Friday, July 18, 2008

The Church of England: Another Step Toward Irrelevance

The Archbishop of Canterbury once again contributes to the decline of his own church in the name of tolerance:

Christian doctrine is offensive to Muslims, the Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday.

Dr Rowan Williams also criticised Christianity's history for its violence, its use of harsh punishments and its betrayal of its peaceful principles.

His comments came in a highly conciliatory letter to Islamic leaders calling for an alliance between the two faiths for 'the common good'.

But it risked fresh controversy for the Archbishop in the wake of his pronouncement earlier this year that a place should be found for Islamic sharia law in the British legal system.

James Lileks is dead on about why this is a problem (scroll down about 2/3 of the way):
He would probably be seconded on that point by this fellow [the Archbishop of Canterbury], who I expect will name an atheist as his successor, as part of an outreach program to attract people uncomfortable with the whole “God” part of religion. There really isn’t any reason to set the bar that high, you know. In his latest missive, he has acknowledged that parts of Christianity may “offend” Muslims, which is a fascinating choice of words. It puts doctrinal differences into the realm of emotional reaction, and as we all know “offence” must be followed with apologies and seminars and outreach and an hour of steady banging of the head on the hard marble floor. No one has the right to give offense, but everyone has the right – indeed, the obligation – to be offended by something.

It’s the natural end result of elevating tolerance above all else: eventually you are intolerant of the things in which you once believed, because they are theoretically offensive to those who have no interest in the maintenance of your traditions. In the end, traditions are just social constructs used to impose social order; best if we do away with them anyway.

[Plus, Lileks has the best metaphor ever for the decline of the Brits: "Meanwhile, over in Blighty: every day brings another story that suggests they could power the lights on the Strand by harnessing the RPMs of Churchill’s corpse." I love that creativity!]

Obviously Lileks is dripping with sarcasm here, but he’s right. If you’re willing to give up the core of our religion because someone might be offended, what do you really believe in? It is very troubling to me that the supposed leader of one of the largest churches in the world is so eager to set aside the cornerstone of his faith, or at least what should be the cornerstone of his faith, to achieve some sort of amorphous goal of peace, tolerance and social/environmental justice.

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