The Government needs to know how afraid people are' is the headline of today's leader written by Archbishop Rowan Williams in today's New Statesman.
The Guardian and the Telegraph seem to have interpreted this as a savage attack on the present UK Coalition governent. They quote selectively from it as newspapers (and bloggers) do and I'm about to do the same. But if you read the full text of Rowan's original piece you'll discover it's far more measured and even-handed than other headlines might lead you to think. He seems to be writing about the way current political debate in this country is stuck in stale ideas. He criticises both the Government and the opposition and says,
"...it seems worth encouraging the present government to clarify what it is aiming for in two or three key areas, in the hope of sparking a livelier debate about where we are going - and perhaps even todiscover what the left's big idea currently is."
He notes how several political thinkers draw on theological traditions to find ways forward. While some religious perspectives e.g. in relation to "the poor" can become paternalistic, Rowan refers to St Paul's ideas about community at its fullest, as God wants. Rowan writes about the ideal of 'sustainable community' with
"..the mutual creation of capacity, building the ability of the other person or group to become, in turn, a giver of life and responsibility".
With such an ideal the key question about any policy would be,
"how far does it equip a person or group to engage generously and for the long term in building the resourcefulness and well-being of any other person or group, with the state seen as a "community of communities" "
Finally the Archbishop calls for,
A democracy going beyond populism or majoritarianism but also beyond a Balkanised focus on the local that fixed in stone a variety of postcode lotteries; a democracy capable of real argument about shared needs and hopes and real generosity: any takers?
I think Rowan is demonstrating true spiritual leadership. When I last looked at the comments on his leader, no-one seems to have attempted an answer to the question he poses at the end. Instead there are some rather snarky and undeserved criticisms of him. He needs our prayers as do our politicians.