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Rowan Williams on Christian politics

Rowan Williams on Christian politics

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams recently spoke on “Christian politics” at a Faith in Politics conference in London saying:

“Christian politics is not about defending ‘Judeo-Christian values’ or those forms of religious culture, it is about pressing again and again on these areas where trust is shrinking and humanity is shrinking with it and asking ourselves, so how do we carry our vision forward into every area of political discussion?…

Our politics and our media really thrive on mistrust…It seems the basic emotion we’re encouraged to feel by quite a lot of political and media rhetoric is a sort of mild, subdued panic…

There comes to be a corrosive, circular, enclosed world in which what you are always longing for is a good reason to not trust someone. I don’t think that can be good for us.”

How does this translate to American politics in your experience? Is Christian politics, for you, about defending “Judeo-Christian values?”


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Terry Francis

Comment removed for policy violations

David Streever

Mr Francis,
If Archbishop Rowan is upset about her opinion as expressed in these comments, we will certainly welcome a post from him in response.
At no time did she make a personal attack against you. While you may not appreciate or agree with her perspective, we don’t think your personal (and uncivil) response was called for.

You can express your ideas, in polite language, and without attacking her or shielding the Archbishop. I am sorry that you feel personally attacked by Ms. Katsarelis. I don’t think she knows you, she didn’t reference you, and she certainly hasn’t said anything towards you.

I think being offended by her opinion regarding the Archbishop is something you’re feeling, and doesn’t constitute a personal attack against you, and certainly doesn’t justify your response. There is no point in continuing a cycle of argumentation and fighting if that’s what you feel she’s creating.

Terry Francis

Ms Fontaine

Is there a reason why my comment was removed? I would really appreciate an answer.

David Streever

Terry: I didn’t moderate your comment (and don’t know why it was moderated) but it appears to be very uncivil and rude.

Our comment policy outlines appropriate messages. Appropriate comments contribute to reasonable discourse. Your comment was laced with invectives and was patronizing. I assume that is why it was deleted.

Cynthia Katsarelis

I was following you, not necessarily agreeing, but taking it in as almost reasonable until you got here:
“You are right TEC tends to not laud “judeo-Christian values” but are the one’s who talk more about “compassion for immigrants and the poor.””

Compassion for the immigrants and the poor is most certainly a central part of judeo-Christian values. It is all over Isaiah. Leviticus talks about relieving the debts of the poor every 7 years. Christ goes on and on in his compassion for the poor and oppressed. Inclusion is included, without exception or excuse, by Jesus when He said “love your neighbor.” His example of the Good Samaritan would not have endeared him to some hearers, the Judeans HATED the Samaritans.

The idea that the liberation of Spirit in TEC is not solidly based in Christ and the Bible is decidedly flawed. It is a classic straw man created by conservatives who want to claim that ONLY they have the keys to salvation. That their exclusive and hateful theology is of God, and the inclusion crowd are mindlessly following secular trends. Which is insulting, and just plain wrong.

Jesus also said that we can tell the real prophets from the false ones by the fruits of their labors. The fruits of Rowan’s coddling of human rights abusers and homophobes includes religious based teen bullying and suicide, discrimination, hate crimes, and heinous anti-gay laws in Africa. Meanwhile, the fruits of inclusion are flourishing LGBT couples, churches that are a sanctuary from hate, and a beacon of hope to oppressed LGBT teens. As Martin Luther King pointed out, when the oppressed are liberated, so are the oppressors, and that is exactly what is happening in TEC.

No, I don’t prove your point, or Rowans. I prove that MLK knew exactly what he was talking about when he pointed the way to the Christ for all, Christ’s justice for all, Christ’s love for all, not the status quo that uses their power to decide who’s in and who’s out.

Fr. Gregory

Hey Cynthia,

I think you’ve missed Rowan’s point. While we could debate his take on inclusion that seems to be a Red Herring fallacy. And while we could attack his moral authority in regards to those decisions, that seems an Ad Hominem fallacy. Neither of these modes of discussion are actually addressing the substance of Rowan’s comment in a dialogical manner.

I think what Rowan is getting at here is that “Mistrust” is part of The Liberal Tradition and its two flavors (1) conservative (2) liberal. The conservative Liberals laud “judeo-Christian values” as if it was a monolithic project that Anglicans worldwide are a part of, instead of just being Christians who believe in Christ-like character building and transformation. They ‘mistrust’ anyone to the contra. Whereas the liberal Liberals tend to laud, as you’ve stated, “inclusion” as well as “progressive” values. They ‘mistrust’ anyone to the contra, as your comment perhaps exposed.

What these two sides have in common is a belief in Value-theory and in Rowan’s words “mistrust.” It is the deep Cartesian skepticism that crystallized in the 18th-19th c. that has bred a Tradition of Skeptics. In its wake Value-theory replaced Virtue (excellence of character) which can still be found in The Eucharistic and Office prayers. What we are left with then is vicious circles of logic, mere assertions of values, and little or no rational dialogue that begins with definitions, puts forth premises, comes to contradiction, and is willing to begin again to find Truth in Love.

You are right TEC tends to not laud “judeo-Christian values” but are the one’s who talk more about “compassion for immigrants and the poor.” But let’s be honest, this compassion is often systematic and bureacratized 501(c)’s that we hand off to the State. The bigger issue, I think, is that these two options are a false dichotomy, both bred out of a ‘mistrust’ of conservative Liberals for liberal Liberals and liberal Liberals for conservative Liberals. And I hate to say it, but I fear your comment is proof of his point.

While I personally think we can get out of this dichotomy, it can’t be by ending a dialogue before it can get up off the ground. We have to be willing to engage with folks who don’t think like this, otherwise our “inclusion” really just means “I include LGBTQ but not Rowan Williams types.” That’s actually just exclusion of a new flavor, a new Mistrust.

Ann Fontaine

Fr Gregory – please sign your full name when you comment. Thanks, editor

Cynthia Katsarelis

I’m sorry, but Rowan has very little credibility. His coddling of human rights abusers in Uganda and Nigeria, etc., just destroys his cred. Further, in 2006, he and Archbishop Sentamu came to our GC to lobby against inclusion of LGBT people. Fortunately, that was overturned in 2009. But the point is Rowan chose sides, and he chose the side of exclusion and all the evil it brings. He can’t now tell us that the job of Christian politics is to proclaim the Good News to all. TEC is WAY ahead of him on that. We’re not the one’s “defending Judeo-Christian values,” we’re the one’s whose Episcopal Public Policy Network urges action on compassion for immigrants, the poor, etc. Rowan isn’t the one to look to for that.

June Butler

Cynthia, yes to all you’ve said. Further, when Rowan Williams attended the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans, he told the bishops that they didn’t know how to run a church.

When Rowan turned on his friend Jeffrey John and asked him to step down from his appointment as Bishop of Reading, he made a misstep from which he has never recovered. So far as I was concerned, he lost moral authority then, and it’s been downhill from there. He could have redeemed himself, but he didn’t make that choice.

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