February 12, 2008

Two issues

There are two issues with Matt Sinclair's latest riposte to me on the subject of Rowan Williams- two issues that I think need to be dealt with in what is really a debating post and not an argument.

1. When I mentioned the lecture on neo-scholastic art, or one could mention the archbishop's points about the inequity of economic life, I was responding to Matt who said that the Archbishop seldom or never made interesting points. I then said that I liked an intellectual who did make interesting points in public life. Matt can't have it both ways: sneering at someone for being stupid and then saying that when he is provided evidence that they aren't, that those who provide him with that evidence are intellectual snobs. That's just too typical- not of the unintelligent mass- but of the much more thick group of hacks at the top of politics today. Matt is too bright for this kind of rhetoric- if you want a debate, please don't use these cheap tactics.

2. Secondly Matt more forgivably misunderstands the point of my remarks and that may be because I skipped ahead a couple of stages in my argument. You see I think the real issue that the Archbishop was attempting to solve was not a multiculturalist one- though some of that muddled set of thoughts may have smoothed his path to that conclusion- but this set of thoughts.

a. in an increasingly secular society law becomes increasingly secular

b. that creates problems of conscience (and he mentions some with regard to doctors and abortion for example) which the religious people of all faiths face.

c. one way around that is to have supplementary or plural jurisdictions which don't annull or replace civil rights, but which are voluntarily accepted by people who beleive in order to avoid issues of conscience.

d. without that you undermine community cohesion- between those who live with a sincere belief in God and those who don't- the most important set of values for the former group being their commitment to theism.

Ok- that's it laid out simply and straightforwardly. I think its a repugnant political doctrine because I want no relation between the law and politics. As I have said before- and its worth recycling this I DISAGREE FUNDEMENTALLY AND PROFOUNDLY WITH THE ARCHBISHOP, I THINK HE IS WRONG TO ARGUE IN THE WAY THAT HE ARGUES. I also think that the speech could have bad effects in other countries and am quite happy to concede that the Archbishop has been bad at publicity.

But what he is trying to argue is that religious people ought to live under their own laws to a certain extent (with qualifiers) something I think that is a theologically valid statement and then to fit that into a context where all religious people should have the same right. I disagree with the premise for reasons based on political theory- the Archbishop's endpoint was a bad political place to get to- but he is willing to discount that based on a theological vision of man that sees the virtue of private law as being over and above the virtue of political peace.

This whole controversy illustrates to me a fundemental truth about the West at the moment- our political discourse is well formed for say discussing economics, but when we get near theology for instance we collapse into incoherence.

I hope that gets that across....


Vino S said...

I do see your point. It does seem strange to accuse the Archbishop of being stupid and then of being too clever by half.

I think the problem is that, like the US, Britain is developing a very aggressive Right that will react sharply to anything that challenges their view of the world. I see the mentality of a lynch mob behind those in the Daily Mail or the Sun who want to force Rowan Williams from his job.

To avoid public discourse becoming banal and debased, then, if Rowan Williams says something people disagree with, then they should attack the ideas not the person. Some commentators seem unable to do this and so personalise the attack [as right-wingers have been doing in the US about the Clintons since 1992, for example].

Anonymous said...

Jehovahs Witnesses have tried this living under your own rules thing you know. By the way, am I the only one who has noticed that Rowan Williams looks a bit like Osama Bin Laden... have they ever been seen in public together? I think not.