A couple of recent posts I’ve read to link together:
In an excellent post here Will Samson explores the failings of the religious right in US politics.
“Beyond the public moral failures, however I believe that 2006 will be the beginning of significant political failures for the religious right. I believe we will begin to see an undoing of the last 30 years of political organization by this segment of the church.”
And Jordan Cooper put me on to this post by Andrew Sullivan, which outlines the root belief of this ‘political organization by this segment of the church’:
“The key element that binds Christianism with Bush Republicanism is fealty to patriarchal leadership. That’s the institutional structure of the churches that are now the Republican base; and it’s only natural that the fundamentalist psyche, which is rooted in obedience and reverence for the inerrant pastor, should be transferred to the presidency. That’s why I think Bush’s ratings won’t go much below 25 percent; because 25 percent is about the proportion of the electorate that is fundamentalist and supports Bush for religious rather than political reasons.”
Finally, I noted a link on Sanctus 1’s blog to this interview with Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury) in The Guardian in which he not only describes himself as ‘comic vicar to the nation’, but also replies to a question on whether an Archbishop should provide moral leadership by saying:
“Leadership is, to me, a very, very murky and complicated concept,” he begins, sitting in an armchair in his Lambeth Palace office, his minder a watchful presence across the room.
“I think the question I always find myself asking of myself is, ‘Will a pronouncement here or a statement there actually move things on, or is it something that makes me feel better and other people feel better, but doesn’t necessarily contribute very much?’”
What tied all this together for me was a conversation/ argument with Gareth Higgins and William Crawley in Northern Ireland the other weekend about how effective Rowan Williams had been. They argued that his lack of ‘moral leadership’ had been a disaster. I wanted to argue that making tough pronouncements was – as Williams agrees here – unlikely to produce the desired effects.
The link with Bush? Well, it seems that in Bush the religious right in the US have sought a strong moral leadership, because that is what they default to. (Sullivan’s post). They love the idea of the inerrant pastor, and believe in Bush as a presidential version of that. Will Samson’s post goes some way to show what a disaster this has been. Bush loves making tough pronouncements, but his ‘strong moral leadership’ has resulted in a great deal of pain and suffering, and a whole lot of corruption too.
Williams, on the other hand, appears to be shunning the mantel of the ‘strong moral leader’ who pronounces truth on everything, and instead is happier to work with people in the background to effect real change. I don’t believe, as others do, that he has compromised his beliefs and past statements on matters such as sexuality. His opinions are there for everyone to read. But he rightly resists shouting them from the rooftops now he is ABC when doing so would be likely to cause pain and schism.
He is, perhaps, gently moving the Archbishop’s role away from the Patriarchal model for the first time. He is not the inerrant pastor who all should bow to. His work is more subtle. Living in a ‘post-Christian’, ‘post-Modern’ country, but ministering to a worldwide communion that is much more conservative, he has to be.
Strength to his arm. Let’s hope his new mode of leadership will in turn be matched by a new mode of Presidency in the US.