Materialism and what the Desert Fathers teach us

Rowan Williams is not alone on the austerity kick. Andrew Charles clearly sympathises with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s struggle to find a moral theory of recession, only to find him slapped down by son of the manse Gordon Brown. Brown invokes the Good Samaritan as he tries to encourage more getting and spending not less, to counteract the credit crisis. Presenter John Humphrys a fellow Welshman reviewing the interview says Williams has become “ a much more effective communicator – you can hear his brain whirring – ” since he first interviewed him ore than six years ago. Mmm, perhaps.

Just to balance out the islands and the denominations, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin is caught out, after approving the austerity approach:

“We would all be happier if we were a little bit more austere in our lifestyle. I think there is room for a lot of improvement,” he told Pat Kenny on the ‘Late Late Show’.

That doesn’t sound quite so good after the revelation of 500,000 euros spent on renovations to Drumcondra Palace – including that Miele kitchen… or maybe that’s just humbug?. The poor old clergy, they’re trussed up like Christmas turkeys when it comes to PR. But why do they find it so difficult to come to the conclusion that what’s needed is to strike a balance between spending and saving and borrowing no more than you can afford? And share out the five loaves and two small fishes? Because its so bleedin’ obvious? I thought they’d abandoned belief in the moral worth of the hair shirt years ago.
But not Dr Williams. In “Silence and the Honey Cakes” he reveals himself inspired by the desert hermits.

The only solution is to let myself be drawn deeper into the present moment,” Dr Williams says. This means “feeling the fabric of the moment and saying as I breathe, ‘Here I am; this is what I am; this is what I do next; here is God.’

The idea of “the fabric of the moment” may not be so very far away with learning to cope with recession – especially when the honey cakes have run out.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London