Rowan Williams on spirituality and whinging Christians…
He always was worth listening to carefully. Sure he never got used to packaging up media friendly sound bites, and even though many counted this in a list of his faults whilst in office, I always loved the fact that there was depth and intellect in everything he said. I have wondered how his voice might develop after being released from all the pressure of his post.
Early signs seem to be business as usual. Here are a couple of extracts, courtesy of The Guardian;
Firstly on whinging Christians, by which I mean those who see Christians in this country as under some kind of attack from the forces of evil. Check out the pages of Christian Voice and you will see what I mean;
Christians in Britain and the US who claim that they are persecuted should “grow up” and not exaggerate what amounts to feeling “mildly uncomfortable”, according to Rowan Williams, who last year stepped down as archbishop of Canterbury after an often turbulent decade.
“When you’ve had any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word very chastely,” he said. “Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. ‘For goodness sake, grow up,’ I want to say.”
True persecution was “systematic brutality and often murderous hostility that means that every morning you wonder if you and your children are going to live through the day”. He cited the experience of a woman he met in India “who had seen her husband butchered by a mob”.
Nothing confirms some Christians in their sense of persecution more than issues around homosexuality- it is almost as if every legal/social step forward offered to gay people is seen as some kind of prod of the devil-horns into the side of the church. Considering the fact that gay people have suffered (and still suffer) actual persecution this always seems to me to be a terrible miss-representation of the Gospel.
Rowan Williams then started out on a wider theme- that of ‘Spirituality’;
Sharing a platform at the Edinburgh international book festival with Julia Neuberger, president of the Liberal Judaism movement, Williams launched a withering critique of popular ideas about spirituality. “The last thing it is about is the placid hum of a well-conducted meditation,” he said.
He said the word “spiritual” in today’s society was frequently misused in two ways: either to mean “unworldly and useless, which is probably the sense in which it has been used about me”, or “meaning ‘I’m serious about my inner life, I want to cultivate my sensibility’”.
He added: “Speaking from the Christian tradition, the idea that being spiritual is just about having nice experiences is rather laughable. Most people who have written seriously about the life of the spirit in Christianity and Judaism spend a lot of their time telling you how absolutely bloody awful it is.” Neuberger said she found some uses of the word self-indulgent and offensive. Williams argued that true spirituality was not simply about fostering the inner life but was about the individual’s interaction with others.
I am still working on a collection of ‘Spiritual’ poetry. I think I just found a quote for the introduction!