Monday, May 21, 2018

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A Christian Party - Time Is Nigh

Has the time come for Christians to unite and launch their own political party in Northern Ireland to protect Biblical values, rights and freedoms of expression and worship? That’s the key question posed by political commentator, Dr John Coulter, in his Fearless Flying Column to day, but he then realises such a party could cause more division within Christendom than heal theological rifts.

The time is nigh for a Northern Ireland Christian Party. Now if that doesn’t start a row among Churches in Ulster, I don’t know what would!.

Maybe its a sign of the times, but there are so many wee independent places of worship springing up across Northern Ireland you would think they had taken a leaf out of republicans when they form a new movement - the first item on the agenda is ‘the next split’.

Mind you, Christian denominations throughout Ireland could take a leaf on unity from the LGBTQ community given the united voice with which that community speaks at Pride events across the Province.

But can you imagine a situations when ecumenists, evangelicals, fundamentalists, Calvinists, Hyper-Calvinists, liberals, independents and all the other factions of Christianity agree on a common manifesto? After all, in 21st century Christianity, even the clergy cannot agree on the unanimous definition of marriage, the role of women, the existence of Hell, and above all - how to get into Heaven.

The Christian Churches appear to be losing the battle against the secular society as with the exception of the DUP, the majority of Ulster-based political parties have a largely liberal and pluralist agenda.

If the Churches are to have any meaning and influence again in Northern Ireland, especially in a post Brexit society, they will need to form their own Christian Party, which could signal a degree of unity not seen on the island since the referendum campaign following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

But how would a Christian party work given that the Irish Catholic Church has been effectively politically neutered because of the clerical abuse scandals, and Protestantism is now theologically split into at least two dozen separate denominations, all claiming to be the descendants of Martin Luther?

Across the North, the Christians Churches now face their own political Alamo over same-sex marriage. Recognised in the Republic, which now also boasts an openly gay Taoiseach, as well as in mainland Britain, Northern Ireland remains the last bastion against the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

If devolution was restored to Stormont and a free vote allowed, there are now enough pro-same-sex marriage Assembly members to swing the balance in favour of recognition. Even if Stormont flops again and Direct Rule from Westminster imposed, the Tories may use their Commons influence to bully the DUP into agreeing same-sex marriage for Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland was once regarded as one of the great bastions of Christendom, sending thousands of missionaries across the globe over the centuries. But Northern Irish Christianity must now swallow the bitter medicine of 21st century reality that the Southern era of Eamon de Valera’s cosy relationship with the Irish Catholic bishops is over, as is the impact of the famous 1859 spiritual Revival across Ulster.

Northern Irish Christians have only themselves to blame for the advance of the secular society. For decades they basked in the almost ritualistic infighting over whether women should wear hats to church, what type of music should be used, what are appropriate instruments to be played, what translation of the Bible should be read, and should men be allowed to remove their jackets during holy communion!

Christians need to face the reality that they could soon be a minority on the very island which boasts one of Ireland’s greatest saints – Patrick. Secularists may point to the steady decline in numbers attending Sunday worship at mainstream Christian denominations, such as Catholicism, Irish Presbyterianism, Methodism and the Church of Ireland.

But what about the quiet increase in numbers in Christian fundamentalist denominations, such as the Elim Pentecostalists who were founded in Monaghan in 1915? Many of these new Pentecostal churches and denominations see themselves as ‘Christian’, not Protestant or Catholic.

Unfortunately, many of these evangelical and fundamentalist Christians adopt the New Testament view of ‘coming out from amongst the world’ by not participating in politics.

A Christian Party would have the primary goal of ensuring that everyone who classified themselves as ‘Christian’ was not only registered to vote, but actually came out on polling days.

At one time, the fundamentalist pressure group – the Caleb Foundation (named after the Biblical Old Testament Israelite spy Caleb) – claimed to speak for 200,000 Christians; that’s a significant number of local councillors, MPs and MLAs if they all voted.

The Christian Party’s ethos would be to replicate the role of the Southern Afro-American Baptist Churches which ensured large numbers of that community registered to vote.

As for a political agenda, Christ’s Sermon on the Mount – known as the Beatitudes from St Matthew’s Gospel in the Biblical New Testament - would make an excellent anchor for Christian unity.

It has been suggested Karl Marx used the Beatitudes as a foundation for his communist manifesto, merely removing references to God.

It’s not a case of political Northern Ireland wanting a liberal society; it’s a case that too many Christians will not mobilise even to vote. Imagine a Northern Ireland if every Christian eligible to vote did so?


Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter. @JohnAHCoulter


Dr John Coulter has been a journalist working in Northern Ireland since 1978. As well as being a former weekly newspaper editor, he has served as Religious Affairs Correspondent of the News Letter and is a past Director of Operations for Christian Communication Network television. He currently also writes political analysis articles for national newspaper titles.

3 comments :

Steve R said...

This post gave me sudden on-set Autism.

Nicholas Byrne said...

I am a little confused by this article, what is behind it ? who will be this Christian alliance leaders or front it, is the proposed a creation of some kind of Fascist type Lebanon Christian Falangist movement (I'm sure we all remember their dark history and crimes against humanity),or their American off shoots, Fascist groupings, Christians for Zionism etc. Can we just get away from the divisive religious divide and maybe concentrate on unity of all Citizens through, for example workers unity or better still unity through a Workers Republic, whose loyalty is not to Imperialist entities and their administrators, EU / British or Corporate greed and exploitation, but to the ordinary Citizens of Ireland.

Ciaran Irvine said...

"to form their own Christian Party, which could signal a degree of unity not seen on the island since the referendum campaign following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement"

Yeah...united in laughter at such a freakshow