Monday, 11 February 2008

synod presidential address

The full text of what Rowan Williams said can be found here.

This was preceded by a standing ovation from the members of the synod.

Complete audio recording of this address available here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 3:57pm GMT | TrackBack
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>> This was preceded by a standing ovation from the members of the synod.

And so they should. Not because they like or don't like what he has said in this whole 'Sharia' situation, but just because he's prepared to stand there in such a tough role for us all and be the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Posted by: David on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 4:14pm GMT

Its been notable that those with the nastiest things to say are those who have been gunning for him since the start.

The conservative evangelicals

He really should realise that they are not his friends.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 5:16pm GMT

so, no apology, then, nor any sign of human self-doubt? arrogant. arrogant. arrogant.

Posted by: poppy tupper on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 5:31pm GMT

David - I basically agree but a small bit of me asks, "What were his realistic choices?" Sometimes one just has to go forward regardless and volition -while still there- is quite limited. Other than resignation or sending a substitute he was really without an alternative.

Posted by: ettu on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 5:53pm GMT

Rowan warns us of 'the possibility of using conflicts in the Communion as an excuse to pursue self-seeking agendas in various contexts, and the great danger this poses in divided or fragile local churches.'

Am I reading him correctly? Is Rowan saying that TECs (and the C of E's) actions, seen correctly as insensitive and patronising (otherwise why apologise?), caused such conflicts in the Communion that Kunonga was given an opportunity to make admittedly preposterous excuses for his behaviour?

If we turn the clocks back, this is tantamount to blaming civil rights campaigners for the kind of social unrest and erosion of cohesion that then gave white supremacists ready targets for their preposterous claims and an opportunity to play on people's fears....

Or have I misunderstood him?

Joe

Posted by: Joe Cassidy on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 6:15pm GMT

"those who have been gunning for him since the start."

It isn't only the Consevos, Mike. The Right slags him because he isn't Right wing enough, and possibly because he's an Anglo-catholic. The Left slags him because he isn't Left enough. Essentially each side is upset with him because he hasn't used some sort of dictatorial power he doesn't have to begin with to enforce their particular understanding of How the World Ought to Be. Which means he's right in the middle, where we want the ABpofC to be.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 6:59pm GMT

"Am I reading him correctly?"

At this point, Joe, I'm not even sure that *Rowan* is capable of reading Rowan correctly! ;-/

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 7:01pm GMT

Well +Rowan *did* again refer to the threat to religious freedom of conscience as one reason for his speech last week. As MM thought!

I guess that he, like religious Human Rights people, have begun to wake up to the threat to religious freedom from 'secular' legislation. Although transsexual and homosexual rights are, I think, the first moral-rights issues where no *individual* right of consciencious objection has been allowed for (yet) I think we might expect laws on other 'modernising' issues to be handed down in the same manner soon...

Here's an interesting view from across the pond: http://www.becketfund.org/index.php/article/722.html

As with all public policy, a right balance should be the result of the weighing of all interests. On the one side the profound historical commitment to religious liberty, on the other the commitment to fair treatment for same-sex couples. I think that +Rowan has seen that that current legislative approach is "winners and losers". It is not aimed at reasonable *balance* nor mapping a road to maximum freedom for all!

Posted by: david wh on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 7:21pm GMT

Look at the context in which Rowan even entered this discussion. "The lecture was written as an opening contribution to a series on Islam and English Law mounted by the Temple Church and London University."

He was asked to contribute and he chose to do so in a meaningful and deep way. Engaging with the debates of the day means taking on the vexatious issues, knowing they can arouse debates and emotions. Some infectious wounds are best healed by frequent cleaning with salty water.

"The law of the land still guarantees for all the basic components of human dignity." I was glad to hear Rowan state this. No doubt he understands why some of us support the secular to protect GLBTs against excessively punitive degradations from the CoE, just as we would protect others in kind.

In having a debate about what kind of Sharia law could be safely applied within the UK, it opens the opportunity for dialogue about what is feared or respected in how it is applied in other nations, and even across the centuries.

Christians have had to squirm about the excesses of the Inquisition, it is not unreasonable to demand that Muslims explore their own history with as much honesty and humility.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 7:29pm GMT

merseymike. don't be so sure. i, and many others, have no time for rowan williams because he has let down women, and he has let down homosexuals, and he has let down the american church.

Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a riband to stick in his coat--
Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,
Lost all the others she lets us devote;
They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver,
So much was theirs who so little allowed:
How all our copper had gone for his service!
Rags--were they purple, his heart had been proud!
We that had loved him so, followed him, honoured him,
Lived in his mild and magnificent eye,
Learned his great language, caught his clear accents,
Made him our pattern to live and to die!
Shakespeare was of us, Milton was for us,
Burns, Shelley, were with us,--they watch from their graves!
He alone breaks from the van and the freemen,
--He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves!

We shall march prospering,--not thro' his presence;
Songs may inspirit us,--not from his lyre;
Deeds will be done,--while he boasts his quiescence,
Still bidding crouch whom the rest bade aspire:
Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more,
One task more declined, one more footpath untrod,
One more devils'-triumph and sorrow for angels,
One wrong more to man, one more insult to God!
Life's night begins: let him never come back to us!
There would be doubt, hesitation and pain,
Forced praise on our part--the glimmer of twilight,
Never glad confident morning again!
Best fight on well, for we taught him--strike gallantly,
Menace our heart ere we master his own;
Then let him receive the new knowledge and wait us,
Pardoned in heaven, the first by the throne!

Posted by: poppy tupper on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 7:36pm GMT

One can also hear RW's remarks as a somewhat veiled and low key warning to the campaigners, that if they persist in bearing false witness against neighbors across Anglican believer differences, not least by continuing to make war on historic church life leeway, breadth, diversity of inquiry, and comprehension; they may just find themselves outside Big Tent Anglicanism.

Provided of course that RW still really believes in, and is leading to maintain, Big Tent Anglicanism worldwide.

So we come to the RW puzzle: Does RW believe in Big Tent Anglicanism - as so much of his talk and action seems to suggest?

Or is RW pretending to be a believer who still values Big Tent Anglicanism while he also plays serious hot footsie with all those other believers who condemn Big Tents as distinctively modern and filthy works of Satan?

I really cannot figure RW out completely.

Given an enduring feeling of deep ambivalence that runs through so much of what RW says, and also what he does or does not do as worldwide leader and theologian - I simply conclude for now that I cannot rely upon him to help very much at all when I am in a real pinch of some sort (thanks loads to the lies that conservative believers loudly preach about me and my citizenship). Let alone count on him to investigate just how exactly received Anglican views have helped put me in that unfair citizen pinch to begin with. He seems all to willing to investigate, however, how my newfound honest voice and equal citizenship might brashly impinge upon some traditional citizen's rights of condemning conscience towards so many of the goods in my daily life.

RW and I can be mild and friendly, then, as long as we both keep a quite traditional social distance: He’s just nothing but okay because he is straight, and I am never quite okay because I am not straight. We can apparently both attend various Big Tent gatherings, but only so long as we keep a traditional distance and so long as I attend in a manner which clearly admits, He is UP, and I an not UP. He talks about closing distances while he does and says things, maintaining the distancing rules along with the traditional dishonesty and inferiority definitions which rule in traditional Anglican church life.

What a puzzle?

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 7:41pm GMT

Mr. Williams says it is okay to let people of "faith" exempt themselves from the law and practice discrimination. That is why the C of E supported the "right" of Roman adoption agencies to exclude same-sex couples from adoptions. Presumably "religious" registrars would be allowed not to celebrate civil partnerships. Fortunately, Parliament does not agree with him that religious people should be given special rights to harm others.

As he himself explains in this speech to the synod, Sharia stands as a symbol for the rights of religious individuals in an increasingly secular society. How generous of him to attempt to speak for all people of faith!!!! The man seems concerned to maximize the privileges for a weakened state church by pretending to speak for the rights of all religious people.

The problem is, as William Temple said, "When people talk about conscientious objections to obeying the law, it is always quite impossible to distinguish between their prejudice and their conscience; there is no standard by which to determine" (Church and Nation: The Bishop Paddock Lectures for 1914-15. London, Macmilland and Company, 1915. Page 174)

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 8:11pm GMT

Well, he has taken responsibility for the misleading nature of his comments, which is I suppose all we can expect. But he ought to be apologising to those in other faith communities who he has let down, particuarly for setting back the work of progressive Muslims, such as British Muslims for Secular Democracy and MECO with his desire to accommodate shar’ia family law, as well as Jewish figures for his misleading suggestion that the Beth Din tribunals somehow incorporate Jewish religious law into English law, thereby causing all sorts of rumours to sprout about Jewish special privileges. If it is the case that 'is not inappropriate for a pastor of the Church of England to address issues around the perceived concerns of other religious communities' there is also a responsibility to make sure one's perceptions are accurate, and not to mislead the public about those concerns.

Ekklesia has some interesting and sensible remarks on where Williams went wrong in believing that all manner of religious traditions had to be treated as juristictions to be accommodated in the civil law. He created a false opposition between the authoritative monopoly of English law and the needs of religious communities. There is no need for any such legal marketplace to develop, since already through the Law of Arbitration the family commitments of minorities in the civic arena can operate distinctly from formal legal arrangements, at which point the civil code must protect all citizens regardless of creed. Moreover, most Islamic thinkers agree that where Muslims are in a minority they are obliged to follow the laws of that land.

I do wonder whether he has taken some of these aspects into account. He says in the address that 'many Muslim majority countries do distinguish clearly between the rights of citizens overall and the duties accepted by some citizens of obedience to Islamic law. It is this that encourages me to think that there may be ways of engaging with the world of Islamic law (sharia) on something other than an all-or-nothing basis'. But these assumptions are misleading: most muslim majority nations do not operate sharia, there is no common agreement on what the duties of obedience are since there exist multiple interpretations of sharia, and in those nations where a dual system of religious and secular courts operates, more often than not there is no guarantee of universal rights in areas such as family law.

Posted by: John Omani on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 9:11pm GMT

Joe: I'm not sure that's the way to read his comments at all. You could easily flip your take around and read them as a reproof to the strong African churches who are "making mischief" in the divided local church in America.

I expect the Archbishop's ambiguity here was intentional.

Posted by: NIcholas Knisely on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 9:37pm GMT

Merseymike - In no way can the CE's be said to be the only ones who are not his friends. I saw on another site a poster commenting how the ABC had at last managed to unite liberals and evangelicals such was the vitriol against him on various message boards.

Including this one.

Posted by: Simon on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 9:59pm GMT

Simon: I have been and remain extremely critical of RW.

However, at one time I was optimistic about him - whereas the conservative evos have always loathed him.

I think that the point he was making has been illuminated now and it is as i thought - but I think that if its a choice between opt-outs for all religions including Islam, and no opt-outs for anyone, then its become crystal clear what has support from government and the public.

Religious liberty still exists - but only in the private sphere.

In a pluralist society, the only workable way forward. RW is proposing an alternative which I think will be roundly rejected.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 10:29pm GMT

'I saw on another site a poster commenting how the ABC had at last managed to unite liberals and evangelicals.'

Williams is no friend of liberalism. His attack on the monopoly of secular law and his wish to create laws whereby religious beliefs are protected from criticism are grounded on a profoundly reactionary agenda. Conservatives like David Wh. posting above have already realised the implications of what he is offering.

One of the few benefits of this fiasco is that he has managed to unite clear-minded thinkers from both left and right on the political spectrum into a defence of the liberal state. I do not often find myself agreeing simultaneously with both Johann Hari and Matthew d'Ancona, but on this aspect their arguments are accurate. Williams creates false oppositions between secularity and religious freedom, and like far too many churchmen he relies upon the supposed failings of a bogeyman Enlightenment system to force his agenda.

The best response to such claims is to look to the West, to the most obvious example of an Enlightenment polity: the United States. As Tocqueville observed, it was here, in this fledgling secular democracy, and not in the European nations with all their religious establishments and protections, that religion was flourishing above all. And, dare I say, what's more, they have a better and more cohesive sense of national identity too.


Posted by: John Omani on Monday, 11 February 2008 at 11:52pm GMT

The combined forces of the Establishment, media and blogosphere have effectively killed off any notion that exemptions to gay rights legislation could be extended to encompass religious conscience outside organised religion. The anomalous opt outs granted to the C of E by the government have been exposed.

Despite all, Rowan William's archiepiscopacy remains intact. It remains to be seen whether a weakened Canterbury will help the liberal cause.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 12:08am GMT

I have just read the speech made to the synod, and I thought it was dreadful. He is basically saying that a real, important and probably unavoidable difference and dispute is to blame for opportunistic types as in Zimbabwe - gives them the excuse.

That's all wrong, completely the wrong way around. What would be the solution: a false presentation of agreement across the board? Public relations?

Before this he also said that the real disagreements that have led to some Churches pulling out are:

"experienced as patronising or manipulative or insensitive actions and attitudes on the part of many of the churches of the 'West' or 'North' – not only the Episcopal Church in the USA, but us as well. That's hard to hear, but we have to hear it and to offer apologies and seek for better understanding."

But not a word on the manipulation that is involved in the pulling out, the sheer Trotskyism of attacks by Akinola and company on those conservatives who have resisted GAFCON. Again, all the wrong way around.

Then he wants Lambeth to be countercultural in the sense of not like the electronic age and comments made against his sort of 'coming together'. What the electronic world does is hold him to some scrutiny and better than the press.

Unfortunately like Margaret Thatcher, I'd say to each - No No No.

And it seems that everyone got him wrong about the speech made on the law, even our Bishop of Lincoln wasted words and ink because he got it wrong too.

May be both liberal and fundy have peculiarly become united. Personally I think he should do Lambeth and then join George Carey.

Posted by: Pluralist on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 1:10am GMT

Yes, I agree. It's managed to get people together for all the wrong reasons.

And for that, Dr. Williams should not stand down. Yet. I think he may stay on until Lambeth 2008, but beyond that I am no longer sure. That's what I am afraid about.

You think this row is about Shariah law? It's all about the pent-up anger on both sides, as witness Poppy's two, um, harangues. It's all about, as Ford said, Williams's failure to be anyone's activist. A bishop cannot be one. He or she is paradoxically called to be a sign of unity and scandal precisely of what he or she is. I fear a good number of people here don't understand that.

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 1:17am GMT

I've added more detail to my comments at my blog - No... No... No...

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2008/02/no-no-no.html

His apology is a politician's apology.

And also there is a rewrite to understand that lecture to the lawyers. He says he did not argue for parallel jurisdiction. I think he did, with an individual opt-out that is largely unowrkable. Supplementary jurisdiction is where the people, having been to a community court, would have to go to a State court that decides whether there truly is consent and where there are no main rights and liberties transgressed.

I really do believe that after Lambeth 2008 Rowan Williams should resign as Archbishop of Canterbury. It may be that the Covenant goes on and he can cover that, his main policy, but I can't see how that will work given the responses received, unless it is pointless, but I think he has thoroughly failed. I look to churches and religious communities to give an ethical lead but all he wants is communal privilege for something else.

Posted by: Pluralist on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 5:04am GMT

"The problem is, as William Temple said, "When people talk about conscientious objections to obeying the law, it is always quite impossible to distinguish between their prejudice and their conscience; there is no standard by which to determine" (Church and Nation: The Bishop Paddock Lectures for 1914-15)"

A startling quote -- but was it his last word on the topic of conscientious objection? The right to conscientious objection is surely a basic human right, whatever the difficulty of administering it -- notably in the case of World War I pacifists.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 6:03am GMT

"Religious liberty still exists - but only in the private sphere"

+Rowan was argueing for *full* respect for religious conscience because Human beings are social beings. For robots it might be ok, but for human beings - freedom only in private is not freedom at all.

Posted by: david wh on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 8:02am GMT

The problem is, as William Temple said, "When people talk about conscientious objections to obeying the law, it is always quite impossible to distinguish between their prejudice and their conscience; there is no standard by which to determine" (Church and Nation: The Bishop Paddock Lectures for 1914-15. London, Macmilland and Company, 1915. Page 174)

No standard? Well, because people value moral goods differently, in one sense, that's right. But finally, the good must trump the law. Leading a moral life is inseparable from the obligation to do the good once one sees it. And sometimes the good is illegal. American juries in the Northern states refused to convict those who helped slaves escape the South via the "underground railway," though doing so was illegal. Martin Luther King and Ghandi disobeyed the laws of their lands out of moral necessity. And some American and Canadian churches are blessing gay unions, despite legal (canonical?) prohibitions. Of course, people do often mistake mere prejudice for conscience, and damage their communities greatly when they act out of their (mis)understandings of the good.

An engaged moral life is a maddeningly imprecise thing, and the law itself nowhere near as precise as many assume. The good and the true are proven finally in the crucible of history, and are seen most clearly retrospectively.

I think the key to understanding RW is to look at his actions and statements as being expressive of his function in the Anglican Communion.

Posted by: Peter of Westminster on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 8:05am GMT

Pluralist - thank you for posting your interesting ideas. I think they are perceptive, and reveal the more disturbing elements behind the Synod speech: I had missed the way in which the Lambeth issues related to the defence of his RCJ lecture. The positive coverage of his speech yesterday seems to have been more a case of closing ranks to protect the Church than a serious analysis of what he was proposing.

I'm struggling as an Anglican of liberal persuasion to have confidence in the ABC at the moment. Whatever the spin that is now being put on the RCJ lecture, it revealed a profoundly reactionary approach to problems of religious identity, much like his attempt to centralise the Anglican Communion. The only people that stand to benefit from his agenda are the clerical bullies, which rather sums up the story of his whole archepiscopacy.

Posted by: John Omani on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 8:15am GMT

Hugh of Lincoln wrote: “Despite all, Rowan William's archiepiscopacy remains intact. It remains to be seen whether a weakened Canterbury will help the liberal cause.”

Intact or weakened?

Perhaps “in situ” (for the time being) would be more to the point?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 8:16am GMT

Dave Wh wrote: “On the one side the profound historical commitment to religious liberty, on the other the commitment to fair treatment for same-sex couples. I think that +Rowan has seen that that current legislative approach is "winners and losers". It is not aimed at reasonable *balance* nor mapping a road to maximum freedom for all!”

Now, this looks like a false dichotomy, Dave.

Moreover, there is no “Freedom for All” in the anti Modern position, only freedom for themselves and their late modern Social policies.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 8:17am GMT

“The only people that stand to benefit from his agenda are the clerical bullies, which rather sums up the story of his whole archepiscopacy.”

I value John Omani’s posts they have a certain considered authority, but I baulked when I read the above.

Rowan’s deepest dislike is for the bully – who else would have come up with the idea of replacing the blasphemy law with a law against abusive and vulgar bullies!

As I considered a response to your claim I could see quite clearly how you come to this conclusion, to be clear, and for my benefit, could you unpack your own thinking for me here.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 9:38am GMT

"+Rowan was argueing for *full* respect for religious conscience because Human beings are social beings. For robots it might be ok, but for human beings - freedom only in private is not freedom at all. "

But David Wh - what happens when your religious freedom conflicts with mine?
You would like to discriminate against me on religious grounds. I would like not to be discriminated against, also from deeply held religious principles.

In a situation like this the state, which is after all there for both of us, has no choice but to restrict your instinct to consider your belief to be more important than mine to the private.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 10:18am GMT

I agree with Mr Koch-Swahne -- the secular law is the guarantor of religious freedom (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 19) and of such civil freedom as are demanded by gays and lesbians. There is no dichotomy here but a profound concord.

The proponents of "Radical Orthodoxy" have a sort of Luddite attitude to secularity (even Aristotle is viewed as a heretic) and expecially to the modern secular state. It has been suggested that David Nicholls' "Pluralistic State" is nearer to what the Archbishop is saying. See his lecture on Nicholls at http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/959

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 11:06am GMT

From the above-mentioned lecture:

"David Nicholls wrote, eloquently and pungently, on 'pluralist' theories of the state, following through and elaborating the insights of J.N.Figgis and Harold Laski in particular among twentieth century theorists. Roughly speaking, this defines a state as a particular cluster of smaller political communities negotiating with each other under the umbrella of a system of arbitration recognised by all. These smaller communities may be of very diverse kinds – trade unions, ethnic and cultural groups, co-operative societies, professional guilds (universities, the BMA, the Bar Association) and, of course, churches and faith groups; what they have in common is that they are what we might call 'first-level' associations, groups of agents dealing with the questions of self-regulation and self-defence that arise routinely in work and life together. They represent relatively unstructured forms of belonging, some of them chosen, some of them not. What is significant for the wider political scene is that they assume they have a right to exist and to take corporate action to keep their common life going in a reasonably orderly way.

"But no one of them occupies the whole political and social territory... The law of the state is what provides the stable climate for all first-level communities to flourish and the means for settling – and enforcing – 'boundary disputes' between them. The law does not attempt total regulation of how these communities govern themselves...; Nicholls quotes from William James, who insists as a metaphysical principle that 'there is always some self-governing aspect remaining, which cannot be reduced to unity'... What the law of the state does is to create the conditions, within a complex social environment, that allow each group to pursue what it sees as good. And if any group's notion of what is good veers towards anything that undermines the good of other groups, the law's task is restraint and control of any such tendency, as well as the defence of the whole network against destabilising from outside... English Idealists who were influenced by Hegel were glad to point out Hegel's critique of the French political system because of its lack of intermediate civil society associations".

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 11:13am GMT

""Religious liberty still exists - but only in the private sphere"

+Rowan was argueing for *full* respect for religious conscience because Human beings are social beings. For robots it might be ok, but for human beings - freedom only in private is not freedom at all. "

So, if my religion says an adulterer should be stoned to death, that should be permitted under "religious liberty"? If my religion calls for polygamy or polyandry, you'd be OK with that, under "religious liberty"? Because, after all, we must have full respect for "religious conscience".

Or, is it just the "religious conscience" that bans or allows the stuff YOU agree with that you're arguing for?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 11:23am GMT

Tough, David. You have freedom to practice your religion, but not to expect special treatment above the law. if that offends your belief in the freedom to discriminate, then hard cheddar.

One law for all.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 3:37pm GMT

Pluralist -- very fine piece -- I'd be inclined to add the element of (racist?) post-colonial guilt (that excuses African former colonies, no matter what they have done in violation of human rights, common church regulations & basic decency) & the anti-Americanism which punishes the American church for doing what it believed was the right & Gospel driven thing to do (at the same time following the lead originally charted by a leading British theologian -- Rowan Williams).
Resignation after Lambeth -- once I would have scoffed -- now I would say that Liverpool is looking better & better, but can any senior bishop stand up to bullies? It seems that their preferment is based on not doing so.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 3:55pm GMT

[quote edited, slightly, for clarity]

"what happens when your religious freedom conflicts with mine?

You would like to discriminate against me on religious grounds. I would like not to be discriminated against, also from deeply held religious principles.

In a situation like this the state, which is after all there for both of us, has no choice but to restrict your instinct (to consider your belief to be more important than mine) to the private."

Brilliant summation, Erika!

I was of the view (from the Yank side of The Pond), that the ABC's Sharia remarks were a tempest-in-a-teapot (particularly in relation to inter-Anglican matters, to which he could/SHOULD actually have some pull!).

However, the more he clarifies, the more he SCARES me. Rather than just being highly-theoretical (i.e., FUZZY) thought-bubble, Rowan's remarks on Sharia seem actually to reveal the *abyss* into which ALL of his Weltanshauung has fallen.

Lord have mercy!

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 7:40pm GMT

Erika, Pat, Merseymike,

I don't think +Rowan was suggesting that he approved of Muslim religious laws. Nor do I think that he would suggest restricting other people's rights to express their beliefs just because his is better than theirs (couched in rather more refined language!) - but that seems to be your attitude.

It is not a question of whether there is one law for all, but whether that law is formulated in a way that takes into account the rights of the people. Rights are there, primarily, to restrain *Government* from making oppressive laws.

The right of each of us to express the belief (instinct?) that our beliefs are right, and to live according to them, should be respected as far as is reasonably practicable.

Ibviously no Right is absolute (even Life in self defense or time of war). But the usual test to limit a Right is purely based on *real harm* - not just that one right limits Another right. (eg communists have a right to hold their disasterous political beliefs and to express them, but this is limited to prevent their previous habit of imprisoning and/or killing intellectual opponents and religious people).


A conflict of rights should be met with a balanced approach, with the test of which option maximises freedom for all. Real harm is a reasonable limitation, provided that people are still allowed to protest (without causing real harm) and seek to persuade others of their politics, religion etc.

Imposing laws that give rights to one by taking rights from another, rather than making as much space as possible for both, is basically going back to medieval feudalism... - I thought you liberals knew better!

Posted by: david wh on Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 10:35pm GMT

David wh
this sounds lovely in the abstract but is very difficult in reality. How do you define that "real harm" is?

I believe that the consevo anti gay stance causes real and unmeasurable harm to LGBT people. You believe, I remember from previous conversations here, that it simply reflects what God wants from us and is therefore something where LGBTs have to battle their sinful nature.

Of course, the church can opt for one stance or the other, although even here there is very real harm done to LGBTs, and it is up to me and the rest of us liberals to keep pointing this out internally.

But the state does not have the right to discriminate against me simply because it offends your view of what God wants. And so, unless there is a very good reason, absolute equality between straights and gays in all spheres of public life is the only option for the state.

If you see a different option, then please explain it to me using the concrete example of LGBT inclusion in society.

Needless to say, the Muslim treatment of women, for example, is another example where the freedom of religion of hardline believers contrasts with the women's right to self determination that is granted them in our country.


Ford,
in answer to your question of who makes the laws, yes, I appreciate the difficulty. But we have no choice but to trust the democratic process, which is still the best of all apalling processes and at least has the benefit of checks and balances, and the resulting laws can be overturned through publicly accessible means.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 13 February 2008 at 11:27am GMT

"Ibviously no Right is absolute (even Life in self defense or time of war). "

I find this, especially the second premise, to be an absolutely astounding thing for a Christian to say. Do you honestly believe there is a time when you are allowed to take the life God gave to someone else just because the government says you can?


"we have no choice but to trust the democratic process"

Erika, I agree, democracy is the worst option except for all the others, but governments get elected for any number of reasons, depending on the mood of the populace at the time. I don't trust that at all. Up until the middle of the twenties, every Jew in Germany, and most German citizens of any nationality, would have laughed in your face if had even suggested that an elected government would bring about the Third Reich. But Hitler was elected. And he wasn't voted out of office.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 13 February 2008 at 1:08pm GMT

No, David. You assume I agree with your ideas about negative liberty. As a believer in positive liberty I think the State can be an enabler, not a depriver of liberty and rights.

There can only be one law, and the decision is simply whether that law should allow discrimination. Whether it happens to be religion advocating discrimination or not is not the issue. Discrimination does cause real harm.

You have space to discriminate within the private sphere of religion, but not the right to impose that on people outside. Otherwise that would mean a separate law for you. Which is what you are requesting - the right to discriminate against your fellow citizens because your god tells you to Your god should have no place in the civil law

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 13 February 2008 at 3:09pm GMT

Let us also not forget that the "right to defend ourselves" has led to others taking the right to deprive others of their lives, homes or livelihoods. It has led souls to censor those that would threaten their world order, to deprive souls of a public voice or the ability to teach, in either the public or private sphere.

For example, we've had some gems of discussions on TA about the feminine aspects of God and that God is more than a human masculine form. We all agreed that there were no attempts to commit patricide. We are in disagreement over the attempts to commit matricide.

Mind you, by David's reasoning, the feminine of God has the right to use force in self-defence. And since the feminine is unacknowledged and unwanted, she's not bound by the niceties of the covenant of peace.

The book of Enoch can reasonably be invoked. Those fallen souls whose sins are no worse than those that Christians have forgiven and tolerated amongst themselves have as much right to redemption and forgiveness as the Christians. After all, if this planet's biosphere is destroyed and humanity made extinct, it won't just sanctimonious male Christians who'll get their butts kicked.

Don't think that God doesn't know which naughty angels have been whispering to the Christians that it is okay to be hypocritical, self-righteous and complacent. When God kicks butts, God kicks the "divine" teachers along with their human colluders.

The flocks are not judged adversely when the shepherds open the gates to the neighbours' farms. It's the shepherds who get spanked for transgressing the boundaries and demonstrating contempt for others' rights and needs.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Wednesday, 13 February 2008 at 8:14pm GMT

Erika - I'd rather avoid the LGBT thing as it's too contentios to have a reasonable debate. Maybe the Islam thing is a better area to use as an example..

We have to avoid creating a world in which we all just fight to impose by legal force our beliefs and morals on other people in this life (something that +Rowan seems to be assuming is the right approach - and which God doesn't do!). To achieve that we have to be robust and mature enought to accept people saying, believing and doing things that we find "wrong": immoral, offensive, demeaning, or violating our sense of who we are - to a limit: Real harm.

By real harm I have in mind deliberate physical or psychological *damage* and that people should be free to walk away from situations (eg abusive relationships).

What I don't mean is abusive portrayal, inuendos, slurs and some social avoidance... I get that a lot myself for being relatively conservative - for obvious reasons. However, I think that it is a price worth paying for having a free society, rather than some imagined nirvana .... imposed by Stalinist techniques.

Posted by: david wh on Wednesday, 13 February 2008 at 10:59pm GMT

Ford Elms said in reply to David:

"Ibviously no Right is absolute (even Life in self defense or time of war). "

I find this, especially the second premise, to be an absolutely astounding thing for a Christian to say. Do you honestly believe there is a time when you are allowed to take the life God gave to someone else just because the government says you can?

Ford, I remember you saying something to the effect that a lot of things have been countenanced by well-meaning Christians in the "war on terror."

And I don't even have to mention the Crusades, a word which, to this day, can evoke strong emotions in Arab Muslim circles.

Besides, I think many people still believe "an eye for an eye" was never abrogated at all. Believe me, views like yours are in a minority. It's so easy for people to get angry and want revenge.

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Thursday, 14 February 2008 at 8:12am GMT

David Wh

Thank you for your reply.
But you remain at the level of lofty words and generalisations we can all agree with.

I note you deliberately avoid the LGBT issue because it is too contentious.
On the day the Bishop of Carlisle put is feet in it again I can understand your sentiments.

But the real problem is that BECAUSE it is contentious, this issue is arousing so much passions and has become the core of the debate around religious freedom and the Government's right to restrict it where it amounts to discrimination.

It is disingenious to avoid the one hot button issue, when this, precisely, is the one where you are called to make a good case for being allowed to discriminate against me because you give your religious principles more weight than you give mine.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 14 February 2008 at 10:37am GMT

"We have to avoid creating a world in which we all just fight to impose by legal force our beliefs and morals on other people in this life"

And who is doing this? Who is trying to force a convenant on the rest of us? Who is falsely claiming TEC is forcing them to accept something when TEC has never tried to induce any other Chruch to do anything or than allow TEC to do what She thinks God is leading Her to do? Who is demanding everybody else bow to their will or they will split the Communion?

"What I don't mean is abusive portrayal, inuendos, slurs and some social avoidance"

And again, who is most guilty of this? Sure, there's a lot said against conservatives in liberal camps, but come on, who is calling other people faithless and heathens and less than animals and a cancer on the Body of Christ? Who is propagating the myth of the poor persecuted faithful remnant in the West? Where is the liberal equivalent of Venomonline? Where is the liberal equivalent of the stuff going up daily on the Network blogs? Do you really not see how what you have described as things you want to avoid are things being done most avidly by conservatives?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 14 February 2008 at 12:46pm GMT

"We have to avoid creating a world in which we all just fight to impose by legal force our beliefs and morals on other people in this life."


The very work of government is to "impose by legal force [broadly agreed] beliefs and morals on other people.

Personally, I'm quite thankful that assorted governments over the years have "imposed by legal force" restrictions against murder, child sexual abuse and overt acts of racial discrimination.

And I'm very glad that the Greatest Canadian "imposed by legal force" a medical insurance plan in Saskatchewan to ensure that all citizens had access to medical care regardless of the ability to pay.

The issue is not about "imposing by legal force . . . beliefs and morals on other people."

The issue is what the appropriate limitations are on that responsibility.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Thursday, 14 February 2008 at 4:53pm GMT

Erika,

I think that +Rowan partly picked on the Sharia issue to open up discussion on legislating in a way that allows some degree of flexibility to people whose beliefs are not the same as the majority, precisely because it is an area where there is a bit more chance of a reasonable discussion of how to deal with *competing* rights.

On the gay rights issue; as no-one has made any positive contributions about +Carlisle's speech yet, I'll post on that issue on that thread.. But I expect no understanding. :-(

Posted by: david wh on Friday, 15 February 2008 at 12:00am GMT

Ford, I think it is +Rowan and the Anglican elite who want a Covenant, as a way to keep TEC in.

The Conservatives just wanted TEC booted out.

TEC had, after all, deliberately and defiantly broken the rules after appeals and warning. +Rowan *could* have just stopped inviting them to anything there and then. Instead Lambeth has been de-rated and a new 'rule book' is being created. You should be gleeful!

Posted by: david wh on Friday, 15 February 2008 at 12:10am GMT

Malcolm+ I think you just said the same as me, but in different words! :-)

Posted by: david wh on Friday, 15 February 2008 at 12:12am GMT

Jesus broke the rules, big time. He affirmed that it was faith and not legalism that led to salvation.

Jesus scandalised the preachers of his time, if Jesus was to erupt at this point in humanity's history, Jesus would be no less scandalous.

The only difference is that it would no longer be "establishment" Jews who would be disgraced, but also their Christian and Islamic descendants.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Friday, 15 February 2008 at 10:08am GMT
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