Is Rowan a Numpty?
You all know what this is about don’t you? Yesterday, our esteemed Archbishop caused a teensy bit of controversy by suggesting that in some parts of the country we may inevitably have to accept some accomodation with Sharia, especially where the vast majority of subjects of the monarch in an area are Muslim. Hmmmmm….. There’s been some debate about it and I don’t intend to go over old ground. Let me though make a number of comments.
- We already have the case in this country that the law of the Church of England is also the law of the land. For example, I automatically became a registrar of the crown ("God bless ya Maam") when I received my licence. This entitles me to marry someone in the church and then to sign the official register at the same time instead of the couple then having to trot off to the registry office.
What say we allowed Imams (and Rabbis) to act as registrars? That would allow couples to have a religious wedding and not have to go off to a registry afterwards?
- We need to recognise that religious courts already exist in this country. You can go to a Sharia court or to a panel of Rabbis and get a decision on your complaint. In fact, it is already possible for both parties in a dispute to agree not to go to a court of the crown and instead go to a religious court for a civil dispute, accepting the will of that establishment. This is what Rowan is pointing towards, but it exists for all intents and purposes in the UK already. However, at the same time the Crown’s justice is always paramount in these cases and that is the legal principle that must be maintained.
- What really disappoints me in this whole affair is that Rowan failed to use a golden opportunity to address the leading members of the justice process in this country about the conflict that some Christians are increasingly finding between their conscience and the changing law in the country. This would have been a perfect moment to raise again the issue of Christian adoption agencies in the light of sexual orientation discrimination legislation, to discuss notions of blasphemy and religious hatred, but instead he concentrates on Islam, a religion that he’s not even employed to defend!! Yes, a careful reading of the essay reveals that the main point of William’s thesis is that the idea of a "universal doctrine of human right or dignity" needs to somehow recognise people’s varied understanding of what that doctrine is (which in a dangerous post-modern way rather destroys the whole notion of "universal" doesn’t it Rowan?). However, he could have done that within the framework of Christian ethics. The fact he chose not to is disturbing given his position.
Perhaps though, ultimately the problem with this is that to do so he would have had to assert the Christian claim to a revelation of the "universal doctrine" and that would have led him into ethical (and social) areas he might not want to broach. He therefore chose to concentrate on Islam, but in doing so he lost the impetus of his thesis and landed himself in way too much hot water. In and out of season? Perhaps not for one scholar…