Rowan Williams is right to tell supposed ‘persecuted’ Christians to grow up

In recent years much of the Christian community in the West has become fixated with the idea of its own ill-treatment, fulminating over any piddling little incident

Share
Related Topics

Rowan Williams may have resigned from his post of Archbishop of Canterbury last year after a turbulent decade in office, but speaking to an audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last week, Williams demonstrated he has by no means been cowed into reticence. Launching a withering critique of popular ideas concerning religion, spirituality and Christianity, Williams argued that Christians living in the US and UK who claim to feel 'persecuted’ for their faith simply need to ‘grow up’. 

William’s comments come in the wake of an April poll by the Coalition for Marriage, which reported that 67 per cent of UK Christians feel that they are part of a "persecuted minority".

"When you've had any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word very chastely," Williams said. "Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable.  'For goodness sake, grow up,' I want to say." He added the level of "not being taken very seriously" or "being made fun of" in Britain and the United States is not comparable to the "murderous hostility" faced by others in different parts of the world.

You might anticipate a cacophony of dissent and righteous indignation to follow this kind of pronouncement. But in fact for many believers these comments come as a refreshing departure from the usual claims of victimhood, the obsession with the supposed ‘hardships’ faced by Christians in modern society, and the conviction that religious freedoms are somehow under siege.

In recent years much of the Christian community in the West has become fixated with the idea of its own ill-treatment, fulminating over any piddling little incident it sees as evidence of this. Stories of BA employees being asked to remove crosses in the office, of chastity rings being forbidden in schools, or even such secular abominations as the substitution of ‘Happy Holidays’ for ‘Merry Christmas’ seem to command as much anger and energy from religious conservatives as  poverty, hunger and humanitarian crises. 

Not only are these matters clearly trifling in comparison with far more pressing global problems, but the very idea that western Christians are somehow a ‘persecuted minority’ is patently false. Far from being persecuted, they are protected, privileged, and still allowed to exercise an inordinate amount of power and influence in the political sphere. Bishops still sit in the House of Lords, even though it is an office barred to women, and members of the clergy are still invited to pontificate in political debates on all matters from drug use to pornography. Its hegemony may be diminishing, but the Church of England remains a much cosseted and indulged institution.

The stream of self-pity and indignation is also seemingly oblivious to the very tenets of New Testament instruction, which calls upon believers to embrace suffering and welcome persecution. The very origins and foundations of the Christian faith lie with the poor, the ostracised and the marginalised. The very Christian experience demands a degree of suffering and sacrifice. Since when did followers become so sensitive to the merest hint of tribulation? As Williams remarked, “speaking from the Christian tradition, the idea that being spiritual is just about having nice experiences is rather laughable. Most people who have written seriously about the life of the spirit in Christianity spend a lot of their time telling you how absolutely bloody awful it is!”

A church that expects to reign supreme and unchallenged as one of the most powerful institutions in the land is a church profoundly alienated from the truth of its original existence. And a Christian who confuses being mildly ridiculed with being persecuted is one who has lost sight of the real demands of their faith. Rowan Williams is right. They need to grow up.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Langley James : CRM Services Manager; West London up to £40k

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Langley James : CRM Services Manager; West London u...

Langley James : IT Support; Residential Agency; Mayfair; up to £30k

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Langley James : IT Support; Residential Agency; May...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Australian cricketer Phil Hughes has died aged 25  

Phillip Hughes: A sensational man, both on and off the pitch

Angus Fraser
Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party  

If people voted for policies, the Green Party would win the next election

Lee Williams
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?