In an effort to find similarities between Northrop Frye and Rowan Williams, the soon to be ex-Archbishop of Canterbury, The Educated Imagination: A Website Dedicated to Northrop Frye has posted “Rowan Williams, Frye, and the Church Prophetic.” The comparisons are based on the similarity between a passage from “The Church: Its Relation to Society” that Frye wrote in 1949 and a passage from Williams’ book Faith in the Public Square that is due to be released this September. Joseph Adamson uses these passages to convince readers of “of the genuine role of the church in society.”
In the passage quoted in Adamson’s post, which is too long to include here, Frye does not mention the church or religion; he does discuss Protestantism, Catholicism, and “the society of love” and “the society of power.” However, in one of the passages that Adamson describes as Williams’ “attack [on] David Cameron’s idea of Great Britain’s ‘big society,’” Williams makes large claims for the Church and religion:
The significance of trying to shape public opinion within the Church is something quite different from an institutional programme on the part of the Church to impose its vision on everybody else.
Religion is seen by those who find it unacceptable as essentially an appeal to the will – decide to obey these presuppositions and to obey these commands. Religion in fact is consistently against coercion and institutionalised inequality and is committed to serious public debate about common good.
What exactly is the difference between “trying to shape public opinion within the Church” and “an institutional programme on the part of the Church to impose its vision on everybody else”?
Religion is a lot of things, but it is neither “consistently against coercion and institutionalised inequality,” nor is it “committed to serious public debate about common good.”
Adamson’s post does not make a convincing case for “the genuine role of the church in society.”