Sunday, February 10, 2008

In Defense of Canterbury

Archbishop of Canterbury's seeming endorsement of Sharia has provoked much astonished criticism.

Austen Ivereigh at the newly-revived Godspy offers a contrary opinion:
But Dr. Williams’s speech is much more than just about Muslims and the law. What he is challenging is a Positivist, secularist notion of the law which seeks to make religious practice a purely private, individual matter. “The danger arises not only when there is an assumption on the religious side that membership of the community (belonging to the umma or the Church or whatever) is the only significant category, so that participation in other kinds of socio-political arrangement is a kind of betrayal,” he writes. “It also occurs when secular government assumes a monopoly in terms of defining public and political identity.”

The obvious recent example in the UK is one he cites earlier in the lecture. The Government refused to allow Catholic adoption agencies to opt out of anti-discrimination legislation which made it illegal for an agency to refuse to consider a gay couple as potential adopters. The refusal means that those adoption agencies will be forced to close or continue as privately-funded ventures. In this, highly secularist interpretation of the equality before the law principle, a body of believers who maintain, in accordance with their religious principles, that the best place for an adopted child is with a mother and a father, are precluded from offering a public service. The privatization of religion follows, and believers are herded ever more into ghettos. That has long been the experience of continental Europe, and Britain, with a long pluralist tradition in which religious and secular can both operate in the public square as equals, is fast moving now in that direction.

Dr. Williams has issued a clarion call for a vital principle in democratic law, which is that our social relations are not constituted by a single or exclusive mode of belonging.

Matera's concern is exemplified in some of the reactions to Canterbury's lecture, such as the response of Minette Marin who writes:
a lot of what is written on this confusing subject suggests “the ideal situation is one in which there is one law and only one law for everybody”. He went on: “That principle is an important pillar of our social identity as a western liberal democracy.” How true.

However, he continued: “It’s a misunderstanding to suppose that that means people don’t have other affiliations, other loyalties, which shape and dictate how they behave in society, and the law needs to take some account of that.”

Stuff like this is bad for the blood pressure, but I listened on. “An approach to law which simply said there is one law for everybody and that is all there is to be said . . . I think that’s a bit of a danger.”

"What danger? And to whom?" Minette Marrin asks. She should note that "one law for everybody" would disestablish the Church of England and abolish the Monarchy. Arguably, that secular egalitarianism has eroded historical England far more thoroughly than any recent Muslim immigration threatens to do.

Many of Canterbury's critics, zeroing in on the Sharia passage, apparently have mistaken his attack on totalizing Secularism for an attack on Christian England. The kind words for Sharia should never have been delivered in such a public manner, especially for a senior clergyman already facing tensions with his church's African Christians. But does Peter Hitchens realize Archbishop Williams' stand against an utterly consistent secularism could be the only position that would preserve Christian freedoms in England?


WLindsayWheeler said...

I think that it seems that you are alright now with a "multicultural, seperation of Church and State" brought about by the Enlightenment.

A true Christian and conservative would go all the back to Christendom, there is no seperation of Church and state, but leniency granted to minorities to practice in their enclaves. Hasn't Christendom always allowed Jewish courts in the Ghetto's in the history of Christendom?

Just like one can't seperate the soul from the body, one can't seperate religion from the state. That's an impossibility. A definite religion must be attached to a state. Secularism is not a proper religion. or do you subscribe that secularism is a psuedo-religion that ought to be a religion of the state? The Enlightenment must be totally rejected by any good Christian. We must roll that completely back. The Enlightenment was anti-Catholic; and therefore rolled completely back.

Sophia said...

You are the only person apart from my dad that I have come across who did not totally overreact, misinterpret and just not get what the Dr. Williams was saying.