Wednesday, 27 June 2012

As easy as ABC...

For those of you lucky enough to follow me on Twitter or in real life, you will know my views on the postmodern druid that is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Now more than ever the people of Britain need spiritual guidance. We've got gays trying to get married, women talking back and people playing stringed instruments.

Today Dr Williams has made "one of his strongest interventions yet" on the issue of gay marriage. When I read that I was eager with anticipation. "What controversy will Dr Williams be stirring now? How will Iatollah Williams be fanning the flames this time? Will Rowan the Radical whip his church into line and lead the fight against homophobia, or will he come down like a ton of bricks on this sinful behaviour? We will finally know his true opinions!" Here's what he he said:

"Dr Rowan Williams said that the church was still "scratching its head" about its position on same-sex marriage... "Same with same sex marriage, where once more we're used to being alongside people who are gay; many of our friends may be – indeed we may be – wrestling with that issue ourselves, and the church is scratching its head and trying to work out where it is on all that, and what to think about it.
"What's frustrating is that we still have Christian people whose feelings about it are so strong, and sometimes so embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted, that that just sends out a message of unwelcome, of lack of understanding, of lack of patience.""So whatever we think about it, we need, as a church, to be tackling what we feel about it." "
Let's recap. One of Rowan's STRONGEST INTERVENTIONS amounts to saying "we don't know what we think, but whatever we think, we need to....look! A pigeon!" Williams resembles the final months of Gordon Brown, when in interviews he would look like he was thinking "oh just go away! stop asking me difficult questions!" Except both these people are in positions of considerable power and influence and should answer to the people they are supposed to serve.

Again, this is one of his STRONGEST INTERVENTIONS. It couldn't be more vague if he'd let out a protracted hiss before raising his eyebrows and humming pop goes the weasel. This is particularly odd considering the response to the government's gay marriage consultation by the Church of England.

The church, "led" by Williams, believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, should include the possibility of procreation and that the traditional institution of marriage should not be altered in any way. I don't really need to dismantle these arguments. If you're reading this you've probably heard and refuted them before, although I will reassert the point made that the Church of England was founded on redefining marriage. These arguments are essentially the same as those used by the Christian hard right in America, repackaged slightly for the audience of Songs of Praise.

This is pretty much the role of the Church of England in the gay marriage debate. It's the acceptable face of British homophobia. Less offensive and Catholic than the shrill ramblings of largely shunned and ignored morally corrupt paedophile protector Cormac Murphy O'Connor and his successor, career homophobe Vincent Nichols, the C of E, under Williams, makes it acceptable to oppose equal rights. Of course, the fact that gay marriage is not yet a reality means that they're not seen as reactionary outsiders, but what it's important to realise is that this very mild homophobia enables, legitimises and encourages people like Lisa Nolland of Anglican Mainstream saying things like...well, if you don't know already, you'd best click on the link.

Rowan Williams' stance may or may not be out of sync with his church (as we have no idea what he believes) but either way he should surely be providing some leadership on the matter.

I wanted to find a clip of Rowan Williams saying something interesting or controversial, but for those of you who know anything about the man, you will know this is about as likely as the miracles he claims to believe in. After trawling YouTube for longer than I ever thought possible on the subject of a man who I can listen to for approximately 11 seconds before thinking about something else (usually Obi Wan Kenobi or Gandalf) I found a video in which the Doctor is asked how he prays on homosexuality. Before you watch, let's put this in some context. Dr Williams believes that he is the number 2 guy in the correct and true religion. Well, he's never said anything so bold but it's implied by his position. He also believes that there is one true god, who is capable of literally anything, and has a rather important moral code we should be following. Homosexuality is a very contentious issue at the moment, so when Dr Williams prays to the omnipotent and omniscient god, bearing in mind that prayer works and Williams is the second most senior human on earth where God is concerned, you would have thought that if William doesn't know God's views on gays, he would do well to ask him and, if he does, he would pray for God to help the people who've got it wrong to reach the truth. That would make sense, and would really clear a lot of things up. So what does Rowan Williams pray for?

He prays for people on both sides of the debate to give each other a little space. He prays those on the radical (presumably modern, more pro gay) side prioritise the church over gay rights. He prays for a discussion. Oh, and he then admits Christians are actually not that generous.

Let's look at this more closely. Hoping only for debate suggests that God doesn't feel that strongly. If god doesn't have a problem with gays, as is surely implied by the fact that Dr Williams is happy for a debate with no obvious preference on either side, then the default position should be to treat people equally. There is no consistency or sense in Williams' view. It's almost like prayer doesn't work, and he's saying what he thinks will upset the fewest people. His vagueries are accepted as he clearly has a difficult job appeasing the bigots in his congregation, and underlying this is a tacit acknowledgement that he can't communicate with god, and that god has no relevance to the real world, which is why the church has to make secular arguments against gay marriage. But Williams is not the leader of a political party, he's the leader of a religion, and if God can't give us certainty, who can? It's also strange that someone who apparently wants debate would avoid debate at all costs by not expressing his view on any subject that appears to fall within his remit.

Williams manages to avoid saying anything specific at all in a way that most politicians would be envious of, but he doesn't even have to face the electorate. He's in a completely risk free position, particularly since he's announced his retirement, but still chooses to avoid the issue entirely. I'm not suggestign Rowan is an imbecile. Unless they do PhDs for beards, I'm assuming he has at least some intelligence (although Nick Griffin graduated from Cambridge. Qualifications aren't everything.), but surely that just makes him even worse, as he fails so spectacularly to deal with one of the most important issues of the day.

I'm not against vague religious beliefs per se. If you decide there probably is an entity we call God, it makes sense that it should be completely unfathomable to a human mind. However, if you're in, or even better head of, a religion like the Church of England, you claim to know enough about God to know specific the moral rules he ascribes as well as specific events he has been involved in and so on. To accept this, as you surely have to to call yourself a Christian, yet be the head of the church and unable to make a single specific statement about the god in question or the moral rules he prescribes, is nothing short of cluelessness or naked careerism.

Here's another example of a heap of impenetrable Williams waffle. About half way through, think to yourself "What is he actually saying?"

Absolutely nothing at all.

Let me be clear. If Rowan Williams thinks civil rights  for gay people are expendable to keep his church together that makes him a homophobe. If, during apartheid in the USA, a non racist preacher maintained that black people should have to sit at the back of the bus in order to keep their congregation together they would rightly be condemned. Yes, it is the same.

Rowan Williams is not a leader. He provides no guidance. He appears to have few beliefs at all about the nature of God or what he demands, yet he can sit idly by as his church attacks equal rights, before issuing vague statements (in the form of a strong intervention) calling for "debate" which he routinely dodges. I don't often look the the Bible for answers, but maybe it can help explain why Rowan Williams was created without a spine.

No comments:

Post a Comment