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ACNS3236 Text of The Richard Dimbleby Lecture 2002

From "Anglican Communion News Service" <>
Date Fri, 20 Dec 2002 12:37:22 -0000

ACNS 3236     |     LAMBETH PALACE     |     19 DECEMBER 2002 

The Richard Dimbleby Lecture 2002

Delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams 
Westminster School, London

[The text of the 2002 Richard Dimbleby Lecture may be downloaded as a PDF
file from]

19 December 2002

[As delivered]

One of the sure signs of getting older is when you hear yourself sounding
like your parents. Suddenly, faced with a child who doesn't want to
co-operate and says 'Why should I?', you're aware of the immortal words,
'Because I say so' coming out of your mouth. Traumatic moments these; our
doom has caught up with us.

But I wonder a bit whether we shouldn't be encouraging the question. Blind
obedience is a virtue only in a very few circumstances; it's perfectly
arguable that being an adult at all means having the capacity to ask awkward
questions about the right of others to tell us what to do, so that the child
's challenge is itself a mark of growing up. But one of the most sensitive
areas for awkward questions is our relation with law and government.

Why should we do what the government tells us? And I don't mean this
government in particular, but any modern government. It's a question that
takes us into some unexpectedly complicated areas; it raises issues about
the unspoken contracts people feel exist between themselves and their
rulers. You need to be reasonably confident that your system of government
is worth supporting overall if you are prepared to go along with what it
tells you in some particular areas where you may not feel completely
convinced or are frankly not convinced at all. It's the problem that
political thinkers describe as the legitimacy of a system - its 'right' to
order you around.

A lot of the time this doesn't seem to be much of an issue, perhaps; but
there are periods when the overall worthwhileness of a system begins to look
a lot less persuasive, sometimes quite rapidly, and things start to change.
Sometimes the change is planned, sometimes not; and sometimes the planned
changes set in motion a whole range of unplanned ones. In the middle of the
seventeenth century in Britain, the idea that royal authority came straight
from above was shaken to its foundations: the kind of monarchy that survived
was radically different, with state sovereignty residing now in Parliament.
During the nineteenth century it began to be taken for granted in Europe
that national communities had a right to decide their own business and that
this right was more fundamental than the historic rights of a dynasty whose
lands might include several national groups. The great multi-national
empires of Austria and Turkey began to dissolve.

And what I want to explore in this lecture is the suggestion, now to be
heard in many quarters, that we're in fact living in just such a period
where the basic assumptions about how states work are shifting. If this is
true, there are some quite far-reaching consequences, and I want to suggest
ways of understanding these. But I also have an agenda as a religious
teacher here; and you won't be surprised to hear that I have some thoughts
about the risks and opportunities associated with religious faith in a
volatile and uncharted context like this.

The idea that's being increasingly canvassed is that we are witnessing the
end of the nation state, and that the nation state is being replaced in the
economically developed world by what some call the 'market state'. This new
form of political administration has in some ways crept up on us, and we
need to do some hard thinking about how it has happened and what changes are
involved for the whole idea of being a citizen - not to mention the whole
idea of being a politician too. And if the analysis I want to offer is
right, and these changes are indeed irreversible, we need to look at what
kind of vacuum is left in our social imagination as a result.

First, though, we need to step back a bit. What do we mean by the nation
state, anyway? Very broadly, it's the vision that came to dominate Europe
and North America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: government is
trustworthy or legitimate because it promises to this particular coherent
nation - both a piece of territory and a fairly homogeneous community -
effective defence against outside attack and a high degree of internal
stability. The internal stability was based on a firm directive hand in the
economy and a safety net of public welfare provision. The job of those who
ran the state was seen as guaranteeing the general good of the community;
and its success in managing this was the obvious foundation of its claim to
be obeyed.

What happens, though, when the state no longer seems to have the power to
keep its side of the bargain? In the later twentieth century, the cracks in
the structure get more and more visible. Intercontinental missile technology
designed to carry weapons of mass destruction makes nonsense of traditional
ideas of defending your territory; you have to rely on strategic means,
above all deterrent counter threats, when things look menacing. Then there
is the way in which capital is now able to move where it pleases in the
world, ignoring frontier controls. No national economy can protect itself
completely, and so no nation state government can guarantee employment
levels in the old way. Government has to negotiate favourable deals with
fickle and mobile investors who can always afford to look for new and more
profitable locations and outlets at will.

I've spent the last ten years in South East Wales in an environment where
immense political energy has often gone into persuading international
companies to invest on favourable terms - but where the average length of
stay for such concerns has been no more than a few years. The local economy
can't be the deciding factor. A few years ago in Newport there was great
delight when the Korean electronics giant LG agreed a deal promising several
thousand jobs in the region; hardly a year later, this had been scaled down
dramatically so that LG could cope with the pressures of the financial
collapse in South East Asia. And I remember also a union official in Cwmbran
spelling out, with some bitterness the tensions between the real, but
unstable employment prospects offered by the new global economy and his
traditional commitment to the rights of employees - which was going, he
knew, to prove too costly and complicated in a setting where employers could
so easily find a cheaper alternative location.

But unstable employment patterns generate more and more unmanageable welfare
levels. And at the same time people's expectations about the level and
quality of public service and support are higher than ever and are kept high
by the prevailing culture of consumer power. And this relates to a third
area. Aspirations towards more consumer power are fed by mass communication.
And new communications technology means that the same aspirations and
assumptions will be found practically everywhere. You can't easily control
the flow of electronic information and image, even in the most heavily
policed societies. Increasingly the images of an alternative world will be
there. You can watch satellite TV in a little timber -built bar in Kampala -
I have. So the incentives to push for equality of access both to consumer
goods and to certain kinds of civil liberties are powerful as never before.
The fall of state socialism in Eastern Europe has a good deal to do with
increasing awareness of the attractions of the alternative world of the
West. But the revolution in electronic communication also carries a more
sinister implication, something we have learned with horrible clarity in
this last year or so: international conspiracy is harder than ever to detect
and frustrate, given the labyrinths of global electronic communication we
have created. Al Qaeda and similar networks inhabit a virtual world, not an
identifiable headquarters in a single place.

This reading of our present situation is spelled out in great detail by the
American strategist and historian Philip Bobbitt. He sees our present
context as one where the nation state's inability to deliver in the terms we
have become used to, its inability to meet the expectations we now bring,
has led to a shift into a new political mode, the market state, in which the
function of government - and the thing that makes government worth obeying -
is to clear a space for individuals or groups to do their own negotiating,
to secure the best deal or the best value for money in pursuing what they
want. It involves deregulation; the 'franchising' of various sorts of
provision - from private prisons to private pensions - and the withdrawal of
the state from many of those areas where it used to bring some kind of moral
pressure to bear. It means that government is free to encourage enterprise
but not to protect against risk; to try and increase the literal and
metaphorical purchasing power of citizens, but not to take for granted
anything much in the way of agreement about common goals or social good.
Successive governments have, for example, dealt with education in a way that
shows worrying signs of this underlying philosophy - stressing parental
choice and publication of results. Not that these are social evils in
themselves; they represent a proper concern about accountability. But they
also fit all too neatly into the consumer model and allow the actual
philosophy of education itself to be obscured behind a cloud of sometimes
mechanical criteria of attainment.

What this brings with it is in fact something that ought to worry government
more than it often does. Government is now heard asking to be judged on its
delivery of purchasing power and maximal choice. And this encourages an
approach to politics itself that could be described as consumerist. Philip
Bobbitt talks of how politics becomes 'a matter of insurance' in this
climate: voters look for what will guarantee the maximum possible freedom to
buy their way out of insecurity. There will be increasing pressure to have
policy determined by plebiscites and market research - and this carries in
its wake a trend towards streamlining the political executive for rapid
response. There will be high expectations of prompt reactions to the needs
of the market.

In the autumn of 2000, protests about fuel prices swept across the UK,
accompanied by vocal demands that government should act immediately in
response to concerns expressed wholly outside the usual electoral process.
What was wanted was prompt action to satisfy what could be presented as
popular consumer demand. And the pressure for instant action inevitably
tended to block wider considerations about environmental policy, transport
policy, fiscal priorities or whatever. Real and longer-term issues about -
for example - the problems of transport costs in the countryside were
irretrievably and damagingly mixed up with a raft of populist worries about
fuel prices in general. The point is that a significant number of people did
not trust the government to deal adequately with their 'insurance' issues;
their language and actions implied that they felt the electoral process
worked in ways which still kept appropriate power out of the hands of the
mass of citizens. They - and a surprising number of journalistic
commentators - were happy to justify at least low-level civil disobedience
because of what was seen as the alienation of the people from the decision

The government on the whole kept its nerve. But the nature of the crisis,
the kind of concern voiced and the obvious level of anxiety in government
was significant. Moments like this reveal something of what people are
taking for granted as the essence of politics; and what emerged was a
reluctance to delegate decision making powers on any very long-term basis.
It isn't entirely surprising: in the United States and the UK during the
eighties and nineties, government tended to strengthen a culture of prompt
accountability, enforceable rights to see value for money in institutions,
even those where we'd once have recognised that calculations of profit were
not easily applicable. Government encouraged people to accept the radical
new mobility of capital, the purchase of private means of social insurance
and so on. So socially and culturally, the last couple of decades have been
a period in which physical mobility and the homogenising of the
entertainment media have weakened some kinds of local solidarity in speech
and habit; and the social bonds that once existed in the territory between
individual and state have been seriously eroded - voluntary associations of
different kinds, churches, the family itself. There may be more for them to
do, but the volunteer base is seriously eroded. It isn't surprising, then,
if the unspoken model of political expectation now is increasingly the
consumerist one: the individual confronts the state, asking for what is
promised - maximal choice, purchasing power to determine a lifestyle. It
isn't surprising if the attitude of many to national and local elections is
apathy, with a disturbingly high percentage of younger people failing to

Now this may sound like the cue for a lament for lost community or a
denunciation of neo-liberal economics, Thatcherism, Reaganism and so on.
That isn't the point I'm concerned with here. The issue is that, like it or
not, there are irreversible changes in our international environment that
have eroded our confidence in the nation state's possibilities. Those
pressures that made the UK and US governments of the last few decades 'roll
back the frontiers of the state' were perfectly real, in a world where
neither military nor economic security lies with strong national government
in the way it might once have done. The market state it seems is here to
stay. But - here is the difficult point - if we ask about its legitimacy,
its claim on us as citizens, we need to come up with a better answer than
we've had so far if we are to avoid the reduction of politics to
instantaneous button-pressing responses to surface needs.

This matters, I think, for two reasons. First is the simple fact that there
are some fairly fundamental issues that are unlikely ever to be sorted out
by the consumerist or insurance model. One of the most obvious is the
cluster of long-term problems around the environment. The summit at
Johannesburg earlier this year gave small cause for complacency. National
delegations could not commit governments bound by popular vote to policies
that were not endorsed by popular vote; but - notoriously - policies that
restrict lifestyle choices are electoral suicide, and the hard truth is that
some restriction on certain kinds of consumption is unavoidable if the major
environmental challenges are to be met. High energy-consumers will resist a
reduction of their purchasing power; and the threats are just sufficiently
over the horizon of our lifetimes to allow us to feel rational in refusing
to change. The recent commendably honest announcement of government's
failure to restructure transport policy in the UK as was hoped, the
continuing pressure to expand the road system and underinvest in rail holds
up a mirror to our assumptions. Members of all parties have noted the mixed
messages being given.

It's not the only issue of this kind, of course. You might try to think of
all the things that would never rise beyond the smallest of small print in
an electoral manifesto. What about prison reform, for instance? 'Insurance'
concerns dictate the priority of deterring and reducing crime, certainly;
but long-term issues about the effectiveness of large prison populations
begin to push us towards some tough questions to do with the proper funding
of prison education services, the probation system, the proper supervision
of community penalties and so on. This looks more complicated than prison;
it certainly has cost implications; and so it is a pretty unlikely candidate
for popular campaigning. Yet what we end up with is so often not even good
insurance - a vastly expensive prison population and a high level of

Which leads to the second worry here, the bigger one, which will lead us to
some questions bearing more directly on religious belief. In the marketised
world, so we're led to believe, we're left to make the best decisions for
ourselves; but what does a reasonable decision look like in this context? As
we've just seen, it isn't easy to justify choices at the present moment that
don't have an impact in an immediate future that I am going to experience
personally, choices that will secure something beyond maximising my freedom
to go on freely choosing. When people make choices about the more distant
future, about things that won't directly affect them as individuals, they do
so presumably because they see their own choices here and now as part of a
larger story that makes sense of their lives and gives them a context. This
is the sort of thing you do if this is how you want to see the overall
pattern of the human world turning out, never mind whether it's the most
profitable course of action here and now for you as an individual. So if you
see your choices here and now in the context of a larger story, this is a
way of giving some sort of shape or sense to your own life, some sort of
continuity to it. People learn how to tell the story of their own lives in a
coherent way when they have some broader picture to which to relate it. You
can only tell the story of your own life, it seems, when it isn't just your
story, or even the story of those immediately close to you.

Now, this is both a very simple and a very elusive idea. Think for a moment
of how you talk about learning or growing: certain experiences are seen as
pushing you forward or pushing you into a larger landscape. You interpret
what's happened to you, you don't just record a series of disconnected
moments. You change your job: where did the decision come from, what does it
contribute to your picture, your story of how your life develops? (And yes
that is a question I have been asking quite a bit lately!) You haven't seen
that particular friend for a while; is that significant? You decide it's
time you made or remade your will - what's prompted that? And all this is
possible because we all at some level work with a usually unspoken sense of
what a fuller or more mature human life looks like. We all know the
frustration of trying to relate to someone who doesn't seem to learn, who
doesn't notice when their experience appears to lead them round in circles.
We need ways of getting a story straight so that we don't have to go on
repeating it, repeating patterns of behaviour that never move us on.
Groundhog Day is a comic horror, but a real enough one: we know how easily
we can get stuck in repeating patterns. And the vague and unspoken sense of
what maturity might look like at least begins to open us up to the idea that
others may be moving in similar rhythms to us, and so to the sense of a
shared story that doesn't just fade away when I'm no longer around. All good
therapy and counselling have something to do with this business of getting
the story straight; but what is different about religious belief is its bold
claim that there is a story of the whole universe without which your own
story won't make sense. And I'll have more to say about that in a moment.

The worry in a marketised environment is what happens to the sense of
cumulative experience, growth or learning, the self aware of its history and
the society aware of its history. Do we know where we come from? If the goal
of the market state is maximal opportunity for citizens, and if it seeks to
achieve this by rapid executive response to expressed needs within an
overall strategy of swift and none-too-accountable negotiation with various
national and international agencies outside government as traditionally
understood, there is a high risk of reducing freedom in the name of
increasing choice. Political freedom has usually been understood as
including some skills in questioning the options that are put in front of
you by the system - the ability to imagine different futures. Such skills
have everything to do with a lively sense of accumulated narrative,
perspectives from elsewhere, both in individual and in social life. 'Why is
that the all-important question?' is the characteristic expression of
political liberty. And if political life is dominated by the insurance
model, it is very hard to see where there is room for such awkward
questions. A person with no skills of understanding the past and no
framework for telling their own story will be at the mercy of whoever it is
who is deciding what the options are going to be from which you must select.
And the apparently simple and attractive picture of a more direct relation
between individuals and government, the button pushing model, a contract
that can be honoured by the prompt delivery of what the consumer orders, is
not the ideal of democratic life but a parody of it.

In such a world, political conflict is likely to be about shifting patterns
of advantage rather than major ideological concerns (as it has largely
become already in the USA). You'll remember that television drama in
mid-November, The Project, tracing the crises of conscience, the hard
choices of a group of political enthusiasts in the years that saw the
shaping of New Labour? One of the defining moments in that was when the
unscrupulous political adviser says to the idealistic young MP with the
words, 'It's just a game'. If that is really what politics comes to be,
arguments about what is due to human beings as such, arguments about the
nature of the story, mine and ours, become a waste of time - whatever the
political party.

So the problem of the market state looks rather like this. By pushing
politics towards a consumerist model, with the state as the guarantor of
'purchasing power', it raises short-term expectations. By raising short-term
expectations, it invites instability, reactive administration, rule by
opinion poll and pressure. To facilitate some of its goals and to avoid
chaos, government inevitably relies more on centralised managerial
authority. So there will be a dangerous tension between excessive government
and the paralysis that can result from trying to respond adequately to
consumer demand. To put it in another way, government and culture drift
apart: government abandons the attempt to give shape to society.

Is this such a bad thing? A good many, here and in the USA, would say that
it's relatively positive. But those who do say that are often those who can
afford to feel confident about the strength of non-governmental communities
that support and nourish the sense of continuity, the sense of a story,
which I have been suggesting is vital for reasonable moral action that looks
beyond the immediate scene. Take a wider look, though, and the picture is
not encouraging in this respect. We are still, in this country, very much at
sea over what concrete moral content we want to see in our children's
education. In those environments where there is acute deprivation, including
deprivation of everyday habits of mutuality and respect, a school bears an
impossible burden of trying to create a 'culture' practically on its own,
because the institutions that help you shape a story for your life are not
around. Family continuity is rare; conventional religious practice is
minimal; shared public activity is unusual. These are communities in which a
school curriculum about 'values', however passionately believed, can yield
heartbreakingly disappointing results. Those who are taught come from and go
to a social environment in which common life, in the simplest sense, has
often become problematic. Work and relationships tend to be equally
transient. What teachers do achieve in such settings is little short of
miraculous - I have seen enough of this in the South Wales valleys to make
me very impatient of the tendency to scapegoat teachers for our ills. But it
is often our attempt to make bricks without straw.

Let me put it provocatively. We are no longer confident of educating
children in a tradition. Schools can't do the job of a whole society,
sustaining a 'tradition' on behalf of the whole community, an accepted set
of perspectives on human priorities and relationships, a feel for the
conventions of common life; they can do a certain amount of damage
limitation in the context of a rootless social environment, but cannot of
themselves sustain a culture that can command loyalty outside the school
gates. What they can manage by way of civic and moral education is for the
most part - inevitably - at the formal level, the procedural level -
encouraging general respect and tolerance. Which is excellent, but doesn't
help define a positive core of vision. It can easily degenerate into vague
uplift. You may have sat through - as I have, many times - school choirs
performing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. I have a very soft
spot for it - but as I listen to 'Any dream will do' my conscience bothers
me: it's as though although the ideal personal goal recommended were simply
activating your potential in any direction you happen to set your heart on.
And that it echoes rather cruelly in some of the social settings I've

And it is in any case a vision that has nothing to say about shared humanity
and the hard labour of creating and keeping going a shared world of values.
Being provocative again, I'd want to say that a proper use of tradition
makes us more not less critical and independent in society. The great revolt
against traditional authority in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
was a necessary moment, because tradition was understood as the way in which
the past dominated the present - or at least how some people's version of
the past seeks to limit what's possible now. But what about the person who
is now able to inhabit a tradition with confidence, fully aware that it
isn't the only possible perspective on persons and things, but equally aware
that they are part of a network of relations and conventions far wider than
what is instantly visible or even instantly profitable, and this network is
inseparable from who they concretely are? I suspect that many of us would
recognise in this more of freedom than of slavery, because it makes possible
a real questioning of the immediate agenda of a society, the choices that
are defined and managed for you by the market.

Further: if specifically religious tradition has a place here, it is because
of those elements that only religious conviction seems to secure in our
sense of what is human. For the religious believer - very particularly in
the Jewish, Christian and Muslim worlds - each of us, and each item in our
environment, exists first in relation to something other than me, my needs,
my instincts. They are related to a life or agency quite independent of any
aspect of how things happen to be or happen to turn out in the universe; to
the eternal, to God. To see or know anything adequately is to be aware of
its relation to the eternal. So that we care - say - about the environment
not simply because of concern for the human future of our descendants (since
we see them in potential relation to God and therefore as people having a
claim to live in an environment that is not ruined), but also because of the
prior relation that the material world to itself, has to its maker. And if
the stuff of the world around us is related to, grounded in God, our current
human desires, our immediate agenda, cannot exhaust what can be said about
that world. Or, to take the other long-term moral and social issue I
mentioned, there are things that must be said about penal policy if you want
to see both criminal and victim in the light of their prior relation to God,
not just in relation to each other or to 'society'. Penal policy should, in
a religious perspective, be asking about how everyone involved grows in
human maturity. Without that, there is no mending of the relations broken by
crime; but it can't happen unless there is some radical awareness of a
person's distinctiveness in relation to God. And I'm not talking about a
sentimental belief in the innate capacities of the criminal, let alone
seeing the criminal as victim; it's simply a recognition that some other
presence, some other relationship is at work in the offender, over and above
what is involved in dealing with the offence itself.

What I see as typical of religious tradition, then, is the sense of arriving
in the wake of relations that are already established, in a way that puts
into perspective what my immediate agenda happens to be. And I want to argue
that without that relativising moment, our whole politics is likely to be in
deep trouble. In the heyday of the welfarist nation state, there was a
reasonable case for saying that public morality was taken for granted, and
that particular religious loyalties might be something of a problem. The
normal language of liberalism still repeats this, assuming that the culture
of political rights and liberties and governmental duties is obvious, and
that religious communities can be and must be relegated to a sphere of
private choice. But here is one of the paradoxes of the transition to a new
model of the state. Because of its abandonment of a clear morality for the
public sphere, the market state is in danger of linking its legitimacy, its
right to be taken seriously by citizens, to its capacity to maximise
varieties of personal insurance; but as it does so, it reinforces those
elements in popular political culture that undermine the very idea of
reasonable politics, the rule of law and the education of active citizens.
What if the answer to why we should do what government tells us in the new
era had something to do with the willingness of the market state government
to engage with traditional religious communities in a new way, so as at
least to keep alive the question of what persons and things relate to before
they relate to anyone's particular wants and plans?

Now this is going to sound dangerous to many, especially in an audience like
this. Institutional religion has a history of violence, of nurturing bitter
exclusivism and claiming powers for which it will answer to no-one body. So
the challenge for religious communities is how we are to offer our vision,
not in a bid for social control but as a way of opening up some of the depth
of human choices, offering resources for the construction of growing and
critical human identities. And this also means, incidentally but not
insignificantly, that religions have work to do intellectually and
imaginatively to defend their basic credibility, their truth claims. The
nation state could put up a pretty good case for relegating religion to the
private sphere: internal differences of spiritual vision or moral loyalty
posed a problem, public truth was defined by what seemed the self-evidently
truthful vision of liberal modernity. But as national boundaries dissolve
and administrations struggle to secure fields of opportunity against a
global backcloth, there seems to be a more significant role for versions of
human nature that help us avoid a reduction of politics to power struggles
and a hectic quest for the purchase of individual or local securities. The
sheer presence of the church - or any place of religious activity in the
middle of communities of primary deprivation such as I have been speaking
about indicates that there is still a space where you can give voice to
these accounts of humanity. The historic role of the Church of England has
been and still is making such space available. Its history, its
constitutional position - however controversial that may have become for
some - means that is obliged just to be there speaking a certain language,
telling a certain story, witnessing to certain non-negotiable things about
humanity and about the context in which humanity lives. A really secular
society would be one where there were no more such spaces left.

The market state is much in love with partnership as a model of public
action, and the possibilities of partnership with religious communities are
many. To point to the importance of religious communities as, for example,
partners in statutory education is not to license unbridled superstition and
indoctrination but to invite - to challenge - religious communities to find
a way of bringing their beliefs into practical contact with public
questions, to identify exactly what difference faith commitments make to the
educational process.

Similarly, to look at partnership with religious groups in community
regeneration isn't about hiving off essential work to private agencies with
shaky lines of accountability. What's at issue is a very specific need in
many fragmented and deprived communities. They need brokers - people who can
help negotiations over resources because they're not just one group
competing with other groups. That's the kind of competition that's always
the curse of needy communities. They can draw groups together to define some
shared priorities. There are now local forums in several regions - the
midlands, the North East, South Wales, sponsored by local churches with just
these goals in view. And there is another very simple fact worth pondering.

During the last two general election campaigns, the largest numbers of
people addressed directly by candidates in the flesh were the audiences at
hustings arranged by local churches. What we're talking about is a space
where reflective politics is still possible because it belongs to a
tradition whose interests are more than political.

If it is true that the nation state has had its day and that we are -
whether we like it or not - already caught up in a political system both
more centralised and more laissez-faire, we are bound to ask whether there
is a future for the reasonable citizen, for public debate about what is due
to human beings, for intelligent argument about goals beyond the next
election. My conclusion is that this future depends heavily on those
perspectives that are offered by religious belief. In the pre-modern period,
religion sanctioned the social order; in the modern period it was a
potential rival to be pushed to the edges, a natural reaction. But are we at
the point where, as the 'public sphere' becomes more value-free, the very
survival of the idea of a public sphere, a realm of political argument about
vision and education, is going to demand that we take religion a good deal
more seriously?

So why should we do what the government tells us? The structures and
priorities of the market state alone will simply not deliver an answer to
this question that isn't finally destructive of our liberty - because they
deprive us of the resources we need to make decisions that are properly
human decisions, bound up with past and future. We need to be able to talk
about what we're related to that isn't just defined by the specific agenda
of the moment. This presents religious traditions with enormous
opportunities - and enormous responsibilities. Because we know that
religious involvement in public life has not always been benign; but those
of us who have religious faith have learned something of how to engage with
the social orders of the modern world; and it is up to us to articulate with
as much energy and imagination as we can our understanding of that larger
story without which the most fundamental and challenging human questions
won't even get asked, let alone answered.

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