Pullman lauds Williams, but asks if his strategy is working

Philip Pullman, author of the “His Dark Materials” trilogy was recently profiled in The Times of London. Among the issues he discussed with Alan Franks was the current state of the Church of England, of which he is not a member:

He has debated with, among others, the former Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, the local atheist, Richard Dawkins, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Of the last, he says, with unmistakable awe in his voice: “Oh, I would not dare take my life in my hands by arguing with him. He is far too clever for me – I am a storyteller and that’s the beginning and end of it.” He also despairs of the Church of England, believing it to be “tearing itself apart with the zealots in charge. He [Williams] is trying very hard to keep it together but I wonder whether it’s working. It seems to me the leader of the Church might think it’s worth saying: ‘I’m going to follow Jesus and anyone who wants to come with me can follow because this way leads to love and compassion and tolerance. If you don’t like it, stay here, but this is the way I’m going.’”

Bishop Nick Baines, Croyden, adds comments on the Pullman article at his Musings of a Restless Bishop blog.

The point about his advice to Rowan Williams is simply that following Jesus did not lead to peace and harmony, but to a cross. Christianity is not fundamentally about the creation of a cruel institution, but about God opting into the mess and cruelty of the world and confronting the dehumanising powers. It could well be argued that the Archbishop of Canterbury could just cut and run from the struggles of sticking with people who are struggling to know and do what is right. But to do so – in the name of following Jesus – would be to deny the Jesus of the gospels and succumb to the temptation in the desert to take the quick and pain-free way to glory.

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