of all, full disclosure: I've always had a soft spot
for Dr. Paisley. This seems to surprise many people,
although I know I am by no means the only Northern
Ireland Catholic who feels this way about the good
would a Catholic priest like me - with a life-long
commitment to ending English government oppression
and Unionist injustice in Northern Ireland (through
nonviolence) - have a certain regard for The Big Man?
(After all, Dr. Paisley is best known in America for
his fundamentalist hatred for " Roman doctrine
", and for regarding the Pope as the anti-Christ).
Be All Bad
let me give some reasons off the top of my head:
Dr. Paisley has often attacked Tory governments
and he doesn't like Bishops. Such a person can't
be all bad!
comes from a poor working -class background and
was never identified with the landed-gentry or ruling
-class Northern Ireland.
fact that Dr. Paisley has always shaken up the establishment
both in England and Northern Ireland has - let's
admit it - always given Catholics/Nationalists a
certain vicarious satisfaction.
do not believe (nor do I think most Catholics do,
either) that Dr. Paisley is any more anti-Catholic
than other Unionist leaders.
the good news from this Fermanaghman. Now for the
am under no illusion as to the unfortunate legacy
of Dr. Paisley (although I'm well aware there's always
been a " Paisley" in the history of English
rule in Ireland).
feel it's sad Dr. Paisley did not use his undoubted
power and charisma to work for reconciliation and
equality in Northern Ireland. He could have done so,
and yet have championed the cause of his " own
people". Indeed -- and here is the grandmother
of all rubs --the only real way he could have championed
his own people was by working for the justice of all
is the lesson of history and - presumably, more importantly
for Dr. Paisley - the lesson of The Holy Bible. As
the distinguished American Protestant Scripture scholar,
Walter Brueggemann, says: "In biblical faith,
the doing of justice is the primary expectation of
will remember it was recently revealed that the late,
infamous segregationist, Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC),
had an African-American daughter. When asked if the
Senator had ever offered any explanation as to all
his ugly racist comments, his daughter, now 75 years
old, replied that she did not believe he was a racist
at heart but that " he was only trying to please
cannot know what's in Dr. Paisley's heart. But I do
know his words and actions have defined his image
and how the America public sees him.
first question people have about a religious leader
is " how good is his spiritual discernment?"
- how good is he at reading the signs of the time
and helping to build up the Kingdom of God.
Paisley " discerns" Pope John Paul 11 to
be the anti-Christ. Now given that American Protestants,
especially conservative Protestants, love this Pope
what will they think of Dr. Paisley's spiritual discernment?
politically speaking, Americans, especially conservative
Americans, like President Bush, love Prime Minister
Tony Blair. Yet they will know Dr. Paisley has opposed
Mr. Blair tooth and nail. What will these Americans
think of Dr. Paisley's political discernment?
such Americans want to publicly identify with Dr.
Paisley's views? How many, for example, will be prepared
to admit, as I do, that they have a certain regard
for him? Remember the presidential campaign of George
W. Bush was almost derailed because of his visit to
Bob Jones University, which gave Dr. Paisley his doctorate.
the certain regard I have for Dr. Paisley - he is,
after all, my Ulster brother, and, more importantly,
my brother-in-Christ - I fear the Unionists/Protestants
of Northern Ireland have reason to be concerned now
that Dr. Paisley is seen to be their top political
the Deep South?
David Trimble was seen to be the top political leader,
American opinion was conflicted about his "on
again, off again"performance. There was ambivalence
about TrimbleS although he was out of Vanguard and
a hard-line Orangeman, didn't he still claim to be
for the peace-process? And didn't he co-win the Nobel
Prize for Peace? Maybe, just maybe, Americans reasoned,
Trimble might accept the concept of equality with
Catholics, as Whites in the Deep South were forced
to accept - most of them, at least publicly, anyway
- the concept of equality with
Americans have any ambivalence about Dr. Paisley,
the Real Protestant Leader - now joined by Jeffrey
Donaldson, the Continuity Unionist Leader?
will this play in America? And how, at the end of
the day, will it serve my Protestant brothers and
sisters in Northern Ireland?
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