Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Labels

I caught 10 minutes of Tony Blur's speech on global terrorism yesterday and sat open-mouthed because he was talking sense eloquently. I missed the bit where, having posed the question as to whether a Muslim terrorist is a true Muslim, he said, "They are no more proper Muslims than the Protestant bigot who murders a Catholic in Northern Ireland is a proper Christian. But, unfortunately, he's still a Protestant bigot".
 
Oh-oh! Red alert in Ballymena. Ian Paisley has taken the hump and called the remark "ill-thought out and provocative". But would he have done so if Blur had talked of a Catholic bigot who murdered a Protestant? I think not. Yet both happened many times. Other than the colour of their bigotry, not a lot separates Michael Stone and Seán Kelly.
 
By responding this way Paisley is just heaping ridicule upon himself from Downing Street - not exactly helping the cause his voters elected him to pursue.
 
How much better, how much more conciliatory the following response would have been: "The prime minister's remarks are accurate but incomplete. I would remind him that bigotry in Ireland is a shared problem, and to portray it as one-sided is to ignore half the problem which he and I need to help resolve".
 
I once heard one of the Corrymeela leaders say that no one in Ireland had ever been killed because of transubstantiation, one of the big doctrinal differences between Roman Catholicism and Post-Reformation Christianity. He was right because church teaching differs in the detail but not in the substance. (As someone with reasonable exposure to churches outside these islands, I'd say Irish Catholicism places much more emphasis on divisive doctrine than mainland Europe where there's much less praying to Mary and much more ecumenism).
 
The truth is that, in Ireland, 'Protestant' and 'Catholic' are religious labels for cultural (indeed tribal) differences and essentially have nothing to do with religion. And so it is that Seán Kelly and Michael Stone both killed even when their respective flavours of Christianity teach the 6th commandment "Don't kill". They prized the label but not the faith.
 
Whatever tribe you're from, look at the essence of what your church has taught your ancestors down the ages. It's a good message. Turn away from hatred and anger and simply accept God's forgiveness (further reading here). Forgiven people can do Big things.

5 Comments:

At 11:25 a.m., Blogger El Matador said...

Hope you don't mind- I reproduced your post on El Blogador.

 
At 1:18 p.m., Blogger B.U. said...

No problem with that. Thanks for your kind comments. BU.

 
At 4:15 p.m., Blogger Jo said...

Good comment, John.

People prize the label but not the faith.

How true.

 
At 8:56 p.m., Anonymous Lorcan said...

Good post. Good to see someone watering the flowers instead of giving out about the weeds.
When given the chance, there is no limit to the potential for the human race.

 
At 11:01 p.m., Blogger EWI said...

Oh-oh! Red alert in Ballymena.

Lol. Nice one.

 

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