God’s man attacks Mammon

Is the financial crisis a moral issue? With the politicians even now slow to burn their boats with the money men its been left to the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead with a dignified dose of moral outrage. Even when he picks a more popular theme than sharia, Rowan Williams manages to be more provocative than perhaps he intends. In the Spectator, Dr Williams writes “Face it: Marx was partly right about capitalism.” In the Daily Telegraph Rev George Pitcher the church’s rep on the street of shame gave the archbishop and his more tabloid number 2 John Sentamu cautious approval and then went on to back them up on the airwaves all day. It was left to the pro-Conservative religious blog Cranmer to take the Archbishop to task – nor for attacking the capitalists but for invoking Marx. Recalling the Cof E’s recent “apology” to Darwin, Cranmer says: “It is a manifest inconsistency for the Church of England in one week to apologise to the man who expounded a theory of survival of the fittest, and the next to denounce such a theory when it is manifest in the natural laws of economy and society.”

The trouble is that when you refine a web of complexities into a moral issue you can accentuate fear, and fear is a barrier to reason and religion-based fear is particularly noxious . Take the backlash we’re seeing against the sexualisation of young teenagers . That was the subject of Channel 4 documentary tonight, The Virgin Daughters,
about the movement sweeping America whereby one in six young girls pledge to remain virgins until their wedding day. The same fear seems to have influenced a Manchester Catholic girls school into refusing to allow its 12 year olds to be inoculated on school premises against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus transmitted which is responsible for 70% of cervical cancers. cervical cancer. – i.e. that the inoculation acknowledges the likelihood of sex outside marriage.

Fear of religion can be unreasonable of course. Two recent Radio 4 programmes have dealt with different aspects. The excellent Moral Maze asked “why are we so scared of religion?”

Whether it’s Sarah Palin’s beliefs in America, or the idea that a science teacher should answer questions from pupils on creationism, the reaction from secularists has ranged from sneeringly dismissive to open hostility to religion. You might even be left wondering which side is the most fundamentalist.”

The end thought was it was better to have the wishy-washy Church of England in the political establishment as a kind of benchmark for reasonable religion in a secular world.

“In Our Time’s ” subject was Miracles. “They have been part of human culture for thousands of years. From beliefs about the shin bone of a saint to ideas about the nature of creation and the laws of nature, miracles have been a measure of disputes within religion and between religion and rationality from St Augustine in the 4th century to David Hume in the 18th. They have also been used by the corrupt and the powerful to gain their perverse ends.”

The conclusion here was that miracle stories contain valuable moral lessons of the past that it’s too easy to miss, if you take the miracles themselves at face value. Perhaps that’s where the world’s financiers got it wrong, when they took the parable of the five loaves and too small fishes too literally – and invented derivatives.

I don’t doubt that the Church of England is leading a discreet fightback against the forces of the Dawkinites and Dark Materialists. This latest sally against the bankers is quite a shrewd bid for popular favour.

  • Better to have the wishy-washy Church of England disestablished.

  • Greenflag

    ‘ Perhaps that’s where the world’s financiers got it wrong, when they took the parable of the five loaves and too small fishes too literally – and invented derivatives.’

    LOL – too true . Eventually the hall of mirrors comes to an end and ‘hologram ‘ equity is revealed for being just that -hollow .

    This thread deserves a better response but it seems that the world is more interested in a ‘miracle’ not on 34th St but on Wall St or should that be Pennsylvania Ave ?

    Very bad news though just in for the 6,000 year old Giant Causeway now that some Canadian geologists have discovered the oldest rocks on the earth from Quebec – some 4.2 billion years old .

    Perhaps the Canadians might send a few of these ‘rocks ‘ to place alongside the ‘creationist ‘ 6,000 year old rocks of the Causeway in the new Centre . An explanatory description of how each of the Rocks attain their ‘ages’ could be part of the exhibition so that visitors could ‘decide ‘ which is the most authentic .

    I can already imagine the Canadian description full of modern technolgy with mathematical formulae and high tech spectographs etc etc taking up a lot of wall space . Alongside that will be the Causeway ‘Creationist ‘ explanation with the sole exhibit being the Bible opened at page one of Genesis .

    ‘Is the financial crisis a moral issue? ‘

    It is – but it’s more than that . With an upcoming Presidential election in the USA it’s also a political issue . And we all know what happens when the ‘moral ‘ high ground is claimed by the politicians and the ‘political ‘ high ground is claimed by the moralists, and even more so when the ‘moralists ‘ are garbed in bishop’s purple or clerical black .

    Bishop Casey ? Rev Ian Paisley ?

  • Greenflag


    In the Spectator, Dr Williams writes “Face it: Marx was partly right about capitalism.”

    Thanks for the link . Although I can agree with most of Dr Williams thinking in his article I am not yet ready to join the COE 😉

    As for invoking ‘Marx ‘ I don’t see a problem with that . Even if Marx did not get the ‘whole picture ‘ of capitalism right he illuminated enough of it’s contradictions to create a mass worldwide politcal movement to oppose ‘tooth and claw /raw capitalism ‘

    Oddly enough ‘capitalism ‘ behaved itself generally in the period 1945 through 1989 when Communism/Marxism was at it’s strongest ? Could there be a link ?

    It’s certainly ironic that ‘red claw ‘ capitalism of the type that has derived from both derivatives and neo con ‘free market ‘ globalisation has of it’s own steam led to the present debacle on Wall St and throughout the financial world .

    We are still not certain of how the live ‘experiment ‘ of Chinese communism morphing into Chinese capitalism will work out longer term . Western idealists assume that western style ‘democracy ‘ will be inevitable ? We know what happened when Russian communism morphed into Russian ‘gangsterism ‘ virtually overnight . As the Chinese look at their ‘billions of US dollars ‘ in investments and foreign reserves getting ready to devalue they may well ask themselves if there is not something ‘rotten ‘ at the heart of capitalism . They will not be looking at the problem from Dr William’s moralistic standpoint but from the standpoint of ‘political ‘ i.e financial and economic survival .

    As is said in earlier posts we are moving into a new paradigm . Not so much new – as a return to ‘common sense ‘ a realisation that ‘free market ‘ fundamentalists are just as much off the wall – as their religious or political first cousins .