- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2003

LONDON Tensions between the government and new Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams burst into the open yesterday when Home Secretary David Blunkett attacked the archbishop's political views as "misleading and selective."
Mr. Blunkett was especially critical of a lecture last month in which Archbishop Williams criticized politicians for "instantaneous button-pressing responses" to consumer pressure rather than ethical values.
Mr. Blunkett accused the archbishop of ignoring reality.
Writing in this week's Spectator magazine, Mr. Blunkett dismissed much of Archbishop Williams' historical analysis of the development of the state as a "travesty" and "fetishism."
Mr. Blunkett's sharp attack on his "fellow hairy lefty" suggests that ministers are becoming irritated by the archbishop, a persistent critic of the West's policy toward Iraq.
Although Prime Minister Tony Blair has praised Archbishop Williams' abilities, officials in his government have privately voiced anger over his anti-war rhetoric, which they fear is undermining their campaign against Saddam Hussein.
The home secretary's article marks the first public clash between a senior minister and Archbishop Williams, is likely to broaden the dispute and could strain relations between church and state.
The archbishop is already at odds with conservative Anglicans for past statements that appear to endorse homosexual unions and homosexual priests.
Archbishop Williams used his lecture, his first significant public statement since officially becoming archbishop at the start of December, to scorn the "consumerist" approach to politics.
In a closely argued analysis, he said that the nation-state was being superseded by the "market" state, which was based on the delivery of economic prosperity and the meeting of consumer demand.
Such a state tended, however, to deliver a severely reduced social and moral vision, he argued, and it was in serious danger if religion was not given a central role.
"Government is now heard asking to be judged on its delivery of purchasing power and maximal choice," Archbishop Williams said. "Voters look for what will guarantee the maximum possible freedom to buy their way out of insecurity."
He said, "We need to come up with a better answer than we've had so far, if we are to avoid the reduction of politics to instantaneous, button-pressing responses to surface needs."
In his article, Mr. Blunkett praised Archbishop Williams for his "profound and authoritative voice" but said that he had got "important things wrong" in his political thinking.
"At the end of the day, modern government needs to retain its legitimacy, as Rowan Williams says. But I believe that the very consent that government requires arises from responding to legitimate demands, such as parental choice for a child's education , he wrote. "Providing such services while helping local communities rebuild themselves is the challenge of the 21st century."


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide