Saturday, February 09, 2008

Rowan Williams

I hadn't commented yet, because the Archbishop seems more militant and reactionary to me than most commentators have suggested. If his recent calls for restrictions on free speech and the allowance of Shari'a Law are considered carefully, he is trying to drag us back to a dark, violent and priest-ridden nightmare. So I have been reading his speeches, trying to track the threads through his almost inarticulate density and vagueness of language. But I needn't have bothered. As usual, Matthew Parris gets it, and sounds a note we minimal-government people ought to consider carefully (I have highlighted the relevant sentence):

Properly understood, the effect of devolving national law and national morality to local and group level is profoundly conservative. Dr Williams's ideas really represent the wilder fringes of a bigger idea: communitarianism. Communitarianism can come in a surplice, a yarmulka or from a minaret and is all the more dangerous because armed with a divine rather than a local loyalty. It almost always proves a repressive and reactionary force, fearful of competitors, often anti-science, sometimes sceptical of knowledge itself, and grudging towards the State.

There is absolutely nothing “left-wing” or woolly-liberal about empowering it. A Britain in which Muslim communities policed themselves would be more ruthlessly policed, and probably more law-abiding than today. But it would be a Britain in which the individual Muslim - maybe female, maybe ambitious, maybe gay, maybe a religious doubter - would lose their chances of rescue from his or her family or community by the State.

The State, not family, faith or community, is the guarantor of personal liberty and intellectual freedom, and it will always be to the State, not the Church, synagogue or mosque, that the oppressed individual needs look. Some two centuries ago Nonconformism in Britain, by offering the individual an unmediated approach to a personal God, started to liberate Christians from the Church. Dr Williams seems not to understand this. Or perhaps he does, and is on the other side.
Williams does understand this. He is on the other side, with his fellow post-modernists.

No comments: