Oh no. Here we go again. The Archbishop of Canterbury is once more in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Where to start?
The Lord High Admiral of HMS Church of England has been opening his mouth at the current COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. One is tempted to ask why he is even there, but that is, of course, to miss the point that every social bandwagon is to be jumped upon. Especially if it ticks one of the following issues: anything woke; ‘social justice’; climate change; LGBT+ ideologies; bashing or ignoring traditionalists; seeking out dead paedophile clergy whether guilty or not, or preferably, all of the above.
Asked today if climate change would be worse than allowing a genocide to happen, Welby said:
“It will allow a genocide on an infinitely greater scale….I’m not sure there’s grades of genocide, but there’s width of genocide, and this will be genocide indirectly, by negligence, recklessness, that will in the end come back to us or to our children and grandchildren.”
This is, of course, a wholesale re-definition of the word ‘genocide’. Does the Archbishop realize this? I doubt it. Furthermore, he apparently thinks that Mother Nature (other genders are available) has the power of volition and choice. News to me. I’m sure Einstein would be interested in this from the physics perspective.
Need it be pointed out that ‘genocide’ is an activity requiring the deliberate intent to wipe out a specific group or groups (such as an ethnic group or a religious group) simply because of their group identity? According to Welby, nature is now to be seen as choosing to affect some groups adversely specifically because of their group identity. Huh? While we can see that some sections of humanity – those living along coastlines, for example – may be affected more than those living on mountain tops if sea levels rise, are we now to suppose that climate change is driven by its own moral compass? That it selects its victims according to certain politically-driven preconceptions or prejudices? Good grief.
But, as they say on the ads – wait! There’s more! Welby also said that:
‘…if they [world leaders at COP26] failed to act future generations would speak of them in “far stronger terms than we speak today of… the politicians who ignored what was happening in Nazi Germany because this will kill people all around the world for generations”.’
Yes, you did read that correctly. The Nazis again. It’s only three years since the Bishop of Leeds was suggesting the Nazis were arguably equal to “…those in the Church ‘staying silent’ over the current situation in the UK around Brexit.” Now the Archbishop is using the Nazis as a yardstick to measure certain countries and leaders in their climate change responses. You could not make it up.
But to claim that there is not only an equivalence between climate change outcomes and the purposeful killing of the Jews (and others chosen for their group identity) in World War 2, but that climate change outcomes will result in today’s leaders being vilified for crimes worse than the horrors of the Holocaust, takes specious argument to a whole new level. And that’s not even starting on the offensive nature of the argument.
Are we to take it that some sections of the world (it will be the West – it always is) are now to take the full blame for the possible adverse effects of climate change on other sections (the current hot-topic countries, religions, social groups or other designated victims) of the world? At some undetermined point in the future? In some not-quite specific manner that may or may not happen? Affecting we-don’t-know-exactly-how-many-people for exactly-how-long or how-badly? Apparently so. This is despite the scientific method traditionally being based on the ability to replicate what has happened previously, rather than – in the case of climate change – to predict what may happen based on computer models – which are, of course, devised by those with an interest in calamitous climate change being about to happen any day.
And what is our own national religious leader doing stoking the fires of such ridiculous arguments anyway? Anyone who is capable of constructing an argument in favor of, or against, a specific subject, must surely be able to see that to use the word ‘genocide’, let alone ‘Nazi’ in relation to climate change is bordering on the imbecilic. Is this the quality of brain power, sense, or lack of, that we should have to put up with in our church leaders?
Needless to say, the Archbishop has issued an apology. Are we surprised? How many apologies has he made by now? And this one was, as usual, framed in terms that protected himself:
“I unequivocally apologise for the words I used when trying to emphasise the gravity of the situation facing us at COP26. It’s never right to make comparisons with the atrocities brought by the Nazis and I’m sorry for the offence caused to Jews by these words.”
‘I’m sorry for the offence caused to Jews by these words.’ There you go. It was the words that caused the offence – not the speaker. Those pesky words apparently leapt into the public space unaided, spontaneously and of their own volition. They simply decided to spill out of the nearest mouth at the very moment they chose, according to their own morality and purpose, to apply themselves to the climate change debate.
I am waiting for the day when any public figure will accept his or her own mistake and apologize properly by accepting responsibility for his or her own choice of words or actions. Would it not be more genuine to hear an apology that went something like this:
“I made a mistake/said a stupid thing/did the wrong thing. I have upset people even though that was not my intention. I will try my best to not do this again. I am very sorry for my mistake and I ask for your forgiveness.”
Years ago when I was a university academic, I used to recommend a book called Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts. I still recommend it now. The authors (Carol Tavris and Elliott Aronson) rightly provide many examples of the ‘mistakes were made’ excuse – even Ullyses S. Grant resorted to it apparently – and a political scientist and writer in the US, William Schneider, referred to this as the ‘past exonerative tense’. In other words, if you simply trot out the ‘mistakes were made’ excuse, it allows you to admit that mistakes were, er, made, yet it also allows you to distance yourself from them. See above. One of my favourite examples is that of Henry Kissinger, who admitted that ‘mistakes may have been made’ by his administration – yet went on to accept the Nobel Peace Prize with, as Tavris and Aronson say, “a straight face and a clear conscience.”
It is sad to see that this ‘mistakes were made (but not by me)’ technique is now the accepted norm in political circles. But why should we put up with it in faith circles? Are we of faith not supposed to be guided by a better moral compass than politicians and activists? Can we not expect honesty and true humility from our church leaders? Answers on the usual postcard, please.