I’ve had it ordered since around 2010, but it appears that Ben Myers book Christ the Stranger: The Theology of Rowan Williams is nearing its publication date. Can’t wait to get and read my copy.
Related, is a brief edited extract from the book. The article us titled: POLITICS OF THE EMPTY CHURCH: WHY ROWAN WILLIAMS DEFENDED SHARI'A LAW and naturally enough its written by Ben (Thanks to my Aussie-Kiwi friend Jason Goroncy for bringing it to my attention). Here’s a few excerpts from Ben’s article:
“Contemporary western societies have witnessed the emergence of a new tribalism, fuelled by the logic of capitalism with its proliferation of niche identities and by the politics of multiculturalism with its advocacy of mere "difference," while lacking the language to articulate any vision of a common good.
Such multicultural pluralism is a mirror image of the postmodern ethics of difference, where each person is assumed to be absolutely "other."
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams argues that, once this doctrine of otherness has taken hold of political imagination, we are left with the depressing prospect of "a world in which there aren't and couldn't be any real discussion of the goals and destiny of human beings as such."
…The resulting social order starts to look like a Hobbesian war of all against all, a chaotic rivalry between segregated interest groups, each ruthlessly brandishing its own rights and freedoms while the State is reduced to the role of suppressing open conflict by policing the borders of "difference"…
Taking up the philosophy of Hegel, Williams argues that the church is not one interest group alongside others, but a community whose only "interest" is the interest of all…
… If Christ is anything less than the redeemer of the world, it will not make sense to speak of him as our own "personal lord and saviour." He can be relevant to anybody only if he is relevant to all.
Here Williams develops Hegel's argument that there is no such thing as mere individual freedom. Freedom is mediated through community, and any purely individual freedom is pathological.
Human persons "have no legitimate interests that are purely private or individual" - there are no legitimate individual ends which do not somehow coincide with the good of the whole community.
Williams also views the concept of "rights" along these lines. Rights are not something that I brandish like a weapon against the rights of others. Rather I relinquish my purely private rights "so as to negotiate with other persons a good neither mine nor theirs."
Wherever one social group is convinced of some particular right, it is their responsibility to enter into a wider process of negotiation in order to discover how their own aims can form part of a common good…
…For Williams, then, political engagement is a form of self-emptying, or "kenosis." Politics begins where I am dispossessed of my attachment to my own interests, and I accept responsibility for the interests of others…”
Ben’s brief article offers some really fascinating insights, insights that can be read into an applied in a whole range of contexts, from marriages to friendships and relationships of all sorts, to family (whanau) contexts, to workplaces, and so on.
I’m reminded again of the tremendous gifts that people like Williams offer society, and am grateful to people like Ben who have the gift of being able to articulate Williams thinking and theology to a wider audience, which of course includes me.
You can read Ben’s full article here.