Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Bashing The Bishop

Sunday, 12 June 2011

[This thread is now closed for comments].

  So I’ve got a piece in the New Statesman this week. I’m not the only one. This is the special issue edited by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, whose own leader article in the magazine (about the dangers of benefit cuts and the Big Society idea) has triggered some controversy.

My piece is an unremarkable, gentle little thing about poker which nobody will notice; Dr. Williams’ oeuvre has caught the imagination, snatched headlines and triggered a national debate. Maybe we should swap jobs? Except I’d make a terrible archbishop.

  It’s exactly what he should be doing, of course: getting stuck in to matters of public ethics, questioning the national conscience, being a strong and relevant voice on issues of social concern. I can understand why some in the press feel obliged to disagree with him - and this is a good thing; we all want to live in a country of robust debate - but the way that some have slammed him for speaking out at all is just embarrassing. It’s like they don’t understand who he is, what he does or what the role’s about.

  Take Carole Malone in today’s News Of The World. I know, I know; you don’t read the News Of The World. But a lot of people do. Some of them, if they’ve still got time left in the day after 19 pages about Ryan Giggs’ affair with his sister-in-law, might actually read what she’s got to say. And it’s just STUPID.

  “I’m always suspicious of lefties who live in palaces”, Carole begins. “Especially the ones with no idea what life is like in the real world, who have people to cook, clean and pick up after them, who are feted wherever they go, yet still feel entitled to pontificate about the poor and how they feel their pain.”

  But… Carole… he’s the Archbishop of Canterbury. Whoever does his laundry, “entitled to pontificate” is EXACTLY what he is. Is your problem specifically that he’s voicing worries on behalf of the poor? He’s a Christian. He kinda has to. You might feel better if he was speaking out on behalf of bankers and Premier League footballers, concerning himself solely with trying to get the top rate of tax down and build more landing strips for private jets, but that really wouldn’t reveal a great understanding of the New Testament. Which the Archbishop of Canterbury is supposed to have.

Easy for Dr. Williams to speak out, argues Carole Malone, “knowing that his £70,000 salary and the five-star living conditions at his riverside palace won’t be affected one jot.”

  Oh, Carole. Look at the man. Look at his haircut and his eyebrows; read his personal history; listen to him speak. Do you really think it’s all about the money? Do you think he gives a toss where he lives?

  The right-wing press that is so furious with the Archbishop’s New Statesman sermon is exactly the same right-wing press that’s always complaining Christianity (for better or worse, our national religion) is too weak and small a voice, that its values are not fought for - even that Dr. Williams himself is too remote and peaceful an academic to get stuck in and fight the good fight among noisy voices from other faiths. Now he has got stuck in, they hate it.

  I think the problem they’re facing is that (sorry, guys) Christianity is innately a bit left-wing, a bit socialist. It likes equality and fairness for all. Jesus wanted everyone to get a bit of bread and fish. He was all about the sharing and the concern for one’s neighbour. If Christianity is going to make itself heard on tax-and-spend policies, it has just GOT to lean towards spreading the spoils around. There’s not much the Archbishop can do about that. His hands are tied. The gospels say what they say. If he wanted to support the idea that handing out bread and fish is bad for people because it de-motivates them from doing their own baking and fishing, he’d really have to leave the church and get a job on a tabloid.

  I’m not saying I am personally incapable of seeing what might be wrong with too benefit-led a culture, or the other demands on the ailing national purse, or that I can’t also imagine (with some considerable worry) a generation of kids in whose memory no family member has ever worked. Of course it’s important for politicians to look at this, for journalists to thrash it out, for some to argue vehemently against hand-outs of any kind. But I’d be bloody terrified if the Archbishop of Canterbury was one of them.

  Carole thinks the Archbishop should shut up about the poor, and focus on why church attendance is down. “Maybe if he concentrated more on why millions of Christians no longer feel they ‘belong’ to his church, it might just begin to justify his vast salary and his rent-free palace.”

  Have you considered the possibility, young Carole, that expressing concern for the welfare of the poor, and joining a major national debate about the ethical thinking behind benefits, is precisely what might HELP millions of people (Christian or otherwise) feel like the church is on their side and is relevant to their lives after all?

  And do shut up about the palace. They haven’t given it to him. He’s just allowed to use it while he’s the Archbishop of Canterbury. Do you not want it used for that purpose? What would be better? Should it be knocked down? Or simply turned into luxury flats? Think of the money that could be raised if we sold it off! Perhaps Carole would feel happier to see Roman Abramovich move into Number One, Lambeth Palace, with its library converted into a swimming pool and steam room - or a garage for luxury cars?

  As for the “vast salary”, what a meretricious, dangerous, childish thing to say. Of course £70,000 is a decent wedge; it’s a lot more than will be earned by most readers of the News Of The World, which is no doubt why Carole grinned as she typed it in, knowing the buttons it would press and the jealousy it might trigger. We have to hope the readers are cleverer than that. We have to hope they have now read enough about the kind of sums raked in by investment bankers, corporation chairmen and adulterous footballers to know that there’s no need to despise the Archbishop of Canterbury simply for taking the respectable salary that comes with his unique, demanding and absolutely full-time post. It isn’t “vast”. It’s not the kind of money that buys you boats and planes, suites in Caribbean hotels or probably even private education for the kids. And I’ll tell you this: Carole Malone will be getting a lot more than £70,000 just for writing that one weekly column in a tabloid newspaper.

  I don’t mind telling you, I get about £25,000 a year for writing in the Observer; for writing in the News Of The World, Malone will get more like £100,000 - £125,000. Probably more. That’s the lowest it could possibly be. Does that mean she wouldn’t be allowed to express concern for the poor, either? (And of course she’s free to do other work on six other days of the week, so she could treble that salary if she wanted to. The Archbishop of Canterbury has to be Archbishop of Canterbury every day. He has to work Sundays, and Christmas.)

  I don’t mean to harangue Carole Malone specifically, although I suppose I have done. She’s just a journalist. I’m sure she’s not a bad person. Sometimes she writes things I enjoy, or even agree with.

  But I’m incredibly disappointed with the general press reaction to the Archbishop’s article; where they should welcome his readiness to speak loudly on the national agenda, and recognize his vocational commitment to voicing concern for the poorer and weaker in society - or at least argue with him fairly and squarely, making their own reasonable points about the risks of too spoon-fed a society - they’ve gone for the mundane and boring personal attack, combined with a ridiculous misunderstanding of the constituency on whose behalf he MUST speak. And today’s is the stupidest and most annoying example I’ve read yet.

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steve charlton at 11:08 am on June 12th, 2011

Well said V. Agree entirely

Peter Wilkins at 11:19 am on June 12th, 2011

Hear hear! You don’t ‘arf talk a lotta sense, Our Vic!

Ricardo at 11:27 am on June 12th, 2011

I was agreeing with you until the sentence “I’m sure she’s not a bad person”.

No Vicky. She is!! :\

neill neatham at 11:29 am on June 12th, 2011

carole malone’s article is just another example of lazy journalism

Paul Johnson at 11:33 am on June 12th, 2011

A beautifully observed and considered piece.

Ron Graves at 11:34 am on June 12th, 2011

“We have to hope the readers are cleverer than that.”

The News of the World? Dream on!

Julie at 11:34 am on June 12th, 2011

Excellent, a thoughtful and intelligently-written article. Thank you, Victoria.

Gareth Hill at 11:34 am on June 12th, 2011

Spot on, Victoria. Part of the issue is ignorance within the media of the role faith groups play. I trained around 300 journalists in 10 years as a head of postgrad journalism before becoming a church leader and fewer than a dozen had any knowledge, interest or involvement in the church. Most couldn’t even tell you how to address the clergy at the start of the course, let alone what their role in a community was.
If journalists believe clergy are irrelevant to the way society works then their speaking out will be unwelcome, whatever they say.
And if that generation become the trainers of the next generation ..... well, the story just gets worse.

Ben Evans at 11:38 am on June 12th, 2011

Came in via a link from my brother (who is a vicar). It’s so nice to read a genuinely positive contribution to this debate. Thank you, Victoria.

Andrew at 11:40 am on June 12th, 2011

It’s easy to defend the Archbishop when his comments echo your own political leaning. I wonder if you would be quite so rigorous in your defence of him if his comments were of a right-wing nature? Either way, he is entitled to air his thoughts no matter how many feathers he ruffles in doing so.

Alan at 11:41 am on June 12th, 2011

As usual Victoria, you are much more gracious than I. Personally, I believe hacks on newspapers like NOTW and The Daily Mail don’t deserve to be called journalists.
Hacks, deceivers, twisters of the truth, but not journalists.
Unfortunately, railing at them individually is pointless. If they respond at all, they simply give you the same damaging, irrelevant treatment.
Wise man once told me “Never argue with an idiot, they will just drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.” I think that applies equally to these parasitical sludge manufacturers.

Leroy at 11:43 am on June 12th, 2011

It’s great to hear a secular point of view that ‘gets’ what the vast majority of Christians are trying to say, rather than the overwhelmingly reactionary view of the media. Thanks Vicky!

Carole Hawkins at 11:52 am on June 12th, 2011

Thank you! At last, a bit of common sense spoken in the debate.

Tim at 11:53 am on June 12th, 2011


Lesley at 11:56 am on June 12th, 2011

Got this via a link on twitter. Well written and reasoned. I do think that the clergy need to be more visible in society generally, and more active as well as vocal in their role as Christians.

Sue at 12:01 pm on June 12th, 2011

You seem to be one smart ‘cookie’ Ms Coren. Your comments are well thought out., unlike CM. I do not bother with newspapers, I must admit, precisely because of the banal reporting about so called celebrities, who have far too much money and absolutely No sense. Freedom of speech is a very important thing though, how ever much you may hate the content. We are a lucky country.

daveSE22 at 12:12 pm on June 12th, 2011

The simple reason for the media’s phobia is that it’s mostly run by, and for, bloody tories.

Saranga at 12:14 pm on June 12th, 2011

Wonderfully written, well argued!

Grace Kale at 12:21 pm on June 12th, 2011

I very rarely agree with anything you say, but this is indisputably correct thinking and writing and has improved my day. Good work. Thanks for taking Carole Malone particularly, and shrill, lazy journalists in general, to task for their lazy and ill-judged reaction to Rowan Williams’ quite reasonable address in the New Statesman.

Tony Watts at 12:21 pm on June 12th, 2011

Thatcher’s Government had a similar problem with David Sheppard, Bishop of Liverpool - they don’t like it up ‘em. Speaking up for the poor and often voiceless is exactly what the Christian Church is there for. Well said, Victoria.

Gordon Rae at 12:32 pm on June 12th, 2011

Take care, Victoria: Carole Malone says we shouldn’t sneer at people who earn £150,000 a year.

[MODERATOR’S NOTE: Don’t think this link works unless browsers are registered for the News Of The World site]

Brian Dudgeon at 12:45 pm on June 12th, 2011

I’m not religious at all, but thought your piece was absolutely spot on. I’m getting really fed up with the portrayal of poor people being the cause of all our financial trouble. I disagree with a lot of the archbishop’s views, but completely agree that he not only has a right to speak out, but that he has a duty to do so.

paulfromcambridge at 12:54 pm on June 12th, 2011

brilliant passionate rant! I agree with every word.

neil watkins at 12:59 pm on June 12th, 2011

thank you! the only sense i’ve read on the article since it was printed, There are a lot of people within our society who have no voice and it’s up to the likes of the archbishop to speak out for them and more power to him .

bill beedie at 1:14 pm on June 12th, 2011

Excellent stuff, Victoria!  That an overpaid hack like CM can describe £70k as a “vast salary” beggars belief! Sad thing is, so many of her readers will lap it up and agree with her.

Liz H at 1:18 pm on June 12th, 2011

Thanks for writing this. Accurate and funny!

Andrew at 1:19 pm on June 12th, 2011

As a Bishop’s son, who lives in a palace (no joke) I am so happy with your point of view. Lazy, lazy journalism as expected, but it completely misses the point as well. Yes, it’s nice to be in a palace, but it’s hardly yours if you only live there for a max. 10 year period. Real world experience? I’m 22 years old now, and spent my first 15 years living in East London, with my Dad as a vicar of an urban parish. Is this not enough ‘real world’ experience to satisfy the needs of Malone? Don’t get me wrong, the church needs some work, but it is clearly not the fault of no world experience and living in palaces.

As for the Archbishop - he is genuinely one of the most intelligent people in this country. He wrote a book about Dostoevsky in his spare time!

Thanks Vic, this really is superb.

Yvonne at 1:54 pm on June 12th, 2011

This blog post should be in print in one of said newspapers an an attempt to redress the balance!

Virginia.Moffatt at 1:56 pm on June 12th, 2011

Brilliant post. Thank you for rising above the average media response with an intelligent thoughtful article.

I’d like to add that like most incumbent priests - he lives at Lambeth Palace while he has the job. It’s unlikely he owns a property of his own, but if he does,  you can bet it’s not an expensive one.

Anyone who has come anywhere near Rowan Williams will know he is a humble, holy man. Good for him for speaking out and for you for standing up for him

Mike Sivier at 2:22 pm on June 12th, 2011

What an excellent article. I think it should have been your Observer column for this week as it would’ve shut up all the critics who attacked you last week for an apparent obsession with Cheryl Cole!
I admire your courage in tackling the other columnist. I don’t know what your relative circulations are but the possibility that she might decide to stir up anti-Coren antagonism is there (although that would only make your position stronger, in my opinion).
I don’t think anybody has been fooled by this venomous backlash against the Archbishop. Everyone I know has it down as politically/ideologically motivated claptrap.
Finally, if Gareth Hill in your comments is who I think he is, I was one of his students between September 1993 and January 94! I hope I wasn’t one of the clueless ones.

Ken Singtone at 2:33 pm on June 12th, 2011

Great blog, Victoria, and just as good as one of your usual columns.  Once again, I discover another word that I probably don’t understand, and a trip to find the dictionary is imminent.  I had always thought meretricious had a positive meaning close to “and a happy new year”. 
I have to agree that the Archbishop should be free to speak out, and that the personal attacks are wrong.  Having spent £3.50 to read your article, I must get some extra value by reading his article too, but I am slightly deterred by his assertion about “policies for which no one voted”.  It seems to me that that would apply to most policies of most governments.

Wendy Murphy at 2:51 pm on June 12th, 2011

Thank you, thank you - I exactly agree with you and have said/emailed /tweeted similar to anyone who will listen, with deeply disappointing results on the whole. It’s consoling to encounter understanding, kindness and thoughtfulness for a change. The concerns the ABofC expresses SO need to be discussed.

Kevin Quinn at 3:32 pm on June 12th, 2011

Brilliant and thoughtful article. Enjoyed every word.

Dr Bex Lewis at 3:39 pm on June 12th, 2011

Excellent piece, and a great challenge to those that think that the Christian faith, and those who adhere to it, is irrelevant, and shouldn’t be involved in any other sphere of life! It’s a worldview, and those beliefs affect attitudes/behaviours, in all ways!

Benjamin Bevan at 4:11 pm on June 12th, 2011

Thankyou, Victoria, for this article. I am not an Anglican but firmly believe Rowan Williams to be a highly thoughtful and admirable man. Visually he may be the thinking man’s Dave Lee Travis but mentally, the shoddy and mean-spirited thought processes of tabloid journalism are more foreign to him than almost anyone I can think of.

Jonnie Parkin at 4:14 pm on June 12th, 2011

If you think the Archbishop of Canterbury is a bit left wing, you should wait till you meet his boss!

Matt M at 4:49 pm on June 12th, 2011

The Archbishop Rowan Williams is obviously a kind and intelligent man whose opinion on a variety of subjects should be highly valued. Conversely, Carole Malone seems to be an awful woman whose “opinions” are simply fabricated to angry up the blood of readers/viewers to gain their approval and further her employment. Why she is employed in the media, even on trashy TV programmes, I do not know.

However, whilst I agree Rowan Williams is a “strong and relevant voice” because of his qualities as a human being I don’t think an Archbishop should be considered a strong and relevant voice simply because of his position. There seems to be relatively few practising Christians in this country and it concerns me that an Archbishop should be considered a voice for the people, whatever the census says.

Lego at 5:12 pm on June 12th, 2011

Good article, Coren :). I think you write your best stuff when you’re fuming about something. :D

Good on the Bish, as well, as he was brave enough to do what he thought was right, when he probably realized the flack he’d take off the right wing media. But history shows us that bad things happen when good people stand aside and do and say nothing.

I’d agree that Christianity has a pretty socialist outlook. Feeding of the 5,000, turning over the tables of money lenders, etc. Don’t tell that to right wing, Christian Libertarians, though, who somehow rationalize Christianity with rational self interest. In fact I nearly started an argument with a libertarian over it last night, strangely enough.

Marie R at 5:15 pm on June 12th, 2011

Spot on Victoria. He’s a babe.

The Tim at 5:27 pm on June 12th, 2011

36 responses in 5 hours, wow! – are you sure you don’t use other ID’s than your own? - like Sarah Palin. But seriously the point is, of course, that these papers cater for the prejudices and preconceptions of its readers, and you’re so right that you don’t have to be a Christian (I happen to be more of a humanist) to agree with what the Bishop’s saying. (I actually think that bishops are really just humanists masquerading as Christians – but that’s another story.)

Stephen at 5:28 pm on June 12th, 2011

Victoria, everything you said was right. The Archbish was right. Carole Malone is just a poisonous little witch, and the rag she scribbles for is just as toxic. Good evening to all of Victoria’s blogs readers, BTW

Ken Singtone at 5:33 pm on June 12th, 2011

Well, meretricious is not in my dictionary, so no surprise that I am unfamiliar with it.
However, I have now read the Archbishop’s article.  I am appalled at the extent that it seems to have been misrepresented, even by the New Statesman itself, (although as editor that might be RW’s own mistake.)  It is not just some attack on the coalition, but a call for more debate, and on that point I’m with him 100% .  As editor, he has included contributions from William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith, and his leader also says “we are still waiting for a full and robust account of what the left would do differently”.

Neither is RW against “the Big Society idea”, rather, he expresses a healthy level of scepticism about its implementation.

Iain at 5:58 pm on June 12th, 2011

I agree with what Dr. Rowan Williams says, and respect his right to speak out, but I disagee with the implication that his standing, or religious nature makes his views (or the church) any more relevant to society.

Quite why the religious are always wheeled into ethical debates, as if reading a single ancient book lends them some mystical powers of reason and foresight, i’m not sure. It makes things more interesting I suppose.

I also give a huge ‘HMMMM’ to the idea that Christians are more of the left persuasion (in theory you would think/hope so), but perhaps my opinion is skewed by those wacky GOP followers over the pond.

David R at 6:04 pm on June 12th, 2011

Well said, Vicky. I felt the Archbishop hit the nail on the head with his piece, and he shouldn’t have to alter his judgements just to suit the prime minister of the day.

That was funny about the loaves and fishes, though I think the ‘water into wine’ story is a paean to home brewing, if ever there was one…

Paul at 6:28 pm on June 12th, 2011

By the way I was really looking forward to an “hilarious column about the cultural relationship between Ulysses and the experiments of Erwin Schrödinger.” today; as promised in last weeks Observer. Is the cat out of the box?

Adam Brooks at 7:05 pm on June 12th, 2011

Fantastic piece, about a man of the utmost integrity.  Well done, Victoria

Cathy Picken at 7:40 pm on June 12th, 2011

Excellent article - thank you Victoria.

clare Weiner at 7:58 pm on June 12th, 2011

Good piece, Victoria!  Delighted.  Tried to get the ACW (Assoc Xian writers) Facebook readers interested in commenting on the New Stateman’s set of awful comment-ers - but no, sadly.  However, managed to get my own comment on there - urging them to moderation and to stop using Rowan William’s speech as an excuse for them to slam “religion” esp Christianity yet again.  Yes, our faith is somewhat left-wing, if that means a concern for the poor and “vulnerable” and they have merely revealed & revelled in writing out, their lack of knowledge of Christ’s teachings and their own prejudices. Tragic.

R Davies at 10:24 pm on June 12th, 2011

Good points.  And as someone else said: lazy journalism. The saddest part is how many will read that sort of rubbish and believe it’s the right revolution to support.

Judi Gait at 10:58 pm on June 12th, 2011

Spot on Victoria! Well said.

LC at 11:08 pm on June 12th, 2011

We’d live in an very bleak society indeed if no-one of any wealth or intelligence gave a shit about the poor. The right wing media peddle this bilge constantly. Just because someone does well for themselves doesn’t mean that they need to compromise their moral compass in the process. We could do with more people with cash AND a conscience.

As for the risks of having too “spoon-fed” a society, fair enough. It’s something i’d agree with if the government wasn’t cutting huge numbers of public sector jobs without the private sector replacing them in any meaningful way. It’s hard enough for anyone with qualifications or skills to get a job at the moment, as our employment market is utterly crippled & employers can get away with murder (ie: unpaid internships) because people are so desperate.

Paul Pears at 11:11 pm on June 12th, 2011

What a well put point of view, with which I entirely agree.

Victoria Parrett at 12:19 am on June 13th, 2011

I don’t understand why anyone has a problem with this? He’s got power, why on earth shouldn’t he use it to highlight important issues. If I had his position I’d defiantly want to use it to point out things that need to be. And if all he ever did was talk about the church- I doubt that would get his church numbers up. Good on him.

Callum at 12:21 am on June 13th, 2011

I’ve just read Carole Malone’s column, and I’m speechless at the malice, ignorance and stupidity on display. Does she actually believe this shit, or is she being told to write it? Thank you, Victoria, for writing what simply had to be written - no-one should be allowed to spew such appalling bile without being taken to task.

Simon at 7:33 am on June 13th, 2011

What an excellent article!  I agree with you 100%, and glad someone has said it.  Sadly it’s not just News of the World which is guilty of lazy journalism, but that is the world in which we live.  How do we encourage proper, serious debate? 

Another issue that concerns me, is the way many of our tabloid newspapers have attacked the government’s plans on spending on foreign aid.  As a Christian, I am proud that our government is committed to maintaining spending on aid, but am dismayed by the way so many journalists have attacked it.  They say aid begins at home, which I feel is code for saying we shouldn’t be giving aid to anyone but ourselves. 

David Gray at 8:44 am on June 13th, 2011

Thank you so much for this blog. As you say, I feel that church leaders should be speaking out against injustice

Very often this means taking a stance contrary to popular opinion.

Mark Nielsen at 10:04 am on June 13th, 2011

Very well said.  Personality politics is killing us, and (my cynical self says), many of those who manage the mainstream media have a vested interest in keeping attention away from the things that actually matter.

Veronica Zundel at 10:04 am on June 13th, 2011

Excellent piece Victoria - sometimes it takes a Jew to stand up for us Christians! (actually I’m both). And there was me thinking you would be right wing because you had the word ‘Tory’ in the middle of your name…!

[VC: Thanks Veronica - but ah, if only my self-definitions were so nice and clear! That’s at least four things that I both am and am not…]

Ellie at 10:07 am on June 13th, 2011

Well said!

Simon at 11:46 am on June 13th, 2011

It is also worth remembering that whilst £70k may seem a lot to some people, it is still much less than what a GP, Lawyer, or many Council Executives are paid.

Also the Archbishop of Canterbury & his wife only occupy a very small flat within Lambeth Palace (probably smaller than the typical Vicarage).  Most of the palace is used for offices of the staff of the Church of England.  For example if you read Terry Waite’s autobiography, he worked from Lambeth Palace, along with many others. 

Rob King at 11:48 am on June 13th, 2011

Great read even for a heathen atheist like me.
Have you considered sending this to The Observer as next Sunday’s column? Hell, they might even make a big deal out of it.

Ali Herbert at 12:44 pm on June 13th, 2011

Hi thanks for this blog - totally agree with you. It’s completely the Archbishop’s job to stand up for the poor and a just society - as it is for every Christian in the country. And thanks for voicing a shared irritation at lazy and pernicious journalism - I look forward to her blog about you!! (I won’t believe a word of it…)

Sue Bruce at 1:52 pm on June 13th, 2011

Thank you for putting my thoughts into words.  I wholeheartedly agree with you.

palladian at 2:45 pm on June 13th, 2011

Horse feathers. Archbishop Williams abused the majesty and the purpose of his office, as head of the Anglican church, in agreeing to guest edit a secular, politically partisan magazine. He then compounded his overweening folly by writing a piece of typically turgid meandering waffle that started God knows why and ended who cares where. His ‘no mandate’ statement shows he knows nothing about the British constitution, and he had nothing to offer by way of an alternative deficit management policy or programme.

By all means let him stand up in his Canterbury pulpit and preach whatever Gospel he chooses. That is where he belongs, not in the pages of the New Statesman talking utter horse feathers.

BTW - only the Pope can pontificate. He’s the pontiff. That’s what he does, and rather well too.

Victoria Coren at 2:59 pm on June 13th, 2011

Ah, Palladian… I obviously can’t speak for the Archbishop of Canterbury, but I’d bet he doesn’t make quite your sharp distinction between secular and holy. I’d guess he thinks that God is everywhere, that faith is relevant everywhere, and that he himself can (should?) speak wherever he will be heard. Carole Malone says too few people go to church. Well, if the mountain won’t come to Mohammed… as it were.

And of course he doesn’t offer an “alternative deficit management programme” !! That’s not his job. But certainly his job involves concerning himself with people’s welfare, perhaps especially the elderly, the very young, the ill, the poor… Voicing concern and triggering reflection, reminding people of moral guidelines as to how we should treat and think about each other, but without offering specific political solutions, is absolutely the right line for him, in my view.

Ronnie at 3:14 pm on June 13th, 2011

Im still chuckling at the title :)

Allison at 4:29 pm on June 13th, 2011

@palladian, if the ABoC refused to write for a magazine because it was “secular” or speak anywhere but the pulpit, that would be voluntarily putting Christianity away in an ivory tower rather than taking it out into the world where it’s supposed to be. Literally he would be “preaching to the converted”. Putting ethical/Christian ideas out in the community among all sorts of people is exactly what many of us want to see him doing and are cheering this recent effort.

Victoria Coren at 4:32 pm on June 13th, 2011

It’s worth pointing out that the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has a brilliant article in the same issue about the value of religion in communities and he also (even more trenchantly, and less diplomatically balanced) voices a worry about benefit cuts and their effects. Definitely worth reading that and the Archbishop’s article together. It’s a very good, clear, deep yet simple piece from the Chief Rabbi that I found very persuasive.

Barry Holmes at 5:28 pm on June 13th, 2011

Excellent Victoria! Am printing this off for everyone in the family to read.

Stephen Pare at 6:26 pm on June 13th, 2011

Thank you so much for such a rational and well argued blog,

Clare Gerrard at 7:04 pm on June 13th, 2011

Well Said !!

Nick Payne at 7:55 pm on June 13th, 2011

There is a right wing, conservative element to Christianity… but it is internal and about working the personal salvation given to us freely by divine grace into our lives, so that we do our best to live up to the righteousness attributed to us through Christ.

Many right wing churches make the mistake of preaching righteousness and not salvation, but righteousness comes to us through our salvation… and as we turn more and more to Christ… he begins to shape the areas of our life that are not in tune with him.  We need to remember that God doesn’t call the clean… he calls the dirty that he may in turn clean them himself. As you rightly say the outward gestures of the Church are largely left wing… arguably even a God centred form of Communism if you read Acts.

Dan Tansey at 10:59 pm on June 13th, 2011

Great piece from a wise (and very funny) head! Well done for swimming against the tide so eloquently.

Fi Barham at 7:54 am on June 14th, 2011

Carole Malone - she tells it like it isn’t,

Jon at 9:02 am on June 14th, 2011

Great article!  Many thanks.

Jo Ind at 9:05 am on June 14th, 2011

Well done for making such sound points with such a light tough. Very well said.

psychofant at 10:23 am on June 14th, 2011

Nick Payne, Acts along with every other book of the old and new testament was written by men. Also the Koran, Talmud,and every other religious text, usually decades or centuries after the alleged events. These texts were based on hearsay and oral tradition. To use these unsubstansiated stories for political debate is fallacious.

Steve Ottevanger at 2:46 pm on June 14th, 2011

The views expressed by the Archbishop were those one often hears from some on the liberal left. Strangely, when expressed by the Archbishop, the views are discredited by the same liberal left. Normally balanced commentators go through an amazing somersault and land up criticizing those tenets they would normally support. I can only assume this is because of the Archbishop’s crime: he is a religious figure. Good to read that you are an exception, Victoria.

Janet Watts at 5:50 pm on June 14th, 2011

Thank you for this brave, funny, beautiful piece. You’re a bright woman with a great heart - so great that most journalists wouldn’t dare show it.

James Burrow at 11:04 pm on June 14th, 2011

Christianity is innately socialist ? Forgive me, but I seem to recall socialism did its best to eradicate Christianity. And where is the morality in taking from those who have worked hard and giving it to those that haven’t - this is a separate issue from those that genuinely can’t help themselves. This equation of socialism with Christianity is sickening, immoral and simply wrong. 

Chris at 5:42 am on June 15th, 2011

Very much enjoyed what you said as there really does seem to be a right wing push to ‘have a go’ at those that can’t fight back.

Philip at 8:05 am on June 15th, 2011

Palladian: You’re right that an argument of ‘no mandate’ is not valid, but a statement of ‘no legitimate mandate [for many of these actions]’, which is obviously what was meant, is correct. Presumably your understanding of our constitution leads you to believe that a General Election in this country legitimises the resulting government’s actions for the next 5 years. If so, you are wrong.

James Burrow: Socialism defines a system of economy in which the means of production are co-operatively controlled by participating communities. I think that you are confusing this with Communism, or rather warped historical implementations of it.

VC refers to the broad social philosophy implied by socialism, i.e. being interested in others. This chimes well with a Christian social philosophy.

Dan at 12:42 am on June 16th, 2011

James Burrow..

“Christianity is innately socialist ? Forgive me, but I seem to recall socialism did its best to eradicate Christianity.”

If this is true, either “socialism” or “Chrisitianity” have a different meaning in those two sentences, or both.

“And where is the morality in taking from those who have worked hard and giving it to those that haven’t?”

Not sure it’as as simple as that by any stretch. What if those with nothing are the ones who are working hard?  Sounds possible.  But I’m not sure you have accurately described socialism.

Zoe at 3:59 pm on June 16th, 2011

Great article

Graham Douglas at 5:49 pm on June 16th, 2011

Hooray for you Victoria! You are absolutely right, and thank God Rowan has spoken out at last, many Christians have been wondering how long it would take! Ms Malone is speaking from the other end of her body.

Phil Cox at 10:58 am on June 17th, 2011

Sorry, but Christianity is not “innately a bit left-wing, a bit socialist”. You’re right that “Jesus wanted everyone to get a bit of bread and fish” but he didn’t impose a tax to pay for it - a boy gave him the bread and fish, and he gave it to the others. Christainity is about personal giving, not about taxation.

Paul Wilkes at 1:05 pm on June 17th, 2011

I think this is very well put and as a person living in Canada and seeing what is taking place in Britain wish that more would speak out like you to get real balance! Thanks!

Dan at 5:32 pm on June 17th, 2011

Phil how do you know what J would do or say in an advanced industrial society?  By the logic of the example you refer to, Christianity is not about taxation but about making enough food by magic.  In our world there could be enough for all - even via non-magical means, if the will was there. But people don’t have enough.  If we hadn’t had the govt interventions we had in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a lot more would be going without in our country also.

Today Jacob Rees-Mogg said on the Commons: “I was concerned about my hon. Friend’s attack on the Victorian age, which was one of the finest ages in British history, when most employers were benevolent, kindly, good and not out of a Dickens novel: they were more Trollope than Dickens by and large.”

Just breathtaking!

Jerry Davison at 2:46 pm on June 18th, 2011

Good blog. Now I have certainly heard of you Victoria, and of the saintly AoC, but who on earth (or in hell?) is Carol Malone?

Dan Talmage at 9:03 pm on June 19th, 2011

Vicky, thank you for these words.

psychofant at 11:04 am on June 20th, 2011

Christina Odone, who wears her Roman Catholicism like a badge of honour, attacked the Archbishop in today’s Daily Telegraph. She rarely criticises her own church, despite paedophiles and fascists in its ranks. She ignores the Rottweiler and kicks the Poodle. The lady likes to play safe.

RomanticRecluse at 2:00 pm on June 23rd, 2011

Focussing on the AoC’s £70k salary and perks misses the bigger picture.  The CoE has assets of £5bn.  The AoC has criticised bankers but the CoE has investments in shares and private equity.  The CoE will not invest in gambling firms on “ethical” grounds but gets Lottery grants for its buildings.  The CoE has invested in property, including out-of-town shops which open late and on the Sabbath.  Of course, running the CoE costs money (£1bn a year) but churches generate revenue, taking in money through collections, legacies and entrance fees to some of God’s houses.

According to the Bible Jesus said “Judge not, that you be not judged”.  The AoC and CoE have a habit of judging others so they can also be judged and, as Christians, must accept that.

RomanticRecluse at 5:03 pm on June 25th, 2011

My town’s main CoE church wants to raise £6m for church restoration.  Who here runs shops to raise money to provide a shelter for the homeless?  The Salvation Army.  Which church has helped the homeless for decades with food and washing facilities?  The United Reformed Church.  The local CoE?  It has spent 6 months finding a fundraiser “to network with key funding bodies”.

The AoC and AoY preach about the poor, solidarity and Jesus but (despite what Jesus supposedly said in Luke 14) they and the royals and Christian PMs spent time, effort and money on receptions for each other, the faithful, heads of state and industry and journalists.  They do not practice what they preach.

A more deserving target for ire than Carole Malone, I’d say.  Deserving of an Observer column?

Victoria Coren at 6:31 pm on June 25th, 2011

RR - of course it’s deserving of an Observer column; all newspapers are happy to run columns attacking the Church of England, churchmen and the archbishop, as evidenced by the response to the New Statesman article. That’s what this blog is about.

  But it’s not a column I’m going to write myself, because that’s not how I feel. My local church does a lot for the homeless, and I don’t see the clergy as fat Medieval priests enjoying hog’s-head banquets at the public expense; I think they’re good people trying to do good in the world. Which is lucky, because the papers don’t need any more anti-faith articles than they have already.

  Thanks for all your comments and the healthy debate on this thread; I think we’ll close it now, and I’ll try to put up a new one in the next few days. It’ll probably be about Las Vegas. From the sublime to…

Victoria Coren

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