Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Five Year Mark

What should Rowan Williams have done when asked about sharia law? He probably should have just gone home and talked to his wife. I think she would have straightened him out forthwith. I wonder if she read his draft of his lecture.

I wonder if anyone did.

For the Archbishop of Canterbury to lecture on sharia in an academic detached sort of way was Level 2 on the HHHB Scale. That his staff would let him do this, well, you decide.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to him. This appears to show that he has a staff that is badly mismanaged or completely inept or are actually trying to undermine him - or he’s just totally unsuited for his public role as the Archbishop of Canterbury at this particular time.

I am inclined to think that he was picked because some thought he would be a “useful idiot” - a sort of “Hollywood casting” of the Archbishop of Canterbury who would project an image that all is well in the Church of England. He had certainly always attended the right meetings but always kept just under the wire to draw to much unhelpful attention to himself. There was shock when he called the primates together right after Columbus 2003, as though he didn’t realize the primates would undermine all that the progressives were doing to steer the Church toward social progressivism in the United States, Canada, and the UK. He wasn’t so useful after all.

But this current episode went global - in fact, I woke up yesterday morning to hearing it being discussed on a top-rated DC talk radio as a topic of the day. The discussion included talk about the schism in the Episcopal Church and that this was a sign that something is wrong in the Anglican Communion. The remarks beg the question of whether Canterbury has lost his common sense - or that his staff is offering him poor counsel. One of the hosts is a retired congressman and current Episcopalian. He was distancing himself and seemed to express genuine aghast over Canterbury’s blunder.

You do start to wonder if Rowan Williams is isolated now and surrounded by those who tell him what he wants to hear. Later this month he will pass the five-year mark as the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s just too late to say he doesn’t know what he’s doing. But it’s not too early to inquire how he is running his office and whether he is indeed suited to the role. When he was originally nominated there was still an idea that all the fuss would be smoothed over, but the leadership of the US Church must have projected him a supporter of their efforts and went forward with the election of Gene Robinson four months after Dr. Williams enthronement. That he would turn around and call the primates together (and now almost won’t have anything to do with them as a group) signals that they are struggling to keep him under control. The fact that the primates now will not come to his aid again signals that things are not well.

Underneath this uproar is that suddenly many Episcopalians and Anglicans of whatever theological stream can unite against the idea of naively allowing the imposition of sharia law in the West. No Christian in their right mind would support sharia for what it costs women, nevermind that it is a punitive legal system completely devoid of the Christian principles of mercy and grace and reciprocity. Now we have something we all can all agree on and Rowan Williams is left flapping in the wind.

The question that we are wondering at our table is, who gains from all this?


sam said...

Dare I ask: Have you read the actual lecture yet?

That's not to say that everyone who reads it is going to immediately find it good, much less all that accessible. But it is pretty clear when you read it that the Archbishop was not blindly or stupidly advocating an integration of sharia and English law; in fact he wasn't advocating its integration at all. What he was doing was somewhat more deconstructive: pointing to the unintelligibility of a law system which presumes itself to be "universal" and "secular." He was questioning the modern liberal assumptions about "universal man." This strikes me as an incredibly important thing to do. (See also here and here.) Now I am not saying that he is the right person to do it, or that this was appropriate, or savvy, given his other responsibilities and pressures. But the content of his lecture begs all sorts of questions about modern society and the rule of law that have nothing to do with whether or not we want to become some sort of caricatured Islamic state.

Anonymous said...

There is some thought the ABC will continue to give interviews - tune in next week for his thoughts on the possibility of litigants converting to one religion or the other so they can access the judicial system most favorable to their case. The ABC is said to be bucking for an award from the legal profession for creating a new niche that will serve to advise those so interested in "switching sides'. Presumably new splinter religious groups will arise to facilitate rapid and easy conversions. Any further thoughts?

Anonymous said...

That is exactlly what happens in Eygpt. See the article.,4670,EgyptConversion,00.html


Anonymous said...

Why does the HHHB add up to
I love it and find it useful but
suddenly I realized that
50+35+15+10= 110

Forgive me if you have dealt with this before.

Unknown said...

Looks like I got carried away with with #1, for which I plead #2. Or perhaps the scale does actually add up to 110%! Exclamation Point.

Thanks for pointing it out - I think you are the first to do so - which means you win #4!

As soon as I get the chance I'll update it, but no promises that Draft #2 will work out any better. It could be what we call the "x" factor - the unknown number. ;-)