Anglican Leader Questions Human Cost of Economic Measures

A response to the economic downturn must not come at the expense of the most vulnerable, says the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In The Telegraph on Monday, Dr. Rowan Williams appeared to warn the government against dealing with the credit crunch in a similar way to Hitler's leadership of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

In the turbulent years after he became chancellor, Hitler pursued "principles" that "worked quite consistently once you accepted that quite a lot of people that you might have thought mattered as human beings actually didn't," Williams, the spiritual leader for the Anglican Communion, wrote.

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He urged world leaders not to follow the popular philosophies of the 20th century that "solemnly assured us that the human cost is really worth it."

"What about the unique concerns and crises of the pensioner whose savings have disappeared, the Woolworth's employee, the hopeful young executive, let alone the helpless producer of goods in some Third-world environment where prices are determined thousands of miles away?" he asked.

In the face of the present financial crisis, he warned that "what looked like a principled defense of some of our economic assumptions seems more ragged and vulnerable than it once did."

The Archbishop acknowledged that some people resented Christians passing judgment on economic policies but added, "The whole point is that the believer doesn't want to talk about economics, only to ask an 'unprincipled question' – to make sure that principles don't simply block out actual human faces and stories."

"How we make it all work is vastly complicated – no one is pretending it isn't. But without these anxieties about the specific costs, we've lost the essential moral compass," said Williams, in an apparent reference to Prime Minister Gordon Brown who has previously alluded to being guided by a moral compass.

Williams pointed to Christianity as opening up the way to universal human dignity.

"The God of the Christmas story (and the rest of the Gospels) doesn't relate to us on the basis of any theory but on the basis of unconditional love and welcome," he wrote.

"That act of free love towards the entire human race changed things – even for those who didn't and don't share all the beliefs and doctrines of Christianity.

"And for those who do share those convictions, loving God and one another is a defiance of all programmes and principles designed to preserve only the wellbeing of people like us."

In an interview last week, the Archbishop criticized government plans to boost lending to banks, saying it seemed "a little bit like the addict returning to the drug."

"When the Bible uses the word 'repentance,' it doesn't just mean beating your breast, it means getting a new perspective, and that is perhaps what we are shrinking away from," he said.

In the same interview, he expressed his openness to severing the Church of England's ties to the state at a future date.

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