The Church of England -- originally split off from Rome by Henry VIII for the purpose of divorcing his wife -- has just named a new Archbishop of Canterbury. His name is Rowan Williams. From his newspaper photo he bears a resemblance to the goofy shoe bomber, though he's older and sports a Brillo-like white beard.
Henry and his successors appointed trusted associates as Archbishop of Canterbury, lopping off their heads if they proved too independent-minded. Things are tame by comparison nowadays. Nominally appointed by the queen, the archbishop is actually chosen by the prime minister from a short list of candidates. Why Tony Blair chose Dr. Williams seems puzzling, until one recalls that Blair must now and then throw a sop to the Loony Left contingent in his Labour Party.
Archbishop-to-be Williams, you see, is every Marxist's dream of a cleric. He speaks in the clichés of the left. He seems as anxious as the ACLU to omit any reference to religion in public life. In a booklet published after the September 11 attacks last year, he wrote that "the words of religious faith are usually formal or flat or self-serving." Oh.
He chanced to be in New York on September 11, attending a conference. A little like Reuters news service, which commanded its reporters to not describe the terrorists as terrorists (as in one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter), Dr. Williams said, "Bombast about evil individuals doesn't help understanding anything." What he is getting at is that Osama's disciples in effect had no choice because exploitation by the industrialized West made them do it.
He writes, "We have something of the freedom to consider whether or not we turn to violence and so ... are rather different from those who experience their world as leaving no other option."
So, the 19 suicide bombers couldn't help themselves and thus are not to blame for killing 3,000 people? That is what Dr. Williams seems to think. He describes the war on terrorism as a "discharge of tension." The U.S. strategy is "confused" and the "random killing" of Afghan civilians is "a matter of military policy."
The solution to all this according to Williams is to sit down for a nice chat with the terrorists, once we recognize that their evil acts were not their fault. Then, "We begin to find some sense of what they and we might together recognize as good." Picture the scene: Do you take milk or lemon with your tea, Mr. Osama?
The bombing in Afghanistan which drove out al Qaeda and the Taliban was "morally tainted" in Williams's view, and any action against Iraq would be "immoral and illegal" unless it were approved by the United Nations. Not long ago he signed an open letter to the British government which asserted that "eradicating the dangers posed by malevolent dictators and terrorists can only be achieved by tackling the root causes of the disputes."
The root cause, of course, is Old Devil capitalism. "Every transaction in the developed economies of the West can be interpreted as an act of aggression against the economic losers in the worldwide game," according to Williams. Every transaction can be interpreted that way, but the interpretation would be wildly wrong.
Williams seems to see everything through the prism of Marxist class warfare. "It is hard," he says, " to start any sort of conversation when your conversation partner believes, in all sincerity, that your aim is to silence them (sic)." On September 11, the silencing was the other way around.
The Church of England is in a dilapidated state. Polls indicate that something on the order of two percent of its members regularly attend services. Can it be that the rhetoric of the far left has no message for the other ninety-eight percent?