Indeed, the age of miracles is not dead. Let me write the headline: ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY TALKS SENSE. It’s even better than MAN BITES DOG. Yes, Justin Welby has surprised us by acting entirely out of character. He has said we must accept that the terrorist group Islamic State has some connection with Islam. Here is an extract from the Archbishop’s speech:
“If we treat religiously-motivated violence solely as a security issue, or a political issue, then it will be incredibly difficult – probably impossible – to overcome it.
“A theological voice needs to be part of the response, and we should not be bashful in offering that.
“This requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that Islamic State is ‘nothing to do with Islam’, or that Christian militia in the Central African Republic are nothing to do with Christianity, or Hindu nationalist persecution of Christians in South India is nothing to do with Hinduism.
“Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.”
I have never heard him say anything remotely sane or sensible before. I ran out of fleshy areas of my body which I might pinch to establish that I was not dreaming. Now I am left wondering why Welby spoke as he did. In the past he was always a fully paid up member of the Islam-is-a-religion-of peace-and-love brigade: those Guardianistas and BBC types who claim that the murderous psychopaths’ shout of “Allahu Akbar!” immediately before they behead you/throw a few bombs into a shopping centre/spray a playground with Kalashnikov bullets/ or perhaps crucify you is an aberration or a mere coincidence.
It was probably too much to expect the Archbishop to take the reasonable next step and declare that the Christian response – in fact the Christian duty – towards those who deliberately kill the innocent should be to fight them. This teaching, derived from Aquinas’ doctrine of the just war, is entirely orthodox. Better still if Welby had followed the example of St Bernard of Clairvaux who, in the Burgundian town of Vézelay on 31st March, 1146, delivered his famous oration on responding to the Muslim threat:
“…Will you allow the infidels to contemplate in peace the ravages they have committed on Christian people? …Fly then to arms; let the holy rage animate you in the fight, and let the Christian world resound with these words of the Hebrew prophet: ‘Cursed be he who does not stain his sword with blood!’ ”
But credit where it’s due: The Archbishop’s words represent movement in the right direction and a welcome change from the usual evasive, euphemistic tosh that churchmen speak concerning the barbarians who perpetrate mass murder in the name of Islam. Who knows where these things might lead? Perhaps next week the Archbishop will ascend the pulpit in Canterbury cathedral and say, “Up, lads, and at ‘em!”