Problem: You are the spiritual leader of the Church of England and, by extension, some 70 million Anglicans worldwide. You have come to Bethlehem, where you will address the issue of Muslim attacks on Mideast Christians and Arab Christian institutions.
In Bethlehem, you have heard reports of incidents in which Muslims have intimidated, shaken-down, beaten, and even killed Christian Palestinian residents of the city. Some Christians have reported that Muslims have threatened them with death if they failed to sign over title to Christian-owned land. In Iraq, priests have been attacked, some of them murdered.
You are the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is time you spoke out. In the back of your mind, however, is the Pope's September speech which, touching on Islam, touched off the murder of a nun in Somalia and the bombing of churches in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Iraq.
Solution: Blame the Christian West. And, while you're at it, blame the Jews.
Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is no one's fool. The spiritual head of the Church of England knows a trap when he sees one. He knows what happened to the head of the Church of Rome. The archbishop wasn't about to suggest that responsibility for bloodshed committed in the name of Islam should be borne by the Muslims who commit it.
"In an extraordinary attack," the Times of London summarized the archbishop's message as stating, "Dr. Williams accuses Tony Blair and the U.S. of endangering the lives and futures of many thousands of Christians in the Middle East, who are regarded by their countrymen as supporters of the 'crusading West.'" The Times further paraphrased the archbishop as maintaining that "Christians in the Middle East are being put at unprecedented risk by the Government's 'shortsighted' and 'ignorant' policy in Iraq."
Radical chic? Fear of reprisals? Doctrine-grounded belief? If you're the Archbishop of Canterbury, there's no need to choose.
In Bethlehem, which, like Iraq, is the site of an ongoing exodus of Christians, Dr. Williams turned his sights on the Holy Land landmark that has become a pilgrimage site for the doctrinaire left. Speaking after his delegation passed through an Israeli checkpoint and entered Bethlehem, Dr. Williams said, "The wall which we walked through a little while ago is a sign not simply of a passing problem in the politics of one region; it is sign of some of the things that are most deeply wrong in the human heart itself."
Someday, there will be a cogent explanation for the Western left's obsession with the wall, for its left's elevation of the separation barrier to the status of ultimate wickedness: the Anti-Kotel; the apotheosis of evil, before which the killing of innocents pales.
Balance, after all, is overrated. In February, less than two weeks after Hamas swept to victory in the Palestinian Authority elections, the Anglican Church's General Synod overwhelmingly voted to divest from "companies profiting from the illegal occupation," such as Caterpillar, makers of the IDF's D9 bulldozers.
Dr. Williams' predecessor, Lord Carey, was quoted as responding that the decision, which he said ignored the trauma of Israeli Jews subjected to terrorism, made him "ashamed to be an Anglican." There's a pattern here, and not just the knee-jerk necessity to pin all blame for the Middle East catastrophe on the Bush-Blair-Israel axis.
There is also the racism of the politically correct. There's a sense here that Muslims aren't really responsible for their own actions, any more than they would be if they were mischievous children or animals in the wild. No, it's us - the West, Tony Blair, George Bush, Israeli Jews - we are responsible. It was our ham-handed arrogance and state terrorism that brought on 9/11 and the cavalcade of suicide bloodletting that followed. The only role of Muslims was to position the bombs, the box cutters, the Katyushas, the Qassams, the Kalashnikovs. We had already pulled the trigger.
The archbishop is telling us that it is Christians, aided and abetted by Jews, who have brought about Muslim intolerance toward Christians.
Has the war, in fact, fueled an upsurge in Muslim attacks on Christians? Undoubtedly. Does the wall cause Bethlehem's Christians terrible hardship? No question. But Dr. Williams' formulation, that Muslims are attacking Christians because of what other Christians have done to other Muslims, was, perhaps more than anything else, a perverse echo of Holocaust denier David Irving's remarks this week on the Jews:
"They should ask themselves the question, 'Why have they been so hated for three thousand years that there has been pogrom after pogrom in country after country?'"
In the end, the archbishop has taught us all at least one lesson: Muslims must take responsibility for fighting Muslim intolerance toward Christians. Christian leaders may not be up to the task.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now