Friday, June 20, 2008

Rowan Williams @ Night News


Excerpt from Rowan Williams' website

What about the way we live our lives now as a family; more mothers going out to work as I suggested, more couples being allowed to get married, single mothers on welfare support. Going back to some of those specifics, if you can, can you address them? Are they all good things, ought they to be encouraged?

We now have a very wide assortment of family patterns in this country. Now some of them are healthy and good, even when they are not particularly conventional. I guess that like many people, I have seen single mothers bringing up children in exemplary ways, sacrificial ways.

And you would say the same for gay couples?

I have seen gay couples with adoptive children who seem to be again, devoting sacrificial attention. Now whatever I think of the ethics of that, there is love and care going on there.

Now, you wouldn't rule any of these particular ways of bringing up children?

The law at the moment allows those.

What about the Church though?

The Church has its own rules about these things.

And where do you stand, with the law or with the Church?

I'm a member of the Church. I stand with the Church on these things. We do not encourage or sanction certain patterns of family life, the state does. We work with that the best we can.

You see, isn't the problem that there is a religion in this country that sets strict boundaries, that has a rigorous moral code, that is unswerving, that knows its mind; that religion is Islam. And the Church of England has kowtowed to the tolerances of the time or the trends of the time and in doing so, has lost its authority.

You could say that the Church of England is trying to deal with pastoral realism with a very, very complicated set of social circumstances. I think if you looked at how Islam, or Catholicism, or Hinduism, worked in slightly more complex situations, you would find that they were making pastoral accommodations as well.

And yet, when I have asked you for specific examples of how we should live our lives according to right and wrong, you have replied very diplomatically but with no authority of right and wrong.

What difference does it make if I say, "The root of all evil is single mothers. The root of all evil is irresponsible, individual teenagers. If we got them we would solve all the problems." What difference does that make? I don't think it does. What we can do is be as careful and as candid as we can in the analysis of the problem that asks, what will humanly make a difference to this? It is too easy to pontificate from a distance. I know what I believe about the nature of marriage and I am quite prepared to say so. I believe marriage is a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman whose purpose is partly the upbringing of children.

But do you not concede that we need from you a more muscular Christianity and all we are getting is one that has been replaced by the search for pluralism?

I think that is completely untrue. Do you think that people in this country faced with 'muscular Christianity', as you called it, are going to change their ways because I say so or anyone else says so? We have to have credibility in terms of what kind of healing or wholeness we can bring to peoples' lives by being alongside them. That involves more clarity, it involves moral perspective and orientation but nothing has changed by saying things are more loudly.

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Sze Zeng's Comment:

Williams asked, "Do you think that people in this country faced with 'muscular Christianity', as you called it, are going to change their ways because I say so or anyone else says so? We have to have credibility in terms of what kind of healing or wholeness we can bring to peoples' lives by being alongside them."

That's a very valid question to asked especially for leaders. Do we shove our granted authority on people or do we earn the credibility by bringing wholeness to people by being alongside them? I opt for Williams. We don't take our authority for granted.

To put that in theological studies, we don't take our interpretation or our understanding of the Bible for granted by invoking "Thus saith the Lord/Bible". Our interpretation has to be always dealing with "very very complicated set of social circumstance". For eg. Do we simply understand Genesis' account as historical 6-day creation event based merely on the text alone? Or do we also acknowledge the findings from other studies like Ancient Near Eastern cosmologies to our modern Stephen Hawking's cosmology to Aristotelian cosmology to Bi-Polar cosmology?

I would of course opt for the latter not because the Bible is not authoritative on me but because its authority is ultimately intertwined with this complicated world. Hence just to apprehend the scope of its authority, our theology has to extend beyond the text in order to offer wholeness by being alongside these circumstances.

1 comment:

The Inquisitor said...

In response to your very complicated set of social circumstances,

"If that is the will of the people, then we need to change the people"

Itzhak Ben-Aharon

:P