Wednesday, January 05, 2005

"Religion is responsibility, or it is nothing at all." --Jacques Derrida

The Asian tsunami disaster should make all Christians question the existence of God, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, writes in The Telegraph today.

In a deeply personal and candid article, he says "it would be wrong" if faith were not "upset" by the catastrophe which has already claimed more than 150,000 lives.

Prayer, he admits, provides no "magical solutions" and most of the stock Christian answers to human suffering do not "go very far in helping us, one week on, with the intolerable grief and devastation in front of us".

Dr Williams, who, as head of the Church of England, represents 70 million Anglicans around the world, writes: "Every single random, accidental death is something that should upset a faith bound up in comfort and ready answers. Faced with the paralysing magnitude of a disaster like this, we naturally feel more deeply outraged - and also more deeply helpless."

He adds: "The question, 'How can you believe in a God who permits suffering on this scale?' is therefore very much around at the moment, and it would be surprising if it weren't - indeed it would be wrong if it weren't."

Dr Williams concludes that, faced with such a terrible challenge to their faith, Christians must focus on "passionate engagement with the lives that are left".

Nothing is ever simple; nor should it be. And nothing that is connected to religion, can take us away from, or let us hide from, humanity; especially suffering humanity.


  1. Could you provide a source (bibliography) for the quote attributed to Derrida? I have search in his books but cannot find it. I have quoted it from a second source but cannot find it in the original French work.

  2. An English translation of "The Gift of Death," if I remember correctly.