Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Archbishop of Canterbury guest-edits the New Statesman

His Grace has received quite a few queries today about the invitation to guest-edit this week's New Statesman. He patiently explained that the invitation was not extended to him, but to his successor at Lambeth Palace, Archbishop Rowan. Perhaps some are indeed spending too long on Twitter.

Dr Williams has commissioned a wide range of essays, articles and reports in conjunction with New Statesman editors for the 80-page special issue, including articles by Philip Pullman, Iain Duncan Smith, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Gordon Brown and Richard Curtis. There is also a short story by A S Byatt, written exclusively for the New Statesman.

Dr Williams has written the leading article for the magazine and also interviewed the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. The pair discuss Libya, the use of torture and Britain’s declining role in the world.

Iain Duncan Smith: We must change our broken benefits system – we owe it to the poorest

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, launches an attack on Britain’s broken welfare state and those who have come to rely solely on it, in an exclusive guest commentary for the New Statesman.

He argues that the root of Britain’s welfare problem is a sense of “entrenched worklessness, produced by a welfare system that penalises positive behaviours while rewarding destructive ones”.

He says that his reforms and the Work Programme will help those stuck in the benefits cycle.

It isn’t kind to a benefit claimant to put them in a house they couldn’t afford to pay for if not on benefits, only adding to the disincentive for them to take a job.

The coalition will crack down on those who refuse to work, he says.

Claimants must be helped and we will do this through the reforms I have outlined, but on behalf of the taxpayer we have a right to expect full co-operation in return. Failure to co-operate will result in a series of penalties, surely reasonable after so much effort has been made on their behalf?

Jonathan Sacks: If you’re searching for the big society, here’s where you may find it

In an exclusive guest column, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks argues that religion already does the “big society’s” job – and does it better. He writes:

A powerful store of social capital still exists. It is called religion: the churches, synagogues and other places of worship that still bring people together in shared belonging and mutual responsibility. The evidence shows that religious people – defined by regular attendance at a place of worship – actually do make better neighbours.

The reason for this is simple, Sacks argues:

Religion creates community, community creates altruism and altruism turns us away from self and towards the common good.

He concludes:

In thinking about religion and society in the 21st century, we should broaden the conversation about faith from doctrinal debates to the larger question of how it might inspire us to strengthen the bonds of belonging that redeem us from our solitude, helping us to construct together a gracious and generous social order.

Philip Pullman: Customs of my tribe

The author Philip Pullman explains why he is a “Church of England atheist” and why he deplores the sex-obsessed “demented barbarians” who are destroying the Church of England’s old liberal tolerance.

Pullman writes:

When I survey the wondrous mess that the sexophobic zealots in the Anglican Church have tried to bring about in recent years, I feel both distress and anger. None of my business in a way, because I’m not a believer, but at the same time it is my business: because of those memories of mine and because the Church of England is the established church of this nation. It belongs to all of us. We’re all entitled to hold opinions about it.

And these demented barbarians, driven by their single idea that God is as obsessed by sex as they are themselves, are doing their best to destroy what used to be one of the great characteristics of the Church of England, namely a sort of humane liberal tolerance, the quality embodied in the term “broad church”.

Richard Curtis: If the world was run by doctors

The film writer and director Richard Curtis asks why western governments can spend billions on military intervention in Libya but refuse to do the same to win the war against malaria – and ponders on the weirdness of being asked to write an article by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Curtis writes:

I know I’ve got quirks but, now that I’m 54, I guess I have to accept who I am. I’ll never understand classical music. I’ll never get a glimmer of emotion from any painting by Picasso. I’ll never like fish in any kind of white sauce. And I’ll never understand why malaria is still killing over three-quarters of a million people, most of them young, every year, in this modern world of ours.

What I don’t understand is this: why are the lives at risk in Libya more valuable than the lives we are losing to malaria... I think Cameron should ring up Nicolas and Barack in the middle of the night and say, “Let’s write a letter to the papers again. I think we can do this. By the time we’re out of power, we could save a million – no, if we really focus on it, five million lives a year, for ever.”

When initially commissioned to write the piece, Curtis got his “Rowans” confused and thought that the commission had come from the archbishop’s namesake
Rowan Atkinson.

It’s a strange thing to be asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury to write an article. Particularly strange for me, as I’m one of the few people who would have been confused by his original letter. It asked me to write something for the New Statesman and was signed simply “Rowan”. I assumed that it was from my old friend Rowan Atkinson and, although slightly puzzled by his new, fancy headed notepaper, I ignored it, as you’re allowed to do with old friends. My office then received a prompting call. I reread the letter and realised that it was from a real, clever clergyman, rather than someone who has just acted as stupid clergymen throughout his career.

It was not Curtis’s first brush with an archbishop, however:

I’ve been fairly scared of archbishops, ever since my first encounter with one on a train when I was nine. He sat down opposite me – we were travelling from Ascot to London – and I looked at him a lot. When I was finally convinced that he was Michael Ramsey, the archbishop of Canterbury (the purple dress was something of a giveaway), I asked him a question about God. He couldn’t have looked at me in a more bored manner. He said it was a “very interesting question”, then went straight back to reading his book without giving me an answer. So I was nervous of trying to get in touch with Rowan Not Atkinson and asking him a question, in case I got a similar reply.

Gordon Brown: A plan to teach the world

The former prime minister Gordon Brown attacks the global epidemic of youth unemployment and labels it a “political and moral failure” in an exclusive essay for New Statesman.

The window of opportunity is closing on millions of young people – yet I see little evidence that we have thought through how we can create the jobs that will deal with today’s political instability and economic stagnation. Failure to do so is for me not simply a political but also a moral failure, because it cannot be right that a generation’s chances be stolen before their life’s journey has really begun. Nor can it be right that we should stand by and let that happen when such a result is so readily avoidable.

Brown argues that the solution to this problem lies in education, which is why he has set up the Teach the World network, based on the Teach for America project in the US and Britain’s own Teach First. The global network I propose would act as a skills set transfer, where teachers from one country would help train those in another who have identified gaps in their educational programmes. The result would be a huge rise in teaching standards across the globe.


Blogger Mr Dodo said...

Here we go! The evangelicals will soon be on calling him a Druid.

Happy posting!

8 June 2011 at 19:06  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Gordon Brown. Oh lordy.

8 June 2011 at 19:34  
Blogger Owl said...

Was that really THE Gordon Brown. One time leader of the destroyers of education?

Having read what he said, I must say he seems desparately in need of an education.

Why on earth did the Statesman let him come out from under his stone again? Besides which, if he got caught in a ray of sunlight he would disintegrate.

8 June 2011 at 22:12  
Anonymous Veracity said...

Now I understand why the Archbish is too busy to attend to the pastoral needs of his flock in Zimbabwe......

8 June 2011 at 23:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would helpful if the Archbishop could put his own badly fragmented house in order before throwing stones into glasshouses.

8 June 2011 at 23:45  
Blogger Mr Dodo said...

Rabbi Sacks makes an interesting observation about religion. It seems religious people make better neighbours.

If I understand him, he is suggesting the conversation between different faiths should not be about doctrine i.e what they believe and trying to change this, and focus instead on how 'faith' can inspire community and social order.

Is this actually secular humanism rather than Judaism? Or, is this a proper strategy in the face of aggressive secularism and societal fragmentation? A call to stop pointing out the differences between faith groups and unite around a love of neighbour?

Jews, Christians and Muslims putting aside their doctrinal differences and promoting the common good. Possible?

9 June 2011 at 00:26  
Anonymous carl jacobs said...

Mr Dodo said ...

"Jews, Christians and Muslims putting aside their doctrinal differences and promoting the common good. Possible?"

To a limited extent, but it all depends upon a common definition of the 'common good.' Each religion is going to define 'common good' according to its specific doctrines. That takes the question right back to those doctrinal differences that people don't want to talk about.

In practice, this looks like the typical liberal attitude that religion is properly focused on the temporal and not the eternal because the eternal is not knowable. It is for example an exact replica of TECs attitude towards the proper organization of the Anglican Communion.

I wouldn't pass on the idea, but I wouldn't expect much from it either. Theology matters.


9 June 2011 at 00:35  
Blogger Mr Dodo said...


I do agree that doctrine and theology are vital but is the Rabbi dismissing them?

He may be suggesting instead that each 'religion' sorts out its own doctrine rather than arguing across theological and doctrinal divides. They should come together where they can agree i.e. on care of their neighbour.

I don't agree either because like you I believe the focus of this life should be understanding God and His will and looking to the next life not just this one.

However, he has a point about encouraging religion - as religious people make better neighbours!

9 June 2011 at 00:47  
Anonymous carl jacobs said...

Mr Dodo

Just to mention one potential concern. How could you achieve agreement between Judaism/Christianity and Islam regarding the role of women in society? I suspect this proposal doesn't even envision any such effort.

I think there is a tacit implication in this proposal that the scope of 'common good' should be drawn to exclude all contentious ideas regarding how men should live. That means 'Feed the hungry and cloth the poor' and otherwise avoid arguments and especially avoid proselytization. It's a very immanent vision of religion. It also happens to coincide exactly with the proper public role for religion as envisioned by secularists.

Feeding the hungry and clothing the poor are derivative functions of true religion. Proclaiming the Truth is the primary function of true religion. The service that proceeds from the message can never be separated from the message, but that goal is what I fear motivates this proposal.


9 June 2011 at 01:15  
Anonymous not a machine said...

There is almost an admission of error in all this ,isnt there . So many enthralled by the progressive spin and yet not really paying attention to what was really happening , the debts , the vaccuums , the lost ordinary people .Institutions bended and corrupted , a church/gospel that had decided that it was dying and irrelevent ,when it had actually forgotten its own docterins as life.

I some times puzzle at Rowan Williams , appointed with Blair along with other new mould clergy. He has clearly been through many thoughts , mostly modern intellectual , many of which were sometimes troubling , intellectually trying to make sense of the changes ,yet the common sense of worship seemed to be some sort of danger . He has it is pleasing to note allowed us to keep some of our old common prayer services , to draw strength from the triumph of simple faith/hope from times gone by , as this new tryanny worked its magic before being revealed as a failiure.

There are many things which perhaps must be in place before Ian Duncan Smiths undeniable analysis becomes fullfilled , the hopeless are the product of political spin and the spiv hustlers who became the norm in our politics , the limos that never ventured anywhere but where the next hustle could be procured , the window up and blacked so as not to smell or see anything contrary to the spell.

the big society does not quite know yet how to interpret the matrixed insular society that has grown , even the manners of social togetherness have all but gone , vying for the sensational sexed up drivel of individual power. The heavenly altar telling of life ,forgotten.

It is a start , one that will hopefully understand what has occured was a fraud ,with its own priests .
Blairism was an exclusive essence containing secret ingredients and promoted in the glossy mags ,it wasnt for ordinary people ,or there ecnomics , somthing I am pleased this government is wishing to change .

9 June 2011 at 01:22  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Gordon Brown should get out and about more. He thinks people in the "third world" all live in grass huts.
It is time to end-"we are here to help our little brown brothers" mentality.

9 June 2011 at 03:05  
Anonymous TomTom said...

There is no better way to destroy remaining shreds of credibility than to retreat as a University Lecturer into editing the New Statesman; no doubt he would have preferred The Guardian for its slightly higher circulation; but Credibility is not something Rowan Williams has to squander.

He is a Blairite appointee as a fellow Christian Socialist and he has shown throughout his tenure in which direction he has resolved that oxymoron

9 June 2011 at 08:35  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Richard Curtis shouldn't be so surpirsed about why malaria is still killing millions of people. He's an eco-loon and eco-loonery saw DDT, the most effective deterrent for malarial mozzies, being banned. But he's under no pressure to actually point out that little snippet of information, eh?

Green stupidity kiils. And how...

9 June 2011 at 09:03  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

Mr Dodo said

Is this actually secular humanism rather than Judaism?


9 June 2011 at 09:08  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

Williams derives his “authority” from the fact that we have an “established church” otherwise his comments would be disregarded by all but a few fellow travellers like those who post here. He offers neither great insight nor any solutions to the problems that we face. He bleats on about making it nice and cumfy for everyone using a leftist mindset that doesn’t address the reality of our world.

Lets just ignore him.

9 June 2011 at 09:09  
Blogger len said...

I hate to admit it but I agree with Mr Davis.

9 June 2011 at 09:19  
Blogger William said...

Graham Davis

For the first time. I agree!


Bang On!

9 June 2011 at 09:22  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

Speaking of Gordon, I see T Blair was on BBC News and on R4 this morning.

I hate seeing ex prime ministers being interviewed because they all, bar Gordon of course, seem reasonable and decent people with a good grip on current affairs, unlike when they were in office.

T Blair on R4 was giving us the benefit of his real politik ideas about the Middle East, which was refreshing to hear. No high principles there, he understands Machiavelli-type virtue I think.

9 June 2011 at 09:51  
Blogger Maturecheese said...

Great publicity for that left wing rag. I wouldn't even use the New Statesman as toilet roll not to mention the horrible git that is it's editor, Mehdi Hasan.

9 June 2011 at 10:04  
Blogger Mr Dodo said...

Carl Jacobs said ...

Yep, I completely agree with you. Mind you it would help if different 'faith' groups stopped killing one another in tne name of 'their' God!

9 June 2011 at 10:38  
Blogger len said...

Don`t even go there Dodo.

9 June 2011 at 11:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The solution to unemployment is for the government to shrink itself and allow the free market to work.

9 June 2011 at 11:44  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Anonymous @ 11.44


9 June 2011 at 12:28  
Anonymous Oswin said...

Cruel fact: there are too many of us. We exist on the backs of others. Nature does what we cannot do effectively, it regulates our species. A peaceful, thriving world would not last long; we would breed, and consume, beyond our capabilities.

Thomas Malthus had it terrifyingly correct. I read that his theories are now largely discredited, although I've yet to read why that is so. They are not. They are merely subject to a few other factors, is all.

When the population of the world scrambles for survival, the question will be: which side will you choose?

9 June 2011 at 17:55  
Anonymous Voyager said...

it would help if different 'faith' groups stopped killing one another in tne name of 'their' God!

Yes, I never understood why Communism meant starvation for millions in Ukraine or in Shanghai....but it was such a bizarre religion and it is so hard to understand how anyone could have fallen for Marxist-Leninist-Maoist mumbo-jumbo.

9 June 2011 at 21:35  
Blogger Mr Dodo said...


I completely agree with the first statement. It also lead to deliberate slaughter of millions and the repression of any freedom.

However communism is a religion (world-view) easy to understand at its root. It rules God's plan out for the redemption and moral progress of mankind and replaces it with an ideology of redemption and material progress through human conflict and class warfare.

9 June 2011 at 22:40  
Blogger Lakester91 said...


Malthus was wrong because he never factored in the idea that food production growth was actually greater than population growth. He assumed it was linear versus exponential.

Malthusians are gaining ground again recently because of this myth that starvation is caused by lack of food production. It, like so many other problems, is caused by distribution rather than production.

Imagine a heart attack. It is caused by lack of oxygen to heart tissue. The Malthusian would say that we should give the patient more oxygen, and when that failed (as the blood is generally saturated), would say it proves that there is simply too much heart tissue. The non-Malthusian understands that there is something blocking the distribution of oxygen to the heart and that until we understand that, we cannot save the patient.

Starvation is caused in almost all cases by Government corruption. The Government distributes food to its supporters and starves its opponents. The only way to reduce starvation is to actually be present in the deprived areas, feed them and help them feed themselves. Throwing aid money at the problem is like giving a heart attack patient more oxygen; it's a waste of time and resources.

Another problem with Malthusian theory is that it assumes that we will keep expanding our population. As one can see from Europe this is not always the case. There is not a major country in Europe that has a sustainable level of reproduction. In 500 years one wonders whether there will be any Europeans left. All around the world, reproduction has slowed to a crawl. The expanse seems vast, but that's because there are so many people reproducing. If one looks at the differential, one is far more worried about underpopulation than over.

Finally, we have an ageing population. If one looks at the age distribution of the UK, it can be seen that there is a significant upward skew. People are living longer because medical treatment is getting better. What we cannot do yet, however, is allow the aged to produce children. While there may be more people alive, there is no worry about exponential growth. The baby boomers are reaching their 60s, soon we shall see a major drop in our population.

In reality, because of our under-population, we will have to rely on immigration to maintain our numbers.

10 June 2011 at 14:40  

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