Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?

The Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion and administrative governor of the Church of England, has made an ass of himself once again. He is saying that some form of Sharia law, particularly in family affairs, will have to be adopted in England for muslims to opt into. Read that again, if you need to. So-called "Sharia law" is precisely that thing about fundamentalist Islam that most resembles fascism (Cheney et al. get the Islamofascism thing wrong, of course). Sharia law claims to be an ancient tradition going back to the days of the prophet, but it's really a modern invention - almost a postmodern invention - dressed up in Koranic language. It would be akin to a "Jewish law" that tried to literally enact the penalties of Leviticus (e.g., stoning for adultery), claiming to be an ancient tradition [note: some of the more dramatic language in Hebrew texts must be understood in light of linguistic and cultural traditions. When Jesus said "if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out" few of his hearers believed he was advocating self-maiming.]. But the Archbishop plods ahead pretending that he is being progressive and sensitive. What he ought to have said is that England should do its best to make muslims feel at home, that the English should love their neighbors, and this may mean respecting some traditions but challenging other traditions that oppress. Jesus was all about challenging traditions that had become oppressive or no longer made sense.

This is the same Archbishop who refuses to tell the African and what we politely call "Southern Cone" Anglican churches that it's not for them to tell the Americans that they cannot embrace gay people. In other words, this archbishop doesn't seem to understand that he needs to take moral stands, even if they be costly (the real lesson of the crucifixion). I have blogged about Episcopaliania before on this blog.

At any rate, Tony Blair's recent conversion to Roman Catholicism makes me wonder, in my paranoid moments, f he deliberately sabotaged the Church of England by putting a miter on such an ass. For those who don't know, the Archbishop of Canterbury is appointed by the King or Queen of England, in a tradition dating back to well before the Reformation. The modern interpretation is that the church administrative councils propose four names, of whom the Prime Minister selects one for the Queen to approve. Or, just as bad, did Tony Blair think that the Anglican church was a namby-pamby liberal organization with whom a namby-pamby Rowan Williams would fit?

Mr. Williams now says he was just trying to start a dialog, btw, and that he didn't mean to imply that Sharia should be a parallel civil jurisdiction.

This is the worst thing liberals do in public. Some liberals confuse tolerance with moral relativism. This is what gives the opening to conservatives to claim that they alone understand moral values. Sadly, even ironically, they are the ones often pimping "biblical" values every bit as postmodernly-constructed as Sharia law. (Jewish ultra-orthodoxy is of the same ilk, by the way, but I digress.).

This blog post is relevant outside the religious world because I am trying to hold up the feature of liberalism (notoriously, the California liberal) that is the most politically damaging, and most irksome to those of us who call ourselves liberals. This is what makes people vote Republican, the fear that liberals will try to understand terrorists, even prepare apologia for them, rather than fight them. Actually, we must defeat terrorists through the power of love (man, it's hard to say that without sounding too '60s and goofy). This means we must act to defend ourselves against terrorists, attackign them where they lie, with compassion for their neighbors. We must try to understand why people support them, and persuade them of their error. We must live out our values - not preach democracy while devaluing elections (see Palestine) or coddling dictators (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan...). We must not preach hate against their religion, or against bogeymen like Islamofascism. I could go on. You get the point. We need to win Arabs and muslim people over to our side. This requires, in the first instance, that they come to respect us, if grudgingly, as people with consistent values who respect them in turn.

And we don't say "okay" to Sharia law with its sexism, medievalism, and homophobia.

p.s. For those who aren't up to literary allusions: the title of this blog is a version of the quote attributed to Henry II that resulted - as intended - in the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (whom Henry appointed, but who quickly used the post to challenge Henry's rule).

1 comment:

Ms.BaBooCrit said...

I confess I am occasionally envious of denominations with a central prophet/pope figure, but every time this fellow gets any press, I find myself saying, "Archbishop said WHAT?"

As an Episcopalian, I feel remarkably free from having to defend, or even listen to, the head of the church. (Perhaps this is a holdover from a Presbyterian childhood, perhaps its just the contrariness that kept me from darkening the doorstep of a church for about 10 years.)

There can be a tremendous value in church leaders who are willing and able to speak to the faithful and to the public, but I find the Archbishop entirely out of touch and almost completely irrelevant to Episcopaliania in America.

-Seventh Sister