Thursday, May 10, 2007

Archbishop of Canterbury on Morality and the State

I must admit I have not often found myself in agreement with Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop has an interesting article in The Times Online entitled “Down with Godless Government.” I still do not endorse the Archbishop’s prescription of an established church, church peers in government, or church authority as solutions to the problem of morality and government, but the Archbishop does say a few interesting things:

“Wilberforce and his circle believed that if a sinful system existed and its sinfulness implicated them as well as others, they were under an obligation to end it. There is no simple gulf between personal and public morality; and Christian morality is not about “keeping yourself unspotted from the world” in any sense that implies withdrawing or ignoring public wrongs.”
“But if the state enacts or perpetuates in the corporate life of the nation what is directly contrary to the Christian understanding of God’s purpose, then Christian activism in respect of changing the law is justified, primarily when the state is responsible for — so to speak — compromising the morality of all its citizens.”
. . .
“Without a notional standard of human excellence and human flourishing, the definition of what is good for people is always going to be vulnerable to what happens to suit a dominant interest group.”
. . .
“I believe that it is possible for a state to have a moral basis without thereby becoming confessional or theocratic. It involves a state being ready to recognize its own history; to say that its horizons and assumptions are indeed grounded in a set of particular beliefs, and to embody in its political practice ways of allowing those foundational commitments to be heard in public debate.”

Hat tip to Cranmer

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