Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, says Christians in the U.S. and U.K. who claim they are being persecuted should “grow up” and not exaggerate the consequences of feeling “mildly uncomfortable” about living alongside others with different values.
“When you’ve had any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word very chastely,” The Guardian reports him saying. “Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. ‘For goodness sake, grow up,’ I want to say.”
True persecution involves “systematic brutality and often murderous hostility that means that every morning you wonder if you and your children are going to live through the day.” He described the experience of a woman he met in India “who had seen her husband butchered by a mob.”
As archbishop of Canterbury over the last decade, Williams’ tenure was “marked by turbulence over the church’s stance on the role of gay priests and bishops,” The Guardian reports. “[G]ay marriage; and homophobia in the wider Anglican communion—with many members of the church expressing disappointment at a perceived hardening in its position on homosexuality.”
When asked if he had let down gay and lesbian people, he paused and said: “I know that a very great many of my gay and lesbian friends would say that I did. The best thing I can say is that is a question that I ask myself really rather a lot and I don’t quite know the answer.”
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
Sharing a platform at the Edinburgh international book festival with Julia Neuberger, president of the Liberal Judaism movement, Williams launched a withering critique of popular ideas about spirituality. “The last thing it is about is the placid hum of a well-conducted meditation,” he said.
He said the word “spiritual” in today’s society was frequently misused in two ways: either to mean “unworldly and useless, which is probably the sense in which it has been used about me”, or “meaning ‘I’m serious about my inner life, I want to cultivate my sensibility’”.
He added: “Speaking from the Christian tradition, the idea that being spiritual is just about having nice experiences is rather laughable. Most people who have written seriously about the life of the spirit in Christianity and Judaism spend a lot of their time telling you how absolutely bloody awful it is.” Neuberger said she found some uses of the word self-indulgent and offensive. Williams argued that true spirituality was not simply about fostering the inner life but was about the individual’s interaction with others.
National Assembly For Wales / Cynulliad Cymru (CC BY 2.0)