Monday, December 14, 2009

Rowan Williams Has a Rare Moment of Lucidity!

Some recent remarks by Archbishop Rowan Williams show that even Labour's most fervent, natural supporters among liberal Christians are being forced to admit that the government crusade against Christianity is getting out of hand.
"Dr Rowan Williams said ministers were wrong to think that Christian beliefs were no longer relevant in modern Britain and he criticised Labour for looking at religious faith as a “problem” rather than valuing the contribution it made to society.

The Archbishop also suggested that the “political class” was too remote from the concerns of most people, who still had God in their “bloodstream”. In his only interview in the run-up to Christmas, he called on ministers to be more willing to talk about their own beliefs.

Dr Williams told The Daily Telegraph: “The trouble with a lot of Government initiatives about faith is that they assume it is a problem, it’s an eccentricity, it’s practised by oddities, foreigners and minorities.

“The effect is to de-normalise faith, to intensify the perception that faith is not part of our bloodstream. And, you know, in great swaths of the country that’s how it is.”

His comments risked reigniting the public row between the Church of England and Labour over the state’s treatment of faith groups. A Cabinet member was recently forced to deny there was a “secular conspiracy” to silence them.

The Archbishop’s claims that religion was seen only as something for minorities echoed those of a Church-backed report, which accused the Government of paying “lip service” to Christianity while “focusing intently” on Muslims."

Good analysis comes from Melanie Phillips at Virtue On-line:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, comes in for a lot of stick - not least from columnists like me. But in the past few days, he has said something important. He has criticised Government ministers for thinking that Christian beliefs are no longer relevant in modern Britain, and for looking at religion as a 'problem'.

Many Government faith initiatives, he observed, assumed that religion was an eccentricity practised by oddballs, foreigners and minorities.

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has attacked the Government for treating religious believers as 'oddities.' This is not just a seasonal exercise in special pleading by a Church leader. Dr Williams has put his finger on what should be a cause of extreme disquiet - the war of attrition being waged against Christian beliefs.

In recent times, there has been a string of cases in which it is no exaggeration to say that British Christians have been persecuted for expressing their faith.

In July, Duke Amachree, a Christian who for 18 years had been a Homelessness Prevention Officer for Wandsworth Council, encouraged a client with an incurable medical condition to believe in God. As a result, Mr Amachree was marched off the premises, suspended and then dismissed from his job. It was a similar case to the Christian nurse who was suspended after offering to pray for a patient's recovery.

Christians are being removed from adoption panels if they refuse to endorse placing children for adoption with samesex couples.

Similarly, a Christian counsellor was sacked by the national counselling service Relate because he refused to give sex therapy sessions to gays.

What this amounts to is that for Christians, the freedom to live according to their religious beliefs - one of the most fundamental precepts of a liberal society - is fast becoming impossible. Indeed, merely professing traditional Christian beliefs can cause such offence that it is treated as a crime.

Take, for example, the case of Harry Hammond, an elderly and eccentric evangelical who was prosecuted for a public order offence after parading with a placard denouncing immorality and homosexuality - even though he was assaulted by the hostile crowd he was held to have offended.

Or look at the case of the Vogelenzangs, a hotelier couple from Merseyside, who last week were cleared of a 'religiously aggravated' public order offence after being prosecuted for insulting a Muslim guest.

While their behaviour may have been offensive and unwarranted, it is nevertheless a source of wonderment that for the police, 'hate crime' doesn't seem to occur whenever Christianity is pilloried, mocked and insulted - as happens routinely - but only when a minority faith is in the frame.

Indeed, the Archbishop's complaint echoed an earlier Church-backed report that accused the Government of merely paying lip service to Christianity while focusing support on Muslims."
Phillips is right to say that recent trends in religious freedom in the UK are extremely worrisome and Williams is right to call the government on its outrageous behaviour.

There, I said it. Rowan Williams is right. That actually felt pretty good. It would be nice to be able to do it more often. Here's hoping.


David said...

A rare moment of lucidity! Rowan Williams is pure intellectual cream. The man may not be right about everything, but even when he's wrong his being-wrongness is more intelligent, humane and godly than anything I (or virtually anybody else) could conjure up.

Josh said...

I appreciate the consistent thoughtfulness of Rowan Williams. His words consistently exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22-23).