In the October 15th Best of the Web, James
So let’s see if we have this straight: The head of the Anglican
Church is telling us that the wanton murder of thousands of innocent
people [by Palestinian terrorists] is a sign of “serious moral goals,”
while the liberation of millions [of Iraqis] from one of the world’s
most vicious dictatorships is, as he has put it, “immoral and
Is this really what Christianity is all about?
Well, since you asked…yes, indeed it is.
To understand why, you first have to confront what Dr. Rowan
Williams is actually doing. He is aligning himself with Islamic
terrorists against individual Christians and against the liberation of
Iraq from an Islamizing dictator by a predominantly Christian
Now, why would the head of the second most prestigious of all
Christian denominations do that? What is it in Christianity that
could make him so confident in the morality of this position? What is
it about the U.S.’s actions that make it so threatening?
A clue to the problem is that though the U.S. is demographically a
mostly Christian nation, the effect of U.S. cultural hegemony is a
secularizing one. American popular culture severs the bonds of fear
and ignorance that hold people unquestioningly to their ancestral
relgions. The American vision of each individual as an autonomous
being who derives his rights from his humanness, from the simple fact
of his capacity to assert them, is deadly antithetical to any
religious tradition that vests moral authority in a transcendant
The Founding Fathers of the U.S. understood this antipathy full
well. The pro-forma nods towards the distant god of the Deists in the
Declaration of Independence and U.S. Consitution failed to conceal the
fact that the Founding Fathers were freethinkers, agnostics and
atheists almost to a man. As George Washington and John Adams
explained to the Knights of Malta in 1787 “The United States is in no
way founded upon the Christian religion”. It could not have been so
founded without a fatal conflict with its aspiration to be a nation of
The Archbishop of Canterbury cannot be dismissed as a fringe figure
as some are (incorrectly) wont to do of Pat Robertson. His enmity
towards the U.S.’s anti-terror strategy, his willingness to line up
with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden after no more than a pro-forma
disclaimer of terrorist means, proceeds directly from this fundamental
conflict. It is diagnostic of a deep sickness, an abiding evil in the
heart of Christianity itself — the exaltation of obedience, the
denial that humans can have any worth other than through the
condescension of God.
Nietzsche called this one correctly. Christianity, which purports
to be the religion of love, is only sporadically anything of the kind.
It is primarily a religion of slavery and submission. Christian
individualism, when it exists at all, is legitimized only by obedience
to God. In a Christian worldview there is always someone to be
obeyed, whether visible cleric or invisible Nobodaddy. You must
submit; the only argument is about to whom your obedience is owed, and
what humans under what circumstances may transmit the orders of God.
Without that sinew of obedience the entire world-view
To a Christian cleric, a properly terrified and obedient Muslim is
less of a threat than a person who has rejected the God of the
Abrahamic faiths. The Muslim is still within the system of
submission. Only a handful of symbols separate him from the Christian;
the basic program is the same. Therefore, from the point of view of
the operators of the religious obedience machine that is Anglicanism
(or almost any other Christian denomination) Osama bin Laden is a more
natural ally than any freethinker.
Am I accusing Dr. Rowan Williams of being part of a conscious
totalitarian conspiracy? No; he is something far more dangerous
— a leading figure in an unconscious totalitarian
conspiracy, one which denies its own nature just effectively enough to
fool others as well. That conspiracy encompasses every tyrant
who has ever told human beings that their path to happiness lay
in the exaltation of some authority, whether God or the State.
It is in this context that Dr. Williams’s statement makes perfect
and consistent sense. For him, better a thousand terrorist acts than
even one human being waking up to discover that he need not after all
fear the wrath of God.