Dr. Rowan Williams, the soon to be ex-Archbishop of Canterbury, has been rather outspoken about government policy as of late. Perhaps it stems from genuine outrage at the political and economic aims of the Coalition, or simply because he wants to throw his opinions into the debate before he steps down in December. Either way, his opinions are remarkably outdated, contradictory and a misuse of his position.
As the world’s political lense slowly shifts towards the United States in the run up to the Presidential election in November, one issue firmly on everyone’s minds is gay marriage. Dr. Williams suggests that the state has ‘no right’ to legalise gay marriage and to do so would be ‘forcing unwanted change on the rest of the nation’ . This reasoning is dubious at best, particularly the use of the word ‘forcing;’ as if allowing a select group of people certain freedoms to do something actually forces anyone to do anything.
For example, people are free to eat meat on Fridays, however, the British public is not ‘forced’ to do so; abortion is legal but, thankfully, nobody is forced to terminate the life of their child. This is the main problem with ‘religious freedom,’ many of those who advocate it simply don’t understand it; it is freedom of religion and freedom from religion, not the freedom to impose your religious beliefs on others. I’m sure Dr. Williams is perfectly aware that Britain is not a theocracy, but he doesn’t seem to show it.
Secondly, as the head of the Church of England, Dr. Williams should have a firm grasp of the church’s history, something which his political views don’t seem to reflect. As we were all taught in History class, the Church of England was created at the behest of King Henry VIII, who wished to divorce Catherine of Aragon so he could work his royal charm on Anne Boleyn. This begs the question, then, why is a man who is very supportive of gay rights, and the head of a church specifically created to alter the definition of marriage, so very opposed to gay marriage? I would understand if he invoked Leviticus 18:22 (“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination”) or referenced Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19), at least then he could be dismissed as a homophobic nut. It seems that all he’s doing is pandering to the more conservative members of his global congregation when really he should only be pandering to the large bearded chap in the sky.
What you might not remember from history class is that the creation of the Church of England allowed England to break free a bureaucratic, autocratic pan-European institution, the Catholic Church. It defies logic, then, for the head of aforementioned Anglican institution to be in support the bureaucratic, autocratic pan-European institution, the EU. Dr. Williams, with the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, urged the Government to be “more constructive and positive in its attitude to the EU” and even made the mistake of suggesting that the Church of England is “by virtue of its history a European Church”.
Lastly, while Dr. Williams might very well be correct in saying that PM Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ initiative is “aspirational waffle” and an excuse for the government to shy away from its “responsibilities to the most vulnerable” , it’s not particularly his place to say. I accept that we have freedom of speech in Britain and that the Archbishop certainly shouldn’t have his opinions stifled in any way, I merely suggest he stifle them himself. Dr. Williams is the head of the third largest group of Christians in the world and has the enormous privilege of spiritually guiding the lives of millions across the world (whilst wearing a silly hat and carrying a golden sceptre). But that’s just it, he should guide his global congregation spiritually and keep his political views to himself, essentially a reversal of what most British politicians do.
Dr. Williams is of course, entitled to his opinion, but as the head of a Church his job is to lead the Church, spiritually guide his congregation and give special insight to the word of God. It is doubtful that God Almighty particularly supports or opposed the ‘Big Society,’ and unless you were to liken Brussels to the Tower of Babel, I doubt Yahweh has any preference for British foreign policy either, so the Archbishop of Canterbury should stop acting like he does.