Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cooke: Good riddance to ++Rowan

Charles C.W. Cook of National Review is glad to see ++Rowan Williams go (H/T Stand Firm).
Williams’s indifference to the pillars of the civilized world extended to capitalism, and in his post-9/11 paean to Western capitulation, Writing in the Dust, he argued that “every transaction in the developed economies of the West can be interpreted as an act of aggression against the economic losers in the worldwide game.” Such sentiments are quotidian in the halls of academia, but for a man directly appointed by the Queen of England to give them expression does not exactly help the cause of Western civilization, especially when conveyed in a book that was written as a direct result of a brutal attack on its most prized symbols.

However wrinkled they may be, ideas, as the saying goes, have consequences. And, in recent years, as the British state attempted to reverse decades of profligate spending and reduce its dangerous debt, it could rely upon the archbishop to oppose it at every turn. In June 2011, Williams guest-edited the hard-left New Statesman, writing in his editorial that the government was indulging in “radical, long-term policies for which no one voted,” and that the moves had caused him “bafflement and indignation.” Although previous archbishops had occasionally waded into political matters, the strength of the attack was unprecedented, and caused a row over the role of the Church in political affairs, and questions over what exactly Williams considered his mandate to be. The right-of-center Daily Mail went as far as to suggest that Williams “should resign and join the Labour Party which over the last 13 years did such harm to the fabric of British society.” Again, O’Sullivan is correct to note T. E. Utley’s maxim that Christianity “tells us what questions to ask” in politics; but it is difficult for even good-faith questions not to appear biased and rhetorical when they come from a publication with a clear and defined agenda.

Much of what Rowan Williams writes and says carries the air of a man who has grown accustomed to being received seriously regardless of the soundness of his ideas, and who is used to having even the most incomprehensible of his pronouncements met by the irritating acquiescence common to other “bearded lefties.” But sounding profound is not the same thing as being profound, and we should not let the man’s spiritual standing distract us from the reality that he is wholly dangerous to the power of Western ideas.

Documenting his many missteps is a little like cataloguing the utterances of Prince Phillip, but without the compensation of the consort’s dry sense of humor. An example: In response to protesters whose actions were steadily destroying the income, and thus upkeep, of London’s St. Paul’s cathedral, Williams claimed that Jesus Christ would have been an Occupier. Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey took a different view, noting that the protesters were “opportunistic and cynical,” and questioning the way in which senior clergy “mismanaged” the situation; his skepticism was vindicated when protesters began to defecate inside the cathedral and spray-paint graffiti — including “666” — on its walls.

With all of this in mind, Rowan Williams will, no doubt, fit in nicely in his new post as master of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge, and, naturally, I wish him every success in his return to academia; though one cannot help but also wish that he had never left the profession in the first place.
Cooke's disdain for ++Rowan, it must be noted, is rooted in a fundamental disagreement with the archbishop's political views which do not necessarily make him a heretic within the more narrow theological context out of which an ecclesiastical leader is supposed to work (although it is legitimate to question the theological underpinnings of a man who believes Jesus would identify with the socially destructive agenda of the "Occupy" movement). To be fair, some of ++Rowan's more recent musings have actually sounded quite coherent. However, his history with regard to the issue which has been the cause of the most angst throughout the Anglican Communion during his tenure has not been particularly impressive. Joel Martin reminds us of one of his most insipid observations about same sex relationships.

…by the end of the 80′s I had definitely come to the conclusion that scripture was not dealing with the predicament of persons whom we should recognise as homosexual by nature. And many of the arguments assumed by theologians in the Middle Ages and later increasingly seemed to beg questions or to rest on contested grounds. I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness.

In a word, this is pabulum. As Cooke would say, it "carries the air of a man who has grown accustomed to being received seriously regardless of the soundness of his ideas." Typical of the cheap pseudo-theology of the pro-gay left, it creates a scenario by which "an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage" without giving any thought to the fact that the scenario itself, "if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness," is impossible on its face. A "relationship" which is, inherently, contrary to God's purpose in creating human beings male and female in his image cannot, under any circumstances, "reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage." When the "relationship" is, at its very core, a rebellion against God, it cannot have in any way, shape, or form "the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness" as the marriage between a man and a woman. Precisely why a man so universally acclaimed for his "brilliance" manages to miss this simple truth about human sexuality is mind-boggling, indeed.

To his credit, ++Rowan has been more nuanced in his views on sexuality over the last few years, going so far as to persuade the Mother Church to resist the temptation to appoint a (supposedly celibate) "gay" bishop. He has himself, however, consistently ignored the godly counsel of his fellow primates to discipline, in some conciliar fashion, provinces which have given in to the same temptation. It is this failing, above all others, which will forever taint his legacy and leave his successor with the unenviable task of sewing a tattered Anglican Communion back together.