There was a lovely interview by David Hare in the Guardian yesterday with Rowan Williams- here.
It reminded me again why this man is something of a hero of mine- his deep, thoughtful, compassionate stance on so many of the issues facing us, and his fierce intelligence. I thought it worth extracting a few quotes from the article…
When he observes that economic relations as they are currently played out threaten people’s sense of what life is and what reality means, surely what he’s really saying is that capitalism damages people. To my surprise, he agrees. Does he therefore think economic relations should be ordered in a different way? “Yes.” So is it fair to say, then, that he’s anti-free market capitalism? “Yes,” he says and roars with laughter. “Don’t you feel better for my having said it?”
He goes on to rehearse what he insists he’s said before (“I don’t mind saying it again”) about how no one can any longer regard the free market as a naturally beneficent mechanism, and how more sophisticated financial instruments have made it even harder to spot when the market’s causing real hurt.
Is he paying too high a price for keeping together people who believe different things about gender, priesthood and sexuality? “I’ve no sympathy for that view. I don’t want to see the church so balkanised that we talk only to people we like and agree with. Thirty years ago, little knowing what fate had in store, I wrote an article about the role of a bishop, saying a bishop is a person who has to make each side of a debate audible to the other. The words ‘irony’ and ‘prescience’ come to mind. And of course you attract the reproach that you lack the courage of leadership and so on. But to me it’s a question of what only the archbishop of Canterbury can do.”
“We must get to grips with the idea that we don’t contribute anything to God, that God would be the same God if we had never been created. God is simply and eternally happy to be God.” How on Earth can he possibly know such a thing? “My reason for saying that is to push back on what I see as a kind of sentimentality in theology. Our relationship with God is in many ways like an intimate human relationship, but it’s also deeply unlike. In no sense do I exist to solve God’s problems or to make God feel better.” In other words, I say, you hate the psychiatrist/patient therapy model that so many people adopt when thinking of God? “Exactly. I know it’s counterintuitive, but it’s what the classical understanding of God is about. God’s act in creating the world is gratuitous, so everything comes to me as a gift. God simply wills that there shall be joy for something other than himself. That is the lifeblood of what I believe.”
I ask him if he’s happy to be thought of in a tradition of Welsh poet-priests – George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, RS Thomas? “I always get annoyed when people call RS Thomas a poet-priest. He’s a poet, dammit. And a very good one. The implication is that somehow a poet-priest can get away with things a real poet can’t, or a real priest can’t. I’m very huffy about that. But I do accept there’s something in the pastoral office that does express itself appropriately in poetry. And the curious kind of invitation to the most vulnerable places in people that is part of priesthood does come up somewhere in poetic terms.
“Herbert’s very important to me. Herbert’s the man. Partly because of the absolute candour when he says, I’m going to let rip, I’m feeling I can’t stand God, I’ve had more than enough of Him. OK, let it run, get it out there. And then, just as the vehicle is careering towards the cliff edge, there’s a squeal of brakes. ‘Methought I heard one calling Child!/And I replied My Lord.’ I love that ending, because it means, ‘Sorry, yes, OK, I’m not feeling any happier, but there’s nowhere else to go.’ Herbert is not sweet.”
“And you like that?”
“Non-sweetness? I do.”