Christians in the U.S. and Britain need to "grow up" and stop equating being "mildly uncomfortable" with persecution, says former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
"When you've had any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word very chastely," Williams noted in a report in The Guardian. "Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. 'For goodness sake, grow up,' I want to say."
Williams describes true persecution as "systematic brutality and often murderous hostility that means that every morning you wonder if you and your children are going to live through the day."
To illustrate this he discussed a woman from India "who had seen her husband butchered by a mob".
The former archbishop who shared his thoughts at the Edinburgh international book festival was also asked if he had failed homosexuals by what was perceived as the church's hardening opposition to the homosexual agenda under his tenure.
"I know that a very great many of my gay and lesbian friends would say that I did. The best thing I can say is that is a question that I ask myself really rather a lot and I don't quite know the answer," said Williams, who also skewered popular ideas on spirituality.
Spirituality, he explained, is not "the placid hum of a well-conducted meditation." The term "spiritual," he noted, was being misused to identify "unworldly and useless, which is probably the sense in which it has been used about me", or "meaning 'I'm serious about my inner life, I want to cultivate my sensibility,'" he said.
"Speaking from the Christian tradition, the idea that being spiritual is just about having nice experiences is rather laughable. Most people who have written seriously about the life of the spirit in Christianity and Judaism spend a lot of their time telling you how absolutely bloody awful it is," he noted.
He posited that "spiritual care meant tending to every possible dimension of sense of the self and each other, that it was about filling out as fully as possible human experience."
Asked whether he felt organized religion encouraged the life of the spirit, Williams responded: "The answer is of course a good Anglican yes and no".
Although organized religion can pass on shared values of tradition, it could also operate as simply "the most satisfying leisure activity possible. It can also be something that you use to bolster your individual corporate ego," said Williams.