Thursday, February 14, 2008

Commentary: Rowan Williams "defends" the Anglican Convenant - "Why should a teenager get a driver's license, anyway?"

All right - here's Rowan Williams so-called "defense" of an Anglican Covenant. Was thinking it might have been better if he just quoted Abraham Lincoln and moved on, but there we are.

You can read his defense of the Covenant here.

I'm sorry - is this a defense? Just imagine if the topic wasn't the Anglican Covenant, but rather whether his youngest child should ever get a driver's license.

Here goes:

Now Pip, I wanted to make three points as briefly as I can, partly in response, partly to open up one dimension of the language of a driver’s license itself.

The first point is what we heard concerning mechanisms of exclusion. That is a very unpleasant term, and I agree with you that you feel that discomfort and that unpleasantness in it. Behind it lies the very difficult but I think unavoidable question 'Are there limits to driving a car infinitely extendable?' Put in those terms I doubt whether we would any of us say that there were - after all, it is called a 'license', but our problem in taking the test for a driver’s license is that there are some things we know we can disagree about and that some things we don't quite know that we can disagree about. I'm tempted to quote Donald Rumsfeld wasn't it, on 'known unknowns' and 'unknown unknowns' and all that so on; but I think it would be a dangerous assumption that there are no areas where that question doesn't arise, the question of limits.

Second in relation to exclusion, there is an issue in preparing for your driver’s license about who drives what; who drives Mum’s car and who drive’s my car and who gets a new car and that's felt very acutely by you who, as we were reminded in some of the earlier discussion is very felt very acutely, you don't feel you've got the same sort of access as other teenagers to the means of communication, to the English language, that sort of thing. Now, don't look at me like that - you know you speak another language then English as teenagers often do and I do not. Some of the energy and some of the abrasion in this question of limits and exclusion does come from that set of issues around power, and I think we had better be aware of that, Pip.

Next; I wanted to say just a word about the practicalities of my position as your father; now I have a lot of sympathy with what you said about this and I did want to say that in some circumstances it can be a saving of energy rather than otherwise if you know what you can't do or what you're supposed to do rather than being endlessly at the mercies of fantasies and projections about what a father ought to do, and I just mention that in passing.

More substantively and finally, just a word about the nature of driving a car. As I understand the practical concept, driving a car is about the self-giving, the absolute self-giving responsibility of driving the car safely, which calls out a self-giving on the part of the teenager to whom the car is given by the father. And when that response of self giving responsibility on the teenager’s side becomes inadequate, corrupted, idle or just something that involved rejection, then something is fractured that has to be rebuilt – probably the car.

Not giving in response to your father’s giving has consequences and in our relations with one another we try I think in this family and I think the emphasis is a correct position, we try to find ways of mutual self-giving which in some ways keep alive, alert us to the depths of our own self-giving and you can say that a driver’s license is between the teenager and his father is a promise to be willing to drive safely. I think that works and in our family as well. But that's why I think the word license is not so wildly inappropriate as all that.

Bracketing for a moment the details of the exclusionary issue – though it's important and as I hinted at the beginning; not something I want to ignore; bracketing that for a moment, I think we ought to be excited and enthused by the notion that our family might just find a new life and new vigour if we were prepared very consciously and prayerfully to make the sort of commitments to each other within the family that involved the willingness to drive safely, and therefore to see our relations within the family not as a constant struggle of power and leverage but something deeper.

Right. Maybe they don't actually have driver's tests in England and every teen just gets behind the wheel so no one feels excluded.

Of course, it's all fine and dandy - but Pip is still going to have to learn the laws to pass the test to get a driver's license and is then going to have to obey the laws to keep it. If not, then we have this.


Lapinbizarre said...

Difficult to react to this one without breaking the Second Commandment, isn't it? Do you suppose that he understands what he said?

ettu said...

Great send-up and an exposition of pompousness or basic inability to communicate clearly and succinctly

Pageantmaster said...

Very funny.

Was your last link the 'Road to Lambeth'?

BabyBlue said...

Well, it is what happens when you play by your own rules rather than the rules of the road.

Some of us learn the hard way.


Anonymous said...

What is the Anglican Covenant and what is its background? Please post a link to it if there is one. I checked anonymous because this is the first blog I have ever responded to and I don't know what the rest of that stuff is.

BabyBlue said...

Hi Anon - thanks for dropping in. Probably the best place to start is here: