Sunday 25 November 2007

The Michael Foot of Anglicanism

We have only one global hegemonic power. It is not accumulating territory: it is trying to accumulate influence and control.

Who said that? John Pilger perhaps, or Seamus Milne? And what about this:

Our modern western definition of humanity is clearly not working very well. There is something about western modernity which really does eat away at the soul.

Sounds like Madeleine Bunting on a bad day.

In fact, both statements are from an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 'Muslim lifestyle' magazine, Emel, in which he contrasted America's foreign policy with the heyday of the British Empire:

It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly, that’s what the British Empire did — in India, for example.

It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put it back together — Iraq, for example.

Needless to say, the archbishop had little to say about America's role in liberating Kuwait from Saddam, protecting the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo, or rescuing Afghanistan from the repressive grip of the Taliban. Nor did he explain how these actions compared unfavourably with Britain's century-long occupation and exploitation of the Indian subcontinent.

The kindest explanation for these remarks is that Rowan Williams is a bookish theologian who has been thrust into a leadership role, in which academic evenhandedness comes across as weakness (witness the gay clergy affair) and an eagerness not to offend translates as political naivety. In other words, he is the Michael Foot of the Anglican church.

Less kindly, the archbishop's disillusionment with 'western modernity', combined with his expressed admiration in the interview for Muslim piety, and the fact that -as the Sunday Times comments tersely - he 'makes only mild criticisms of the Islamic world' - can be seen as yet another example of liberal Christian fascination with (and unconscious envy of?) Islam.

There's more on this from Bob here (thanks for the link), including an excellent demolition job on the Archbish's comparison between US and British 'empires' . He concludes:

The fact is, Williams is not alone. An insanity has gripped Western elite opinion, rendering it unable to see with any proportion, unable to make moral judgements. America, Israel and Blair are magnified into the worst possible monsters; all other crimes are relatavised away; all good things America does are literally invisible and unthinkable for these people.

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