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Tony Grist

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The Archbishop And Islam [Feb. 12th, 2008|08:30 am]
Tony Grist

The Archbishop of Canterbury is a beardy, religious guy. When he speaks about sharia law becoming "unavoidable" in Britain and "clarifies" this remark by looking forward to "a helpful interaction between the courts and the practice of Muslim legal scholars in this country"  he's standing up for beardy religious guys everywhere.

His defenders go on about him being a deep thinker (he's certainly not a clear one) but his instinct that beardy religious guys should stick together (or to use his own language, that "it is not inappropriate for a pastor of the Church of England to address issues around the perceived concerns of other religious communities") is shallow.

Anglicanism and Islam belong to different worlds.   An Anglican theologian- like the Archbishop himself- is a product of the Reformation and the Enlightenment and  has been required by his training to question and test his faith;  the Muslim theologian isn't and hasn't.   The similarities- beards, robes, bookisness- are all on the surface; the differences- core beliefs and intellectual methods- are- or should be-  fundamental. 

But the archbishop makes a habit of siding with closed minds against open minds.  He's also done it in the argument in his own communion over gay priests. His speech to synod- which I've quoted above- goes on to criticise the Episcopal Church of America as "patronising... manipulative (and) insensitive" for appointing a gay bishop but has nothing to say against the gay-bashing clergy of West Africa. 

There's a name for this atavism- when an intellectual chooses to side with the enemies of his own high culture.  It's this- trahison des clercs.


[User Picture]From: glitzfrau
2008-02-12 03:19 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. For me it's not about Anglicanism v. Islam. Like you, I have a sentimental attachment to the bookishness and bells and smells and eccentricities of Anglicanism, but I think that's cultural nostalgia, rather than a reasoned difference between Anglicanism and Islam - as we can see with a horrible man like Akinole. I think you're dead right when you say it's about the rights of authoritarian men with beards. I'm a secularist, I shudder at the thought of any revealed truth being taken as law over and above that which is tested in the common law courts and constitutionally. I am terrified by the intrusion of "faith" into public life, public space and civil rights.

But then, I don't understand the British polity, either. How does it work when you have an established church? How can you have a secular society when the prime minister appoints the chief druid? &c.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-02-12 04:12 pm (UTC)
The Anglican church as I knew it is disappearing fast- and the horrible evangelicals are taking over. I'm glad I got out when I did.

There have been times- especially under Thatcher- when the bishops of the C of E spoke as the conscience of the nation, in opposition to government policy - and we were thankful for them. Men like Archbishop Runcie and Bishop Shepherd of Liverpool and the mischievous fundie-teasing Bishop of Durham added something valuable to the national conversation- but there's no-one of that calibre around today.
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[User Picture]From: oakmouse
2008-02-13 06:33 pm (UTC)
It's moderately funny when the evangelicals take over in Barchester Towers, because it's fiction and you know they'll get theirs in the end. (Especially Mr. Slope.) Not so funny in real life, though.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-02-14 10:12 am (UTC)
I read the Barchester novels in my teens- and really didn't understand the ecclesiastical politics. Maybe I should give them another go.
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[User Picture]From: oakmouse
2008-02-14 06:45 pm (UTC)
I'd recommend it. You have to have patience with ticket names and some of the other slightly over-the-top elements of Trollope's style, but Barchester Towers is rather fun. Full of ecclesiastical in-jokes. I've never liked The Warden as well (possibly because the romantic lead is a stuffed shirt who I'd like to slap), and haven't read the others.
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