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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Fundamentalist Holyman:
The Singing Bigot

Pastor Bunter loves the Lord, Amen
Pastor Bunter loves the Lord
Pastor Bunter
He is a Catholic Hunter
Pastor Bunter Loves the Lord, Amen

Praise the Lord
Pass the Pipe Bomb

Anthony McIntyre • Fourthwrite, Summer 2005

After watching BBC Spotlight devote an entire edition to the fire and brimstone Christians of the Bethal evangelical church on the Shankill Road's Berlin Street I was asked was there any point to the media expending time and energy dwelling on singing bigots and their opponents. What Henry Kissinger once said of university politics as easily applies to evangelical disputes. They are 'so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.'

True, the intrigue at the Bethal seemed as bizarre as internal discussions among any of the cults from the range of Trot groups that populate the Belfast squabble scene. Why would anybody be remotely interested? The dysfunctional types that often flock to the certainty of the sect share the same fervour for the absurd. Whom they worship, Christ or Trotsky, is secondary to the need to worship. Uproarious viewing maybe, but what Spotlight did was to lance the boil of fundamentalist bigotry allowing the viewer to see the poisonous puss that festered within.

Twenty two years ago myself and Phil McCullough from the Markets ended up in Crumlin Road Prison's D Wing, having been temporarily transferred there from the H-Blocks to stand trial on the basis of allegations made by a born again Christian. The charges were meaningless as both of us were serving life anyway. Still, it was an inconvenience for which we were willing to assign the blame to the Christian who had his Damascus road conversion in the unlikely setting of Amsterdam.

D Wing had its fair share of burning bush merchants all in need of some solace to get them through their burd. In truth they were not all that different from prison Marxists. The books were different but the motivation was the same. The message was for the most part abandoned once the jail gates slammed behind them. Skills other than those acquired from reading Das Kapital or the Bible were the currency of the street.

Despite the jail house jokes that warn against picking up soap in the washrooms, my sole concern when standing in the next shower cubicle to a raving evangelical one day in the Crum was that he might assault me with his prayer, not his pecker. Like Elwood of Blues Brothers fame this redneck believed he was on 'a mission from God'. Preacher men like their meat young. I was twenty five at the time which probably made me about eighteen years too old to arouse the lecherous bible thumpers. Even were I to have made the grade, a broken nose would have dampened the Lord lover's ardour. That hardly spared me the fifteen minutes of listening to unadulterated tripe about 'the Lord'. His gobbledegook about being 'saved' left me as nonplussed as rants on the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat. It amazed me that adults can spew such tripe. Although in some countries they make you president for it. In others your head is hacked off for denouncing it. Not content at being afflicted they seem intent on inflicting whatever it is that ails them on the rest of us.

Seeing the Crum Christians in action left the acrid taste of scepticism in my mouth. Theirs was a burn the sinner mentality coupled with a devotion to a simple-minded know nothingness; a belief in Adam and Eve, the power of snakes and apples coupled with a literal biblical interpretation of creation. Most crucially, at the core of their belief system sat a hate rationalised as Christian love. Four years later, and long since back in the blocks, I was shown a letter by a born againer who had become a gone againer and had abandoned the good ship Jesus. He was now reading porn books rather than the bible, having suddenly discovered that his tongue had potentially more uses than spouting gibberish. The letter he displayed was from Kenny McClinton, a convicted Catholic killer. What struck me about McClinton was that his hatred was as pathological as ever. It was also a safer bet given that no sanction was applied to the purveyor of a hate masked in theological terms. 'Just hating for the Lord, brother.' It was a safe way for McClinton to carry on venting the sentiments he held before arrest and subsequent conviction. For the targets of his bile, the outcome was hardly innocuous.

Much of this fundamentalist embracing of hatred was exposed in the Spotlight feature, which focussed on Pastor Clifford Peeples. Having read a finely crafted article in Fortnight by Peeples during his imprisonment in Maghaberry, the thought struck me that he might have found an outlet for his energy, channelling it into writing for which he seemed to have quite a talent. Sensitive writing for the pastor, however, proved nothing other than a chicane that he came across on his otherwise unbroken biblical journey of hating with a perfect hatred.

This particular devotee of the Lord remains a raving bigot who seems to have taken his spiritual direction on Catholicism from the late George Seawright. George's bible might easily have been written in a German prison in the 1920s. The theology was stark but simple: all Catholics should be burned along with their priests. Spotlight was uncompromising in its narrative: Pastor Peeples and his hillbilly sidekick, 'Preacher John' Sommerville have merely found new outlets for their hatred.

Peeples and Somerville - a hybrid combination cemented by a viscous and visceral hatred. Peeples likes to sing while Sommerville made his name murdering singers. In a normal world it is not over until the fat pastor sings. But what if he hits the wrong note in the ear of Preacher John? Will that old murderous hatred of singers kick in?

How the congregation of the Bethal resolve their power struggle is, after Spotlight, unlikely to be done behind closed doors. The one positive sign was that the former pastor, John Hull, and his supporters seemed horrified by the nefarious anti-Catholicism of Peeples and his cabal. But they must fear a sign from God encased in a pipe tossed through the windows of their homes or church. Some reports have suggested that the local UVF may arbitrate by casting Peeples off to the desert.

Even if the loyalist group were to do this, there remain 42 churches on the Shankill. Small wonder that some loyalists complain about the poor educational attainment level of working class Protestants. A much healthier intellectual atmosphere would prevail in the area were there 42 pubs rather than the current proliferation of centres for the promotion of superstition.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

29 August 2005

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