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Britain’s ‘Subversive’ Archbishop

Posted By Mark D. Tooley On June 24, 2011 @ 12:23 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 38 Comments

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was identified as a “subversive” by Britain’s internal security service during the 1980s, The Telegraph recently revealed.  The report follows Williams’ recent public denunciation of the British government’s trimming of its gargantuan welfare state, over which he exuded “bafflement and indignation.”

The Church of England’s senior prelate, who also heads the global Anglican Communion, is more professor and aesthete than pastor.  His long-time affinity for dreamy politics of the Left, divorced both from earthly reality and Heavenly good sense, have further undermined his communion even as it struggles over a schism regarding sex and theology.

During the 1980s, Williams busily demonstrated outside U.S. and British military bases, earning arrest in 1985 for his civil disobedience with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He was part of the international Soviet-backed campaign to prevent the Reagan administration’s placement of Pershing II missiles in Western Europe, in response to the Soviets’ earlier placement of threatening SS-20s.  The Soviets hoped to compound their conventional force superiority in Europe with nuclear superiority.  No thanks to myopic activists like Williams, joined by millions of demonstrators, the anti-U.S. campaign throughout Europe famously failed to intimidate President Ronald Reagan or Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  The U.S. missiles were deployed, persuading the Soviets to negotiate the removal of all intermediate range nukes in Europe. Reagan better intuited the path to peace than did ostensibly sophisticated clerics like Williams and his cohorts at Cambridge and Oxford.

Reportedly, Britain’s MI-5 had a dossier on Williams’ peacenik activism that was shared with then Prime Minister Thatcher and other senior British officials in the late 1980s.  In the 1970s the young theologian had helped found a leftist “Jubilee Group” that inveighed against capitalism and apparently included neo-Marxist wannabes. Later, Thatcher reputedly cited the Jubilee Group as “the most subversive group within the religious community in England,” while one British newspaper derisively dismissed it as “a bunch of neo-Marxist trendy clerics.”

Williams reportedly co-wrote the Jubilee Group’s 1974 manifesto, which denounced “the ruthless pursuit of private gain” and the “idolatry of profit” adding: “We cannot…feign neutrality, or remain uncritical, in the face of a society based upon the ruthless pursuit of private gain and unlimited consumption.”  According to The Telegraph, the manifesto concluded:  “We do not run away from history. We know what the present crisis of capitalism demands of us…we are in the death-throes of late capitalism, which threatens to inflict even greater violence on mankind than it has done before, we must make our stand with the oppressed, with the movement for liberation throughout the world.”

Of course, in contrast with the Jubilee Group’s Trotskyite analysis, it was actually Communism then entering its “death-throes.”  But deluded dreamers like the young Williams identified with global movements of “liberation,” by which they almost certainly meant the Marxist Third World insurgencies that inflicted bloodshed and tyranny on countless peoples in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.  Naturally, he was contemptuous of Christians who did not share his leftist, liberationist stance.  In a 1989 speech, he warned of Reagan and Thatcher’s “alarming religiosity.”  Both clinging to the supposedly simplistic faith of their childhoods, Reagan and Thatcher economically revived their nations with free market policies while skillfully navigating the 45-year-old Cold War to a peaceable and mostly democratic conclusion.  No wonder leftist clerics like Williams, unable to peer beyond the malaise of the 1970s, were so disdainful of more foresighted Christian lay people.

In Williams’ 1983 book, The Truce of God, he denounced nuclear weapons as “morally outrageous,” unjustified by notions of “deterrence,” and simplistically premised on notions of the “Other Side” as the “aggressor,” while “we shall never be other than the innocent victim.”  Aspiring to be thoughtful, Williams lamented that British peaceniks were tempted to “build up fearful caricatures of the brutality, untrustworthiness and inhumanity of the United States, as vivid as many American (and British) caricatures of the Soviet Union.”  He generously implored, “We have to remember to love our allies as well as our enemies.”  As Williams’ recent biographer commented, The Truce of God was written with “more flair than care.”  Unaware of its limitations, Williams republished it after 9-11 with additional such insights.

Of course, Williams is no longer seeking arrest outside military bases, and his leftist politics are now somewhat more decorous, though still premised on elitist superiority.  Another book he wrote, directly in response to 9-11, warned that “bombast about evil individuals doesn’t help in understanding anything.” Williams has controversially advocated British recognition for some aspects of Islamic law, indicating he is as impartially oblivious to the threats against democracy today as he was during the Cold War.  He predictably lamented the killing of Osama bin Laden, evidently preferring a proper trial for the terror mastermind.

Thankfully Williams’ political counsel is mostly dismissed as the musings of an ordained egghead focused on the abstract to the exclusion of the concrete.  But his pet causes have helped reduce his influence over the global Anglican Communion and may help push the Church of England into disestablishment.  Sadly, his leftist slant represents the inability of many establishment Western clerics to discern that Christian-influenced Western Civilization has real enemies and merits defending.  The recently revealed MI-5 report about Williams may actually embody more spiritual insight than many of his leftist fellow clerics have typically evinced.


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