The Judgment of Parris

File this under “he could never get elected in the United States”: Matthew Parris, a former Conservative MP and supposedly the “73rd most influential gay man in the United Kingdom,” has published his critique of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent suggestion that the United Kingdom give legal recognition to Sharia law. Quoth Parris:

Faiths capture people. I do not mean this disparagingly. So of course do patriotisms, ideologies, families. But a religion, properly understood, makes profound claims on an individual and community, quite unlike the demands of a golf club. It involves the use of public places and public services, the subordination of the individual’s will; and may demand that he subordinate his spouse’s and children’s wills too. Hence our unease about duress, and the completeness of “consent”.

Dr Williams, in a welter of words, makes no serious attempt to resolve this. Those who read his speech properly will see that his entire argument turns upon the freedom of the group member to “opt out” of the “supplementary jurisdiction” and choose British law instead. But repressive faith groups make it culturally difficult — sometimes well-nigh impossible — for a member to opt out. This gives them the very togetherness and focus that Dr Williams wants to foster.

For that matter, I don’t think Parris will be eligible for the Templeton Prize in the “Best Adherence to the NOMA Principle” category:

A religion is more than a collection of rules and habits: it is a complete moral and philosophical system with deep claims upon the inner and outer life of the adherent, from cradle, through schooling, and beyond. The rules it lays down — the private laws — are of a more commanding kind than the rules of Scrabble or the High Peak Hunt because they are morally joined-up: joined with a loyalty beyond the State; joined within an overarching faith and its explanations of the Universe.

Dr Williams knows this. He preaches it. It is the reason he wants more autonomy for faith communities. And it is the reason we should resist him.

Heck, with talk like this, Parris couldn’t get elected county clerk in a blue state:

The State, not family, faith or community, is the guarantor of personal liberty and intellectual freedom, and it will always be to the State, not the Church, synagogue or mosque, that the oppressed individual needs look.

Discuss. Bonus points for puns drawn from classical mythology.

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