Would someone talk some sense please?

Jamie Smith makes some much-needed sense of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ (admittedly confusing, to me) comments on the inclusion of certain aspects of Muslim sharia law into the British legal system.


6 comments so far

  1. chad on

    In my take on Smith’s article, I think it is a bit unbalanced to put Rowan Williams in the same discourse with St. Augustine and Benedict XVI. The later have displayed a level of “wisdom” (and I mean in the theological sense of sapientia) in ways that Williams has not; in other words, Williams has failed to impress a lot of people for a long time – this is not an isolated event, and his previous shortcomings in properly employing his office leave many exasperated with this latest antic.

    Also with regard to Smith’s opinions, it may be because I’m unskilled in “post” rhetoric, but I’m not sure Smith’s article helped me out all that much. I guess the question I kept asking myself when I read Rowan’s talk and Smith’s defense is that neither bothers to ask questions such as what is the RIGHT law that any political entity should have – a law that is consistent with God’s law and thus the natural law. Any notion of natural law, which is accessed by reason and provides an objective standard (this is the key) by which we can judge other laws, takes a back seat in Smith’s article to comments about social identities and post-liberal/post-secular monolithic hegemonies and isolating tribalism (I am still confused). I felt that Rowan’s comments reflected the modern presupposition that law is created and imposed, and therefore since “law” is a construct of our wills, law is fundamentally relative to the group or groups that construct these laws. This, as opposed to a notion of discovering law that already exists by virtue of God as creator, who has implanted his law into nature and in our reason. Granted, Smith can take me to school when it comes to talking “post” rhetoric, and he most likely is saying something more profound than I may ever understand, but what concerns me is what he doesn’t say (and I’ve read enough Smith and R.O. to make some sense of what he’s getting at by drawing our attention to church-state relations in the way that he does). I’ll look forward to hearing other people’s comments and getting some further clarity on the issue.

  2. timothycairns on

    For Americans I know this will be hard to understand – but Rowan Williams comments make him unfit for his office because he is as much a political appointee and he is a religious appointee. The office of the Archbishop of Canterbury is appointed by the Prime Minisiter (well to be exact the Queen on the advice of the PM) and he is a member of Parliament. In American language he sits in the Senate and is appointed to that post by the President. So its not just a matter of religion its a matter of politcs and legislative process

  3. jeffreimer on

    Tim, I don’t see how what you explain here makes Rowan Williams unfit for his office. Care to clarify?

  4. timothycairns on

    Well I was responding top your post (questioning the perspective of press reaction) and the perspective of your link was from a religious perspective as well. Chad’s reply was debating the rights and wrongs of various religious rhetoric.

    What I was doing was pointing out that all the contributions were from an American perspective. That means (I suspect but I might be wrong) that you see the Archbishop of Canterbury as a religious figure. Whilst he is a religious figure I was pointing out that he is a politician as well. He is appointed by the Prime Minister and sits in the Upper House of the UK legislature and passes laws. If a politician said what he has said I think he is politically unfit for office. My comments were merely to give perspective as to why the British press went as far as they did. I see the American press have picked up on the British press and have led with the story. But from a British perspective he is viewed as a religious leader and a political figure. That is lost in crossing the Atlantic. As a political figure I think he has been an idiot and deserves all he is getting

    I was just trying to point out to your readership (which is largely American I suspect) that there is more than religion at play. Imagine him not only as a bishop but an unelected member of Senate appointed by George Bush and then read the story again, see of you still think the press reaction has been lacking in sense.

  5. chad on

    Enlightening, Tim. Thanks for that. I didn’t consider Williams in the political regard. I approached his comments from the religious side of things, and you, the political. Double whammy for Williams! What I hear you saying is that Rowan Williams is a bad politician for making his comments, but I haven’t heard you explain THAT fact. What about his comments do you consider to be detrimental to Britain per se?

  6. timothycairns on

    This could all turn into an introduction to British Law class! I think that Williams comments are completely outrageous. How can we have laws that are incompatible with common law being legislated upon? Common law grew out of canon law, the legal system Williams is talking about is not part of the organic constitution of the UK and is in fact incompatible with it. This is really a debate to be had in person I think – lets get a white board and meet up and discuss over a few beers!

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