rowan Williams’ recent lecture on sharia law. The press’s infallible capacity for misunderstanding is matched only by the politicians’ spectacular ignorance of jurisprudence – an ignorance best encapsulated in the Home Office minister’s response to Williams: “To ask us to fundamentally change the rule of law and to adopt Sharia law … is fundamentally wrong.” As though Williams had been calling for an overthrow of British law!

To be honest, I reckon the Archbishop’s biggest problem is simply that he’s so much smarter than anyone else in the Church, and of course infinitely smarter than the poor news media, who haven’t the faintest idea what he’s actually talking about. The result is a public spectacle of stunning, breathtaking misunderstanding. (Today, some outraged nincompoop in the English Church was even calling for Williams’ resignation...)

For a voice of reason, however, you can now hear our own Kim Fabricius going head-to-head on BBC radio with Peter Hitchens (editor of the Sunday Mail) – the best moment is where Kim forces Hitchens to confess that he hasn’t even read the lecture for himself! (Kim’s segment begins at 5:40 into the programme.)

Anyway, you can read Rowan Williams’ entire lecture for yourself here: it’s a dense, thoughtful, informed, and highly nuanced reflection (prepared for an audience of lawyers and jurists) on the complex relation between law, citizenship, and the identity of religious communities. Williams rightly critiques “a damagingly inadequate account of common life,” in which “particular sorts of interest and of reasoning are tolerated as private matters but never granted legitimacy in public as part of a continuing debate about shared goods and priorities.” And he rightly critiques the tendency of a hegemonic rights-based philosophy to construe legal universality in such a way that “a person [is] defined primarily as the possessor of a set of abstract liberties, and the law’s function [is] accordingly seen as nothing but the securing of those liberties irrespective of the custom and conscience of those groups which concretely compose a plural modern society.” Is it true that wherever a right or liberty is granted, “there is a corresponding duty upon every individual to ‘activate’ this whenever called upon”?

In short, Rowan Williams wants us “to think a little harder about the role and rule of law in a plural society,” and to think more generally about the character of law itself. But thinking is hard work – and it’s neither as enjoyable as a good lynching, nor as satisfying as a posture of moral indignation.

45 Comments:

Joshua said...

thanks for posting this. i posted something far less eloquent yesterday on it.
i too side with williams and think that it is a problem/challenge that will face all religions and states as we move forward in the 21st century. what is so stunning about the situation is the inability for anyone in leadership these days to have serious intelligent exchange without it being trapped in soundbits and blogs.

Anonymous said...

This commentary misses the difference between being a theologian and being a bishop, especially being the Archbishop. I do not think he yet really grasps that difference either.

This is too bad. I respect him as a theologian, but as bishop he simply must be more aware of the public context of his remarks. This is what being consecrated as a bishop means. Being able to rumminate publically on controversial topics is not an option for him now.

You are right that people are reacting in unsubtle ways--indeed, crudely and ignorantly. But we should not expect the media, many in the church heirarchy, and the lay person in the pews to wade through his lecture and catch each nuance.

This is hardly the first time this has happened. This sort of lecture is an indulgence neither he nor the Anglican Communion can afford at the moment.

Horace said...

The problem that Rowan Williams encoutnered here is that he failed to consider the Christian-Democratic Resolutions enacted at Fairfield back in March of 2006. Parliament however, is quick to forget about these resolutions and even quicker to uphold them.

Perhaps those who ignore them would like to revert back to colonial imperialism? I hope not.

Caoilin Galthie said...

I think that Anonymous has a great point! As the AB of Canterbury in the present climate he should very well know that anything he says will be pulled apart and misconstrued. Witness the reaction to Benedict 16's lecture at Regensburg, and the reaction by many who never even read the speech, but heard that he had insulted Islam!

Mike Higton said...

Anonymous and Caoilin:

Okay, suppose you are Archbishop of Canterbury. And suppose you regard it as part of your mission in that job (and remember that the ABofC is rightly or wrongly *not* simply a bishop) to work to overcome the damaging stupidity of public thinking about Islam's place in Britain. You might come to the conclusion that it's worth making an attempt - even though you are obviously going to get shredded by an incomprehending media, and the dimwits in your own camp - to launch a serious debate, and to make some serious proposals, in the hope that a few people who can make a difference will have taken notice once the brouhaha has died down. Yes, you'd have to weigh up the possibility that the brouhaha would itself make the situation worse - but you might guess that the brouhaha will mostly be directed at you (and think that preserving your own reputation is no part of your brief) and you might think that in any case the depth of ignorance and malicious stupidity surrounding this issue is such that you can hardly make it worse.

At one point in that would you be being unepiscopal?

kim fabricius said...

That's the most depressing thing about this fiasco. From the tabloid media you expect "ignorant guff" (as one sympathetic emailer called the comments I had to parry), but the intellectual eclipse following Williams' lecture and broadcast is almost total. So lame is our cultural commentariat that the blind aren't so much leading the blind as sitting with them, torsos without heads or legs, unable to move, looking back to some mythical past when Britain was a great and Christian nation. To politicians Williams is a traitor, to lumpenchristians he is an apostate. I shouldn't wonder that the Archbishop's bedtime reading is Jeremiah.

And here is the ultimate irony: insofar as there is a villain to the piece - and Williams is at great pains to steer us away from an agonistic understanding of human relationships that would reduce action to assertions of will and power - the villain is the secular state. Islam is not only a scapegoat, it is a synecdoche. That's why all three politcal parties in the UK are licking their chops: it's feeding time for Leviathan.

Mike Higton said...

Sorry: must remember not to try typing comments while trying to persuade a grumpy four-year-old that it is bath time. The final line of my comment should have read:

"At what point in that would you be being unepiscopal?"

Anonymous said...

It's an enormous disadvantage for a public figure to be both smart and honest and unable to imagine how malicious or stupid people will react to your statements. It is too bad that he isn't getting more support from his church, but then, maybe that shouldn't come as a great surprise either.

tortoise said...

As I understand it, Lambeth Palace requested the radio interview in order to pre-emptively clarify aspects of Rowan's lecture. So it looks to me like he was expecting a degree of brouhaha, and hoped to defuse it.

But it seems to be comments from the radio interview, rather than the lecture, that are being stripped of context and peddled to the masses. From the point of view of media looking for soundbites, an interview scenario is always going to be more promising territory than a professional-academic lecture; and sadly Rowan seems to have given them exactly what they were looking for.

So, whilst he has indeed made a characteristically perceptive contribution to this jurisprudential debate, I must reluctantly join with those who question his judgment in this issue. At the very least, it must be said that his PR strategy has backfired spectacularly.

andy jones said...

I've listened to the radio clip. Well done to Kim for carrying the debate with such vim and vigour. Peter Hitchens (even though he was ignorant of the precise content of the Archbishop's speech) clearly had some points worthy of attention and debate and an above average background knowledge from personal engagement with Muslim scholars. These deserved a hearing - not, of course, his crude (and frankly journalistic) debating points about the Ayatollah of Canterbury, but particularly those points with regard to the countervailing interests of Islamic women when feminist Islam is still very much a minority voice among an almost exclusively male ulama. This is probably a key point in any debate about the feasibility of private religious adjudication with recourse to the law if either party was aggrieved. Would both parties genuinely have equal access to the secular law? And how could you guarantee that?

This may indeed be part of the legitimate debate Rowan Williams hoped to stimulate.

However, the comments of the general public shows the great gulf of understanding there is to be bridged. This is not to suggest the Archbishop hires Alistair Campbell (which tabloid would be the first to the headline "We don't do God"?) or starts a spin department, but how do you engage or win people over who simply can't or don't engage with logical argument? Or don't you try in the first place? Kim had a good go at it, but sadly I don't think they'd have bothered listening to the Archbishop for more than 5 seconds.

Mike Higton said...

Tortoise:

I think you're right that the radio interview is partly to blame - and I do wish in particular that RW hadn't used the word 'inevitable', which has proved such a gift. It's hard not to see that interview either as a mistake or as a missed or mishandled opportunity.

And yet ... the point of my earlier comment was that we should pause before asking whether his PR strategy has 'backfired spectacularly', and notice what we are saying. It has done nothing for RW's broader reputation, certainly - but how much should that be a concern of his strategy? (I'm not saying you or other posters are claiming that reputation *is* paramount, by the way - just trying to explain why comments like yours begin to make me uneasy.)

More importantly, the interview and lecture have ended up creating a great deal more heat than light around the subject in question, which is bound to look self-defeating. But how can we yet tell whether interesting lines of thoughtful response have also been set running beneath the fuss? And how can we yet tell whether that heat has been genuinely damaging?

Those sound like breezy rhetorical questions - but they're not really meant to be. I don't know quite where to go on this one. But on the one hand, I can't see any other way of working for the regeneration of serious public discourse, and of the church's voice in it, than by taking this kind of gigantic risk (otherwise, what is the point?). And on the other hand, I am seriously unsure what appropriate short and long term measures of 'success' we should be using - just deeply unconvinced that one news cycle of extraordinary fuss tells us enough to help make serious judgments.

Peter Kirk said...

I don't think I am the "outraged nincompoop in the English Church" you had in mind, but I have joined him in calling for Williams’ resignation. Why? Not so much for the content of what he said in the lecture or even in the interview. More for his failure to realise how seriously this would backfire against him and the church worldwide. He is indeed infinitely smarter than most of the rest of us in theology and other academic disciplines. But he seems quite out of touch with the real world. And this at a time of crisis for his church over separate issues. He should return to the ivory towers where he belongs and let someone with the right skills take over his job.

Justin Lewis-Anthony (3MinuteTheologian) said...

Thank goodness for an enclosure of sanity in the hysteria surrounding Rowan's speech. You should it pretty quiet in here, Ben, Kim, Mike, 'cos outside it's bedlam.

The worst thing about this is how naked the press have been in setting out to get the nonsense onto its stilts. Have you seen Riazat Butt's comment on Thinking Anglicans where she all but admits trying to spin something that isn't there:
I’ve read the speech and re-read it. I don’t understand a word of it and unfortunately for us hacks he doesn’t replicate his BBC words in the bloody text. If anyone can tell me what he’s saying I’ll buy them a beer.

This is a shameful admission of a lack of curiousity (not really wanting to understand what Rowan was saying) and an interest in making the story.

And as for the suggestion by many people that "Rowan should go because of the effect his words have had on the lumpenchristians*, not me you understand, but them, the great unthinking of the pews, greatest respect for Rowan as a man and as a thinker, but he should GO!". Well, meretricious nonsense on stilts.

* great word, Kim

kim fabricius said...

Hi Peter,

You too are bewitched. You are under the spell that there is a "real world" with which Williams is out of touch. You assume (as John Milbank puts it in his brilliant essay "The Poverty of Niebuhrianism") "that there is some neutral 'reality' to which Christians bring their insights," whereas in fact "either the entire Christian narrative tells us how things truly are, or it does not. If it does, we have no other access to how things truly are, nor any additional means of determining the question."

And therein lies a further preposterous irony to this media-made madness. On "Question Time" last night, and again in the studio today, people complained that Williams should stick to the gospel - when that is precisly what he is doing, not least by offering a thick description of British society, its problems and possibilities, through his reading of the gospel (and, of course, by exploiting baptised insights from the social sciences where these are useful).

Most people obviously want to see the church deployed as a cheerleader for the nation-state, shouting the odds and defending its borders against the barbarian hordes - "This is a Christian country and if they don't like it here they can can bloody well piss off!" - and Williams refuses to kowtow to such a perversion of the gospel. (Williams, of course, hails from the disestablished Church in Wales, and in his theological heart, I suspect, he sees a state, territorial church as a contradiction in terms.) They also want simplistic and monolithic descriptions of Islam, Christianity, and contemporary culture, and, again, Williams refuses to fuel their fantasies. What he says is subtle, but not obscure, at least not for those who take time and pay attention. If the public reaction is that "they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand" (Mark 4:12) - well, quelle surprsie!

This reaction does not demonstrate that Williams is out of touch. On the contrary, it is precisely because he is so in touch - with reality - that he arouses such hostility and takes so much flack.

davidicline said...

Benjamin you say that the ABC is "...so much smarter than anyone else in the Church..."

I have often heard others say something similar and I got to thinking. I ask this question not tongue-in-cheek or with any malice whatsoever... by what measure do we conclude he is smart? How do we define smartness?

Also, when we identify "smartness", what are we saying about ourselves? Does it mean that we too, are smart (or on the way to being smart) to recognize smartness?

This is a serious inquiry with no hidden agenda?

Anonymous said...

Cut and paste link below to read what a Muslim woman thinks:
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/yasmin-alibhai-brown/yasmin-alibhaibrown-what-he-wishes-on-us-is-an-abomination-780186.html

j. k. said...

"But thinking is hard work – and it’s neither as enjoyable as a good lynching, nor as satisfying as a posture of moral indignation."

Well said!

Anonymous said...

My initial reaction (above) had to do with the Archbishop's confusion over his role as speculative theologian and as the leader of Anglicans globally.

Now that I have read the lecture carefully, I have a theological reaction. This is actually a tremendously helpful speech when it comes to understanding William's theology. It also underlines the limits of his method, a method that many of us have shared.

Perhaps the glee that we who are interested in theology have had over ending "the enlightenment project" has been misplaced and dangerous. Williams is clearly in his lecture trying to set aside the enlightenment underpinnings of a theory of universal law and connect them with concrete, historical communities. This "inevitably" means that each community must give way to the integrity of the other, as no one community can claim superiority or universality. He is being completely consistent.

However, while following Alasdair MacIntyre has been a winning argument theologically, perhaps it has been a terrible mistake and a dead end more generally. Universal law in the form of declarations of human rights, for example, has been essential in helping the world criticize the abuses of both totalitarian and tribal governments. I am not ready to set aside universal human rights only because they are founded on enlightenment, universalist, modernist principles.

I don't think Williams is advocating setting them aside either. But his hinting at the end of the lecture that these universal human rights are really based on religious principles puts him and us in a box we do not want to live in.

Women's rights, for example, will be immediately relativized if we go this route. This is not where I want to go. Perhaps the enlightenment project was not so bad after all.

Anonymous said...

I have argued recently in a discussion of the moral background to legislation about incitement to religious hatred that any crime involving religious offence has to be thought about in terms of its tendency to create or reinforce a position in which a religious person or group could be gravely disadvantaged in regard to access to speaking in public in their own right: offence needs to be connected to issues of power and status, so that a powerful individual or group making derogatory or defamatory statements about a disadvantaged minority might be thought to be increasing that disadvantage. The point I am making here is similar. If the law of the land takes no account of what might be for certain agents a proper rationale for behaviour - for protest against certain unforeseen professional requirements, for instance, which would compromise religious discipline or belief - it fails in a significant way to communicate with someone involved in the legal process (or indeed to receive their communication), and so, on at least one kind of legal theory (expounded recently, for example, by R.A. Duff), fails in one of its purposes.
--Rowan Williams

The so-called "liberal" religious mind is deeply manipulative and incapable of looking rationally past narcissistic issues of power and control. They are incapable of critiquing their own assumptions, and, too often, their assumptions are simply false.

--"Ken" (commenting on the ABC's speech on another blog)

Discuss.

julieunplugged said...

Perhaps the glee that we who are interested in theology have had over ending "the enlightenment project" has been misplaced and dangerous. Williams is clearly in his lecture trying to set aside the enlightenment underpinnings of a theory of universal law and connect them with concrete, historical communities. This "inevitably" means that each community must give way to the integrity of the other, as no one community can claim superiority or universality. He is being completely consistent.

Universal law has given way to acknowledging particularity in order to wrest control from the dominant cultures in any one context. Ironically, in Muslim countries where Sharia law is practiced, it is applied as "universal law." It is, in itself, a form of universal coercion that disregards dissent or particularity.

In an attempt to be attentive to particularity in a western context, to resist hegemony and coercion (particularly of groups that were formerly colonized - perhaps there is more here than theology at work), paying attention to the needs of a Muslim community by recognizing Sharia law as that community's "choice" misses the original spirit of Sharia.

John Rawls writes in "Justice as Fairness": "Citizens have conflicting religious, philosophical and moral views and so they affirm the political conception from within different and opposing comprehensive doctrines, and so, in part at least, for different reasons.... we say that in a well-ordered society the political conception is affirmed by what we refer to as a reasonable overlapping consensus." (Emphasis mine)

What seems missing in the desire to grant communities the right to live according to their conception of God's law is reasonable consensus that affirms pluralism for the greater scheme. How Sharia law fits into a pluralistic society is what is at stake here.

Peter Kirk said...

Kim, the "real world" with which Rowan is out of touch does exist.

I don't mean some kind of Platonic "neutral 'reality' to which Christians bring their insights". To the extent that there is such a philosophical reality, I'm sure Rowan the philosopher is closely in touch with it.

No, the real world I am thinking of is in the ex-council estate I live on, and the church on it I worship in. It is in the understandings of "lumpenchristians" and lumpenheathens. It is in the media and the thousands of comments they have received from the public. If he is "overwhelmed by the "hostility of the response" ... in a state of shock" (words from here), that is a clear sign that he is out of touch, and that there is something real out there that he is out of touch with. And this, rather than the Platonic stuff, is what the leader of an international church needs to keep in touch with.

Jon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Goroncy said...

Thanks for this Ben. I've posted a few thoughts of my own here:
http://cruciality.wordpress.com/2008/02/09/its-time-to-name-the-gods-some-reflections-on-some-reactions-to-rowan-williams-recent-lecture/

Anonymous said...

Here is another clear analysis of the problem of William's utter disconnect with what Sharia really means, brought to you by the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria:

http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/2008/02/rebel-without-clause.html

Anonymous said...

Williams is playing right into the hands of Islamists, whos main aim to have every country and every person on earth subject to Sharia law.

If you think this isn't the primary goal of Islamists and Islam in general, than you haven't been reading your Quran lately.

Stay tuned...it's coming to the States as well.

Matt said...

Kim,

Thanks for your comments on the radio program. Hearing Peter for the first time, there's no doubt they're brothers! Cranky, witty, and incredibly stubborn, the both of them.

In any case, do you know where I might find a copy of the Milbank article you mentioned? I can't find one online or via my university's library databases. Thank you!

Ben Myers said...

Matt, the essay Kim quotes is chapter 10 in Milbank's book, The Word Made Strange — it's a great essay, and it's definitely appropriate in this setting.

And just a quick point in response to Anon's comment above about Islamists taking over the world, etc: even if this were true, I'm not sure Christians are in a position to judge here, since we have some embarrassingly large colonial/imperial logs in our own eye. Let's face it: the world has always had more to fear from "Christian nations" (with their "Christian values") than from any Islamic Republic.

Matt said...

Great, thanks Ben.

RC said...

... the real fun will begin when Shariah prohibits homosexual couples in Britain from adopting children... as I recall, when British law per se held that Catholic charities could not refuse adoption to such couples, Rowan said not a word about "pluralism."

Shane said...

"the world has always had more to fear from "Christian nations" (with their "Christian values") than from any Islamic Republic."

Bullshit.

Christianity has blood on its hands, but it idiotic to take this as justification for passively acquiescing to the violence of contemporary Islam. Just because it was wrong when we did it doesn't mean we shouldn't tell other people that they are wrong when they do it.

It's also patently false that Islamic countries past or present were some mythical oases of interreligious harmony. If you were a Jew in the 12th century, you'd probably be better off in Moorish Spain than Catholic Paris, that's probably right. But dhimmi (subjugated non-muslims) were always subject to heavy taxes, forbidden to hold public office, and so forth, even when the Muslim empires were at their most magnanimous.

And the current state of Islam around the world is not the apogee of magnanimity. If you want to test my thesis, take a box of Bibles to Pakistan and try to hand them out on the street. Go to northern Nigeria and tell someone on the street that you think they should convert to Christianity.

In short, what I'm saying is that Rowan++ has no idea what he is talking about when he says that, "But while such universal claims are not open for renegotiation, they also assume the voluntary consent or submission of the believer, the free decision to be and to continue a member of the umma. Sharia is not, in that sense, intrinsically to do with any demand for Muslim dominance over non-Muslims." The fictionalized shari'a of Williams' imagination might be compatible with liberal pluralistic democracy, but the actual political fact of shari'a as it is practiced in Muslim nations around the world is not.

I actually agree with the major thrust of Williams' piece, although there are quibbles of detail to be raised. But his view of the institution of which he speaks strikes me as hopelessly academic and disconnected from the reality of the situation.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ben,

(talking about this day and age, not the past) Would you rather be a Muslim in a country with Judeo-Christian based law, or a Christian living in a Muslim country with Sharia law?

Google 'Voice of the Martyrs' if you need help answering this one.

- Steve

Ben Myers said...

Thanks Shane and Steve, I understand where you're coming from. My point was just that, as Christians, we must have very short memories if we think we can take the high moral ground on this one.

kim fabricius said...

So, Shane, Rowan is "passively aquiescing to the violence of contemporary Islam"? No, you didn't say that, for you know that Rowan has explicitly dissociated himself from extremist Sharia law (often, it must be said, culturally, not religiously, constructed), but it sounds like you said that, and that is precisely the kind of specious conclusion that the idiotic tabliod press draws from Rowan's lecture and radio interview. For an uberlogician like yourself I am surprised at such slipshod word-care.

And who has suggested that "Islamic countries past or present were some mythical oases of interreligious harmony"? Again, Rowan? Of course not. So why another straw man for bigots to torch?

And of course Rowan is aware of the actual practices of Sharia around the world. However, quite apart from the fact that he is addressing the British situation (Muslims are 3% of the UK population), he is also aware of attempts at its renegotiation among Islamic jurists, and it is precisely such renegotiation in a direction that fosters human dignity - including the treatment of women - that Rowan is trying to advance by bringing it out of entrenched isolation (which is exacerbated not only by reactionary Islamism but also by hair-trigger Islamophobia) and into conversation with other legal practices.

In fact, "conversation, not ghettoization" is what Rowan's project is all about. The former requires courage, humility, energy, and piles of patience; the latter only requires ignorance and inertia.

Of course (it's the first Sunday in Lent), Rowan could always adopt another tactic, were someone to take him to a high mountain and show him all the kingdoms of the world ...

Anonymous said...

Yup, by now we've all read and reread Williams, and yup, it's getting pretty hard to take his defenders seriously on this one. Here another good read,
http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/495671/dhimmi-or-just-dim.thtml.

Jon said...

One point to note in connection with Muslim feminism is that, as Christians, we can do very little to help them. The best we can hope to do is to avoid giving the umma the impression that feminism is a product of the "West Which is The Enemy." After all we aren't Muslim so if we try to meddle in their faith it would be like an American telling a Brit how to run their country. In both cases the reaction would probably be negative unless the Brit (or Muslim) already agreed.

Jon

d. w. horstkoetter said...

Keep it up Kim!

Shane said...

@Kim,

In the comments above which you single out I wasn't attacking Williams. I was attacking Ben Myers, as could be plainly seen from the preceding quotation and the second personal invitation for him to travel the middle east a bit. It seems like you (i.e., Kim Fabricius, not Rowan Williams) are faulting me for people who don't know how to read being able to misunderstand me. But that's hardly a fault, or at least I don't see it as one. Having reread them, my original statements still seem perspicuously to state my opinion.

But what about the Straw Man charge?

And who has suggested that "Islamic countries past or present were some mythical oases of interreligious harmony"?

It seems to me that David Levering Lewis for one suggests this. It's an odd sort of claim, but it seems popular in certain academic circles. I think it's historically false, however. I was worried that Ben needed to more carefully distinguish his own position from that one.

I'm not upset with Williams because illiterate journalists think he said something other than he did. I know perfectly well what he did and did not say. As I said above, I actually do agree with the thrust of his paper, that is, I think (1) there probably is a way of allowing some muslim courts for matters like divorces, inheritances, and so forth that can be accomodated within british law without violating human rights and (2) that establishing such courts might be beneficial.

My disagreement with Williams is more specific: I think he is working with a heavily revisionist version of shari'a propounded by liberal muslim clerics who want wider acceptance in the western world and that this concept of shari'a is not identical to the actual social institution as it exists in muslim societies around the world. Since this is a political talk, it seems better to me to deal with the actual political institution, not the revisionist version. Once we're looking at the thing in vivo it seems that the probability of the the 'might' in "might be helpful" in (2) above is slimmer than it appears to the archbishop.

Maybe the burden of your comment is that just as my words are capable of misunderstanding, so the Abp's words are capable of misunderstanding, and therefore, I should cut him a little slack? I think this must be what you were driving at.

It's wrong for two reasons: First, I'm not the archbishop of canterbury, and nobody (not even Muslim terrorists) cares what I think, so there isn't as much of a political need for me to be guarded in my words. Second, as the foregoing paragraphs show, my problem is not with something I misunderstood that Williams didn't actually say--it's with something that he did say.

Shane said...

A little video for your edification and amusement.

Faced with people like Omar Bakri, we have but two choices: kill him, or allow him to kill us. That's the reality of the situation.

kim fabricius said...

Yup, kill the bastard. But torture him first for information.

Shane said...

Well said! Well said!

I have the perfect method. We'll tie him down and have the guard read sentences from Milbank out loud to the bastard. He'll be screaming for mercy in 20 minutes and ready to tell us everything he knows.

Anonymous said...

Finally, to the point. For those who have followed my link suggestions, here is Spengler's real politik insights into William's higher hypocrisy.

Note also: it was the voice of Muslim women in Canada that put a stop to the stupid notion of a supplementary jurisdiction for Sharia. For sake of political cover, the Orthodox Jewish courts in Ontario were suspended as well. Anyway, read Spengler below. He is always a scathingly good read.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/JB12Aa02.html

Anonymous said...

is it so difficult in the english speaking world to imagine a bishop who is at the same time a thorough intellectual - public and private if one can draw these distinctions? i thought the worlds of the apostolic fathers through to the ante- and post-nicene and the middle ages were teeming with church leaders like the current ABC - leaders who argued within and without the church and also broke the bread. most of these without the confort of a seperate university, but their pastoral-cum-study-cum-administrative-cum-prayer-cum-etc room. they pulled no punches nor tried to be 'pragmatic' (the be-a-scholar-over-there-and-a-bishop-over-here type churchmen/-women).

there was little to no room left between the baptismal font/pool and a thorough engagement in dense theses and disputations with older and contemporary currents in scholarship.

i guess our world is just not comfortable with less lazy bishops in tis regard. how sad!!!! can i just try this on some of our discussants: how would you teach the trinity to a group of confirmants - 14 year old teenagers! - based on the athanasian creed (conceeding the anachronism and pseudo-authorship) and the 'est - non est' shield of the trinity? i might be getting scholarly for some, but this is what 'the people on the ground' used to learn as a part of their basic faith in the 11th century! (which just shows how patronising the thought that people do not understand' can be; revealing only the personal uncertainties of hte one who pushes this sort of agenda) matter-of-fact, i know a few catechists who are doing this with confirmants further up north in the nordic lands - challenging what pedagogical theories assumes concerning teenagers. and these teenagers are getting it. (i read somewhere that karl barth was inspired to study theology by the confirmation classes that openned up big issues that he could do no less than pursue for the rest of his life? - and he was a pastor!)

perhaps williams' audience are today's teenagers. perhaps he is the ABC fit for a church that is coming up - more mind blowing than the run-of-the-mill emergent tendencies he is (often portrayed to be) sympathetic to?! perhaps his negative theology is much closer to church life (think the cappadocian fathers) than just another phrase for a falsely humble agnosticism. perhaps we should not deny this generation of confirmants the wealth that he is inspiring up north where i am ... some of them not anglican at all...... oh, and we have muslims here too!

Anonymous said...

Finally, to the point. For those who have followed my link suggestions, here is Spengler's real politik insights into William's higher hypocrisy.

Note also: it was the voice of Muslim women in Canada that put a stop to the stupid notion of a supplementary jurisdiction for Sharia. For sake of political cover, the Orthodox Jewish courts in Ontario were suspended as well. Anyway, read Spengler below. He is always a scathingly good read.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/JB12Aa02.html

Peter Kirk said...

I don't think I am the "outraged nincompoop in the English Church" you had in mind, but I have joined him in calling for Williams’ resignation. Why? Not so much for the content of what he said in the lecture or even in the interview. More for his failure to realise how seriously this would backfire against him and the church worldwide. He is indeed infinitely smarter than most of the rest of us in theology and other academic disciplines. But he seems quite out of touch with the real world. And this at a time of crisis for his church over separate issues. He should return to the ivory towers where he belongs and let someone with the right skills take over his job.

Mike Higton said...

Tortoise:

I think you're right that the radio interview is partly to blame - and I do wish in particular that RW hadn't used the word 'inevitable', which has proved such a gift. It's hard not to see that interview either as a mistake or as a missed or mishandled opportunity.

And yet ... the point of my earlier comment was that we should pause before asking whether his PR strategy has 'backfired spectacularly', and notice what we are saying. It has done nothing for RW's broader reputation, certainly - but how much should that be a concern of his strategy? (I'm not saying you or other posters are claiming that reputation *is* paramount, by the way - just trying to explain why comments like yours begin to make me uneasy.)

More importantly, the interview and lecture have ended up creating a great deal more heat than light around the subject in question, which is bound to look self-defeating. But how can we yet tell whether interesting lines of thoughtful response have also been set running beneath the fuss? And how can we yet tell whether that heat has been genuinely damaging?

Those sound like breezy rhetorical questions - but they're not really meant to be. I don't know quite where to go on this one. But on the one hand, I can't see any other way of working for the regeneration of serious public discourse, and of the church's voice in it, than by taking this kind of gigantic risk (otherwise, what is the point?). And on the other hand, I am seriously unsure what appropriate short and long term measures of 'success' we should be using - just deeply unconvinced that one news cycle of extraordinary fuss tells us enough to help make serious judgments.

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