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Writing in the Dust: After September 11 [Paperback]

By Rowan Williams (Author)
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Item Number 144013  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   90
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.64" Width: 5.3" Height: 0.3"
Weight:   0.25 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2002
Publisher   William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802821197  
EAN  9780802821195  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
With the hard gentleness honed by the language of prayer, Rowan Williams gifts us with this remarkable book on September 11. Lost for words, he names our silence in a manner that gives us a way to go on without our words lying or giving false comfort. As Williams tells us, these words, written in the dust, are destined to be blown away. But even if that is true, they are words that give life

90 pages

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More About Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams Rowan Williams was enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury in February 2003. His previous positions include Archbishop of Wales, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, Oxford and Dean of Clare College, Cambridge. He has taught theology for more than fifteen years in five continents, worked as a parish priest, and published widely. His previous publications include "Teresa of Avila" (1991), "Open to Judgment" (1994) and "Sergi Bulgakov" (1999).

Rowan Douglas Williams was born in Swansea, south Wales on 14 June 1950, into a Welsh-speaking family, and was educated at Dynevor School in Swansea and Christ's College Cambridge where he studied theology. He studied for his doctorate – in the theology of Vladimir Lossky, a leading figure in Russian twentieth-century religious thought – at Wadham College Oxford, taking his DPhil in 1975. After two years as a lecturer at the College of the Resurrection, near Leeds, he was ordained deacon in Ely Cathedral before returning to Cambridge.

Rowan Williams on his Graduation, Christ's College Cambridge, with Parents Aneurin and Delphine Williams, 1971From 1977, he spent nine years in academic and parish work in Cambridge: first at Westcott House, being ordained priest in 1978, and from 1980 as curate at St George's, Chesterton. In 1983 he was appointed as a lecturer in Divinity in the university, and the following year became dean and chaplain of Clare College. 1986 saw a return to Oxford now as Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church; he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1989, and became a fellow of the British Academy in 1990. He is also an accomplished poet and translator.

Rowan Williams and Jane Paul on their Wedding Day, 1981In 1991 Professor Williams accepted election and consecration as bishop of Monmouth, a diocese on the Welsh borders, and in 1999 on the retirement of Archbishop Alwyn Rice Jones he was elected Archbishop of Wales, one of the 38 primates of the Anglican Communion. Thus it was that, in July 2002, with eleven years' experience as a diocesan bishop and three as a leading primate in the Communion, Archbishop Williams was confirmed on 2 December 2002 as the 104th bishop of the See of Canterbury: the first Welsh successor to St Augustine of Canterbury and the first since the mid-thirteenth century to be appointed from beyond the English Church.

Dr Williams is acknowledged internationally as an outstanding theological writer, scholar and teacher. He has been involved in many theological, ecumenical and educational commissions. He has written extensively across a very wide range of related fields of professional study – philosophy, theology (especially early and patristic Christianity), spirituality and religious aesthetics – as evidenced by his bibliography. He has also written throughout his career on moral, ethical and social topics and, since becoming archbishop, has turned his attention increasingly on contemporary cultural and interfaith issues.

As Archbishop of Canterbury his principal responsibilities are however pastoral – leading the life and witness of the Church of England in general and his own diocese in particular by his teaching and oversight, and promoting and guiding the communion of the world-wide Anglican Church by the globally recognized ministry of unity that attaches to the office of bishop of the see of Canterbury.

His interests include music, fiction and languages.

In 1981 Dr Williams married Jane Paul, a lecturer in theology, whom he met while living and working in Cambridge. They have a daughter and a son.

Rowan Williams was born in 1950.

Rowan Williams has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Glory of the Lord
  2. Making of the Christian Imagination
  3. Outstanding Christian Thinkers (Paperback Continuum)
  4. Voices from the Monastery

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Breathing Space  Sep 24, 2004
It is rare that one reads a book and finds one's self without words at the end; it is rare - for this reader, at least - to feel a need to re-read the conclusion of a book because something has been stated at the end that must be grasped but isn't on the first reading. It is rare that the conclusion of a book would be - again, for this reader - so utterly profound and unexpected that I simply sat in my local coffee shop, staring at the book that I was holding in my hands before I realized in my fog that I had to re-read Williams' conclusion. The breathing space that he pleads for in his conclusion comes unexpectedly; his reading of the story the Gospel of St. John was more than eye-opening: it was like an unexpected flash of light that left me momentarily dazed.

You can read this book in a single sitting as it is a short read. Williams begins with discussing his own time in New York when the towers were hit and subsequently fell; he then digresses a bit and discusses various ways of engaging - and not engaging - the problems raised by 9/11. It is interesting to read the perspective of someone who lives in the UK; this book was written before the USA invaded Iraq, but since the UK was the USA'a main ally in the "war on terrorism", one gets an insight into some of the discussions that were going on in the UK before the invasion.

Williams - thank God - is not a thinker who is easy to classify. He think outside of and beyond both "liberal" and "conservative" boxes (which Christianity, at its best, always does); if one may borrow a statement from Pope John Paul II, the Christian is to be a "sign of contradiction" to the secular world - and Williams gracefully is. His main concern in this book is to not merely request but to plead for some breathing space in the aftermath of the attacks. This breathing space is not necessarily pacifism and nowhere does Williams call for pacifism; he notes that there is a time for war. Yet, we must be equally on guard against any desire to find a scapegoat - be it a nation, a people, an ideology, whatever - so that we can again feel in control (especially when we aren't - and let's be honest: we never really are in control).

Yet, it is the way the book ends that implants it so deeply in my mind, heart and imagination. Williams offers a short reflection on a passage in the Gospel of John, when the adulterous woman is brought before Christ and before a crowd that is ready to stone her for her sin. What does Christ do? He writes in the dust. As Williams put it, this happens before both judgement and forgiveness; it is this writing in the dust that gives the chance for some of our demons "to walk away."

Like many of the Archbishop's other books, I highly recommend reading this one as well. Given the increased tension in the current political climate - which will only increase as the Presidential election nears - Williams' book is a good place to find that breathing space that exists on the doorstep of both judgement and forgiveness.
Something permanent  Jun 26, 2003
In this small, meaningful text, `Writing in the Dust: After September 11', Archbishop Rowan Williams presents a quick and poignant response to the tragedy that befell not just America, but the entire world, on September 11, 2001. He happened to be in New York City at the time, at Trinity Church Wall Street, just a few blocks away from the devastation as the events took place. He wrote this book reflecting on his eyewitness accounts in the following few weeks. It is not an academic text, nor is it a programmatic text, but rather, it is an extended meditation, and a very personal account of grief, anger, and finally, hope.

It is near the end of the text that Williams highlights the story that immediately came to mind for me, and that is of Jesus writing in the dust as the crowd gathered to stone the prostitute. In the gospel of John, many different interpretations have been given to explain Jesus' curious actions in that story. Why did he write in the dust? What did he write?

Of course, dust was all around in New York City that day, the dust and grit of debris from the once proud towers and planes that became a symbol of terror and mortality. But writing in the dust, Williams says, is something perishable, too. Something that will not last. In the days following the attacks, America was ready for war. Had there been a clearly defined target and enemy, America surely would have gone to extraordinary lengths for revenge. The murkiness of the situation left America struggling to find an adequate response, a response still being debated, now years later.

A lot of talk in the past has focused upon the warlike nature of specific religions, countered by historical examples of our own cultures, religious and quasi-religious. This leads to accusation and counter-claim -- has it led to any real introspection on the part of our culture?

Of course, part of the problem with this introspection is that it is impractical for the most part. It also lacks the emotive power and emotional satisfaction of a call for vengeance. When people asked, as they continued to ask, where was God during those moments, theologians of every stripe struggle to find an answer that is at both emotionally and intellectually satisfying. Williams has elements of major modern theological schools in his own theology, including process theological ideas.

Williams continues beyond this to discuss the impact on those of us in the West who misinterpret the intentions of Muslim peoples, perhaps deliberately. He discusses a general worldview in which the virtues of the past, the 'just war' and the ideas of heroism and patriotism are in fact more fully exemplified in terrorists like Al-Qaeda and the IRA than in those they combat. The evolution of conflict from World-War types of clearly-defined battlelines logistically and politically have given way to a rather messy world in which the sands shift too quickly for easy answers to have general applicability. He also addresses a certain sense of futility.

Finally, Williams talks about the symbolic power, and the emptiness and inappropriateness of such symbols, near the end of his meditations. Symbols have great power, but those symbols can be misused, sometimes deliberately, particularly by those who did not originate the events or meanings. Symbols can sometimes imprison reality, Williams states, and cause us to belittle and sometimes look past the reality involved. Thus, symbols must be handled with great care.

One might get the sense from this book that Williams is a 'bleeding-heart liberal', and, insofar as simple labels tell a half-truth, that might be true. Yet there is something far deeper here. It is a voice we need to hear, rather like the voice of Colin Powell in the Cabinet swimming against the stream of opinion in the administration. Williams is not speaking a popular voice, but it is a necessary voice, one of compassion for the victims, and genuine concern for the future, not just a future in which America will be safe, but in which the entire world sees justice. This requires, and receives from Williams, an honest and accurate assessment of the Muslim world, too.

Williams uses the language of prayer. He uses a language of common humanity and a language of compassion. Williams speaks from his heart looking for answers and being honest about not finding too many. This small book, written in the dust of September 11, bears revisiting a year after the events. Rather like the peaceful pleadings of Dietrich Bonhoffer in the midst of World War II, it may well be ignored for now. But this writing is certainly not merely in the dust. Its hope will survive.

Rowan Williams is the recently appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the worldwide Anglican communion. Williams was also the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford University. Williams has been a prolific writer, including such theological and academic works as Arius: Heresy and Tradition; A Ray of Darkness, a collection of pastoral sermons and addresses; and The Wound of Knowledge: A Theological History from the New Testament to Luther and St. John of the Cross. One hopes that his writing career will not be stopped by his coming elevation. `So this is writing in the dust because it tries to hold that moment for a little longer, long enough for some of our demons to walk away.'

William's short yet vivid essay on the events of 9/11 is a theological gem. While many clerics in mainline churches quickly jump on political bandwagons in crises like these, Williams offers profound theology which speaks directly to the soul. A must.
A beautifully written, provocatively nuanced book  May 9, 2002
In this haunting and deeply meditative reflection, Rowan Williams has introduced a badly needed "breathing space" into the furious debate surrounding the events of 9/11. "Breathing space," in fact, is the central theme that runs through his little book--breathing space as a moment in which time seems to cease, we are caught in a void, and ordinary worries that involve self-concern and competition are momentarily suspended. Our general strategy is to rush to fill the void; humans (even if not nature) abhor a vacuum. But Williams encourages us to explore the void, to let it speak to us, to take time to explore its contours, and to allow ourselves the time to think deeply and honestly and compassionately about 9/11.

If we embrace the void--the break in our usual ways of thinking about the world--created by 9/11, we just might rethink our conventional attitudes to retaliatory violence, to heroism, to globalism, and to how we relate to strangers. These are the four themes Williams so provocatively explores. Retaliatory violence may give us the illusion of control, but it doesn't resolve the brokenness that gives rise to violent eruptions in the first place. Heroism, as displayed for example by fire fighters and cops in NYC on 9/11, is frequently anonymous and "ordinary," rather than the dramatic, fireworks-like military display our culture teaches us to crave. The global village has shrunk the world to such an extent that we can no longer deny that whatever we do in this country impacts the world and will bring consequences (deserved or not) back upon us. Consequently, we need to examine our conventionally bordered definitions of responsibility. Finally, people ought to be seen as they are in themselves, rather than as we symbolically recreate them to fit into our preconceived paradigms. Terrorists see Americans as spawn of the Great Satan; we see terrorists as agents of inexplicable, unprovoked evil. With these symbols hiding our true faces from one another, how can genuinely empathic dialogue begin\ between cultures and peoples?

If you're looking for quick solutions to the horror and grief that began (for Americans) on 9/11, this book isn't for you. But if you're in search of a companion who will help you reflect deeply on the implications of 9/11, read Williams. It might be especially instructive to compare his message to William Bennett's in the recently released *Why We Fight.* The two go in completely opposite directions.


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