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God bless Rowan Williams

Apparently among fringe right-wing Christian groups Rowan Williams is catching some heat, yet again, this time for his comments in his Easter Sermon. Referencing some recent British political happenings about wearing crosses in public, Williams boldly called Christians away from facile claims to being persecuted victims in the big bad secular world, opting instead to inject a little knowledge and reality into the the theatrics that are all too common amongst the power-starved Christian right:

It is not the case that Christians are at risk of their lives or liberties in this country simply for being Christians. Whenever you hear overheated language about this, remember those many, many places where persecution is real and Christians are being killed regularly and mercilessly or imprisoned and harassed for their resistance to injustice. Remember our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and in Iraq, the Christian communities of southern Sudan fearing the outbreak of another civil war, the Christian minorities in the Holy Land facing the extinction of their two-thousand year old presence there; or our own Anglican friends in Zimbabwe, still – as I reminded this Cathedral congregation at Christmas – subject to routine attack from the security forces and locked out of their churches. That’s not our situation, thank God, and we need to keep a sense of perspective, and to redouble our prayers and concrete support.

See what he did here? How he talked about actual persecution? How he called us to stop frenetically chattering about how we are no longer in control of Western civilization and instead simply pray and help those who are actually suffering?

Its truly amazing how conservative Christians are, as whole, more concerned about petty bureaucratic inconveniences to them than about the actual suffering and death of (non-white) Christians throughout the world.


  1. JohnO wrote:

    This is why I like Rowan Williams. A lot. A real lot.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  2. The same crap comes out of the health and wealth people, from the other side. I literally had someone telling me the other day that Jesus didn’t just die for my sins, but to give me a life full of health, prosperity, and love.

    I guess Paul missed the memo along with, I dunno, the brethren in Burma who are being systematically murdered and suffering from starvation.

    As a conservative (who’s not at home in either of our beloved political parties), it ticks me off when people cry about little things and betray a belligerent ignorance of the world outside of their cul-de-sac.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink
  3. kim fabricius wrote:

    George Carey (with Nazir-Ali) is the great Shepherd of the Bleats. And now, in status confessionis, and in view of the forthcoming General Election, he and his meretricious martyrs, evangelical and Catholic too, have issued the Wesminster Declaration 2010 (a sort of Manhattan Declaration Lite), replete with anti-Islamic and homophobic subtexts, which just oozes right wing Little Englander ressentiment.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink
  4. Kyle wrote:

    Lord Carey of Clifton should only have shown so much vigor when he held the see of Canterbury, as he does now that middle-aged white ladies are crying “persecution” as they remove their crucifixes for work.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink
  5. joel mason wrote:

    what a big difference it is between physical statements becoming spiritualized (“inner persecution”) and spiritual statements being experienced physically (actual persecution), the physical experience thus interpreting the spiritual, or scriptural, statement in the light of that new experience. it is the source of sobrino’s praxis oriented theology which is not without its merits.

    but affluent people still need ways and language to describe their plights. i think sometimes it seems that those interested in “social justice” or “third world issues” want to take this away from affluent people, as if their money or the relative safety of their nation has made obsolete their spiritual longings. but of course the language so acquired must be accurate and honest, and this i think is William’s point.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  6. Andrew wrote:

    Wipe your mouth Halden, your Kool-aid stains are showing. The main stream media has put a Jihad on our Christian ideals like freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and trickle down economics. WE ARE UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Don’t you know that they are trying to take “In God We Trust” off of our money? That is literally what the martyrs went through. Next you’ll tell me that George Washington wasn’t Jesus’ great great great great great great great great great grandson, and that the Genesis isn’t a how to guide for the creation of life, and that Americans aren’t the elect. I just don’t want you to turn into one of those liberal, hobo loving, hippy, communist, Holocaust confirming, Atheist, Nazis all the sheeple are acting like these days.

    Your Welcome!

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  7. Theophilus wrote:

    Right on. If the “communion of the saints” means anything, it means we will be aware of and take seriously the state of fellow believers far removed from our own situations, whether by time, space, or both. Telling their stories would be a good first step towards moving away from these kind of paranoid complaints. Hearing my grandfather talk about how blessed he was to come to Canada, and knowing he was orphaned by Stalin’s purges on account of his father’s Christian faith, sure helps me to keep perspective.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink
  8. roger flyer wrote:

    Me like this guy Rowan, arch bishop

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink
  9. Ben wrote:

    Williams is living in a country where he’s considered intellectually deficient by sections of the society because he’s a Christian. The Prime Minister when he was made AB couldn’t come out of the closet as a RC while PM. He has defended the rights of Roman Catholics to have adoption agencies in the face of their being accused of hate crimes, defended the rights of Muslims to have their own legal system and been ridiculed by essentially everyone. Sure it’s NOTHING like what it is in Northern Nigeria, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy being a Christian in ‘polite British society’. I’m a gay Christian. It’s MUCH easier being gay in the UK than Christian. Williams is right to mention real oppression, but it’s a pity he lampooned the pressure many Christians are under to either stop being Christian, or, take the classic liberal option and conform to what’s easiest in liberal secular society.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Permalink
  10. kim fabricius wrote:

    It’s MUCH easier being gay in the UK than Christian.

    Actually, Ben, it’s precisely because it’s easier being gay in the UK than, say, Nigeria, that conservative Christians like Carey are whinging, while being gay and Christian makes him apopleptic.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink
  11. Ben wrote:

    Oh now Kim, that’s unfair. I’m no fan of Carey (for obvious reasons) but you don’t believe that he wants glbt people in the UK treated the same way as in Nigeria? He thinks being gay is the product of disordered desire, I think his stance is the product of disordered theology, but we ought not ridicule his position as how many of the great voices in our theological past agreed with him? We need to stay in conversation with him to witness to his very defensible position and help move it, and him, forward.
    He has been a complete asshole to Rowan from day one, and, finally, Rowan (after a very bad week) decided to fight back. But in flagging the problems with Careyesque approaches he gave liberals like Ruth Gledhill the opportunity for such theological gems as “I am reluctant to wear a cross as I don’t want to be seen as a victim” in this piece here,
    Agreeing with “Ruthie” should give people real pause for thought. Carey is wrong about a lot of things, but being a Christian in the UK isn’t easy. After a while you just decide it’s easier be a liberal, you start agreeing with Gledhill and choosing secular liberal stances over biblical ones more and more. Let’s criticise Carey, but let’s be careful of supporting people who tell Christians like him – “just shut up and conform”.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Permalink
  12. Halden wrote:

    Ben, for what its worth, I take you at your word when you say its hard to be a Christian in the UK. Actually I take that to be something of a good thing! However, the comparison of ease between being gay and being Christian is a category mistake. Of course its easier to be gay. Its also easier to be straight, bisexual, or a bartender than to be a Christian (or a Jew or a Muslim, and don’t even get me started on how hard it must be to be a Scientologist in the UK!).

    Now I certainly agree that we should be vigilant to avoid “choosing secular liberal stances over biblical ones.” Absolutely. But, heightened rhetoric about “persecution” does not serve that task very well in my opinion.

    That said, I do appreciate your thoughtful and conciliatory stance in this matter. We need more folks like you in this regard.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink
  13. kim fabricius wrote:

    My reply, Ben – the Nigeria bit – was, of course, hyperbolic. But the agenda of Carey-and-cronies is dangerous – for Christians, a lot more dangerous than the the vapid windmills of British secularism against which they tilt. To use the term “persecution” here displays a paranoid, pompous, and irresponsible lack of word-care.

    As for the real theological problem, it is precisely the Hobson’s choice of Careyan conservatism and Gladhillian liberalism, as if tertium non datur. Rowan, of course, courteously cries, “A plague on both your houses!” – which is why he has so many enemies. Carey and company feel threatened by the demise of Christendom, and bitter at the loss of their own power. This is not a propitious mindset for a constructive response to secularlism and liberalism.

    The church is in status exilii. That’s the fact of the matter. Instead of finding a scapegoat in the world, or in those of a different theological persuasion, and circling the wagons around our own ecclesial purity, we all might reflect not only (a) that exile reflects God’s judgement on the church, the whole church, but also (b), more hopefully, that exile might also be pregnant with God’s grace and blessing, an opportunity to believe not still but again (Auden), and an encouragement not to insist on our domestic space and rights (Carey) but to live joyfully and hopefully diasporically (Yoder)

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 1:50 am | Permalink
  14. Ben wrote:

    Yep, I agree with Kim that (a) the choice between homogenizing with the ambient culture and lamenting victimhood in masochistic yearning for the colosseum is a choice between two theologically incoherent alternatives and (b) with Halden that whining about oppression is counterproductive. Fair enough. I fear though that readers of Gledhill may slide into conflation. Too true we don’t want a Carey, but the Halden’s and Kim’s of this world have always been wonderful at cuffing us round the ear with the Gospel when we slide into too cosy relationship with any comfortable logoi, be it liberalism or conservatism. When I see the great Halden agreeing with Ruth Gledhill, even on a minor point, I fear for my soul!

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 7:37 am | Permalink
  15. kim fabricius wrote:

    Think of it, Ben, as (Chinese proverb) striking the serpent’s head with the enemy’s hand.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 7:48 am | Permalink
  16. Halden wrote:

    My only response to that is that I fear for my soul if the appellation “great” is ever applied to me.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 8:03 am | Permalink

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