Call me old fashioned, but I believe an Archbishop should spend his days doing Archbishopy type things. You know, like, performing good deeds, talking about Jesus and dressing up like a fancy shepherd. So when, like last week, the Archbishop began doing other things (unarchbishopy things) I found it slightly annoying.
In the Telegraph it was reported that the new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, at a parliamentary event, argued for the need to break up large banks to create a string of regional lenders. At the time there were all sorts of articles about the perceived wisdom (or lack thereof) associated with this idea. However, my point has nothing to do with this particular debate. My point is that I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in listening to the head of the Church of England pontificate about banking - I find it totally bizarre! It's like listening to George Osborne's view on wild trout fishing or Abu Qatada's view on last week's episode of Made in Chelsea (For the record, he thought it was 'totes amazing' but also kind of wishes a plague on both their houses).
You may find it a curious thing that this small intervention into government matters by the Archbishop should annoy me so much. By way of explanation I shall refer you to 'the Bono effect'. Simply put, we like to pigeon hole celebrities and when they move out of their perceived area of expertise we find it incredibly annoying. Think, Minnie Driver attempting a singing career (Yuck!) or Gwyneth Paltrow writing a cookery book (Blasphemy!). Of course, this effect owes its name to U2 front man and altogether serious chap, Bono. Bono has undoubtedly done a lot of good work on behalf of organisations like UNICEF but, because he's that little chap from U2 with the glasses, we find him incredibly irritating, which in turn has a negative effect on the cause he is promoting. As Charlie Brooker once concluded on the matter "it's a worthy cause, rendered annoying".
However, it is not just the cause that suffers but also the individual and what he/she was originally known for. In the case of Bono that thing is the easy listening rock of U2. In the case of Justin Welby it is the Church of England.
This mistake has already been made by Justin Welby's predecessor, poet, theologian and silly man, Rowan Williams. As Archbishop, Williams spent a great deal of time espousing his views regarding everything from nuclear disarmament to free markets and the war in Iraq. Not satisfied with the pulpit, he often brought his political views to the fore in publications such as the New Statesman. In 2011 he used that platform to criticise the coalition government and asserted that they were forcing through "radical, long term policies for which no one voted". Bam! Bono effect! Just like that the Archbishop became hideously annoying and, by association, so too did the Church of England. By bringing the Church into mainstream political debate, Rowan Williams also dragged it into the line of fire. Where, perhaps, the Church was previously in danger of becoming anonymous on a national level, under Williams it become overwhelmingly conspicuous. Would criticism of the Church over gay marriage and female bishops really have been so vociferous had Rowan Williams stuck to a more traditional message?
Of course, Williams and Welby would both argue that national politics affects us all and is therefore well within their mandate. But where to draw the line? Banking, Iraq, the coalition? Are the flock really looking to the Church for guidance over these matters?
A crude surmise of this article could be interpreted as 'stick to what you know'. However, with Archbishop Welby's background in business his advice, whilst debatable, cannot be dismissed out of hand. More accurately then, I might wish my message to be 'stick to what people want you to know' or more importantly 'stick to what people need you for'. In other words, be Archbishopy.