Well, as anyone who follows the goings on within the Anglican Communion, Britain as the home of the mother-Church, and the Archbishop of Canterbury might know, +Rowan has gotten himself, his Church, and his country into another tizzy over a very academic lecture he gave during a symposium with the Royal Courts of Justice on “Islam and British Law,” or something like that. I wonder whether he can comprehend the difference of role between an academic and the very public Archbishop of Canterbury? I don’t think he gets that, and it is causing him and his Church a lot of trouble.
Update: Here is a paragraph with reference to my final sentences above from Comment piece from Madeleine Bunting of the Guardian (UK):
So why does Williams do it? He’s not naive… What this is about is stubbornness. What his staff know full well is that he simply is not prepared to collude any more than he has to in a type of public debate that he regards as simplistic and sloganised. He is a subtle and sophisticated thinker, and sees no reason why he can’t bring those qualities to public life. Why should he speak any differently in public to how he does in an Oxbridge theology seminar?
Why, oh why indeed. There are so many answers to that question. Because you would have avoided an already demoralised Church of England being publicly humiliated. Because this speech will be a byword for the failures of liberal Anglicanism for decades. Because it’s a terrible preface to the Anglican communion’s Lambeth conference this summer. Because you now have a whole new batch of incensed critics. Because … Yet despite all that, there is something mad and admirable here.
He was honouring his audience last night – many of whom were lawyers and academics – by engaging them in a complex exploratory argument. Here is a fine mind at work: what sort of anti-intellectual populism assumes we should be able to easily understand everything he says? It’s a bad day when all our public figures are trapped in a parade of simplistic, anodyne platitudes: our politics have reached that degree of non-speak, and bishops are close behind them. What Williams did was defy all media convention – it was a rebellion against the spin and public relations mediation of public life; buried in all the frustration, there has to be a measure of awe for someone so recklessly prepared to buck the system and continue to be what he is – a big mind and a big heart but without a political bone in his body.
Frankly, though, this all does reveal the fear of Islam and a myopic and limited understanding of it, the failure of multi-culturalism and identity-politics, and the very real need to bring these vitally important issues into the public domain – both in Britain and North America. The problem is that too many people in the common domain don’t want a rational public engagement due to fear, disinterest, ignorance, ideology or some such thing – what they want is blood (or the rhetorical equivalent).
He may well not survive this one. We have to understand that the cultural (what is a strong enough word?) conflagrations the British people are going through right now concerning “what does it mean to be British” and radical-Islam within their boarders sets the scene for consternation and the hysterics being reported in their news outlets.
Here is an editorial from the Times that should be read.
Before we Americans do what we do best – misunderstand what is really going on because we decide to listen to tabloid/sound-bite accounts of things and jumping to illinformed conclusions rather than taking the time to adequately familiarize ourselves in order to be rational in our thoughts and pronouncements (ok, I’m off my soapbox) – we need to go back to the sources and read what the people (in this case the ABC) actually said and what he intended by his statements!
Here is the statement of clarification from the Archbishop’s office.
Here is the text of his lecture.
Here is his opening paragraph:
“The title of this series of lectures signals the existence of what is very widely felt to be a growing challenge in our society â€“ that is, the presence of communities which, while no less ‘law-abiding’ than the rest of the population, relate to something other than the British legal system alone. But, as I hope to suggest, the issues that arise around what level of public or legal recognition, if any, might be allowed to the legal provisions of a religious group, are not peculiar to Islam: we might recall that, while the law of the Church of England is the law of the land, its daily operation is in the hands of authorities to whom considerable independence is granted. And beyond the specific issues that arise in relation to the practicalities of recognition or delegation, there are large questions in the background about what we understand by and expect from the law, questions that are more sharply focused than ever in a largely secular social environment. I shall therefore be concentrating on certain issues around Islamic law to begin with, in order to open up some of these wider matters.”
Here is the transcript of his BBC Radio4 interview that started all the trouble.
Update: You know, as I read through his lecture, I’m continually brought back to the thought that we fail in this country to engage intellectually with most things. We don’t know how to adroitly argue our beliefs convincingly, but would rather simply shout sound-bites. The anti-intellectualism that has spread through every level of our society will be and is our downfall and opens us to easy manipulation. His lecture, so far, is balanced, rational, and dealing with real problems and failures and misunderstandings. We, however, don’t want to hear such things. We would rather remain in our perceptive ignorance and hate… hate that which we don’t understand and make very little effort, if any, to understand. Is it now a cultural proclivity that we simply want to be ignorant because it is just “easier?” Whatever happened to intellectual rigor? Whatever happened to the pursuit of knowledge? Whatever happened to thinking through a problem and understanding one’s opponents’ arguments and concerns well enough to argue their cause outright? We want to deny that as a society we are woefully illprepared intellectually to deal with so many things – poll after poll, achievement test after achievement test proves this.