Ireland Needs More Clergy To Become Politicians

Social conservativism can only have a political rebirth in Ireland if the clergy take the lead and enter politics – that’s the controversial recommendation commentator Dr John Coulter makes in the latest edition of his Fearless Flying Column.
Belfast’s recent Pride parade stressed how powerless evangelical Christian Churches are at preventing around 10,000 people from the LGBTQ community and their supporters from marching through the streets of the North’s capital.

The Churches could not stop civil partnerships, combat abortion, halt the spiralling divorce rate, and worse still, stamp out perverts in the priesthood. And if devolution is eventually restored to Stormont, the numbers of MLAs supporting the implementation of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland looks like defeating those who hold a traditional Biblical view of the institution of marriage.

The traditional Irish street preachers’ days are also numbered, and if Churches are not careful, laws could be passed banning certain topics from being lambasted from the pulpit.

The power of the Irish Catholic bishops has been all but obliterated by the child sex abuse scandals.

The vast array of Protestant churches are so disillusioned with Unionist infighting, they have forsaken the ballot box in tens of thousands compared to the 1970s at the height of the Troubles. There is much talk that young Protestants are totally turned off by the Unionist parties’ so-called traditional social conservativism.

But when you travel around many of the evangelical denominations in Northern Ireland, you find that the vast majority of them have thriving youth sections, so could it be that young Christians are turned off political parties because those parties have become too liberal in their approach to social issues?

Ireland urgently needs to put the Bible back into the ballot box. But how will Christians achieve this if they won’t even come out to vote?

Ironically, I came across a quote from seven years ago from the hardline fundamentalist Evangelical Protestant Society which, in my opinion, had a relevant ecumenical message for all Irish Christians.

The EPS is better known for branding the Pope as the Biblical Anti Christ, and spearheading any campaign against Papal visits to Britain.

The 2010 summer edition of the EPS mouthpiece, Ulster Bulwark, carried an article entitled ‘Christians should be in politics.’ It quoted a little known fundamentalist – the Rev Tim McGlynn of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing).

Claiming this cleric “is from a Roman Catholic background”, the article quoted Rev Tim as stating:

We need a generation of godly men and women who will bring the convictions of a Biblical and Reformed faith back into the councils, institutions and parliament of the nation once again.

That was 2010 – but Rev Tim, wherever he is today, should take comfort from my opinion that his message is as relevant in 2017 as it was when he first penned it at the start of the decade. So how could this social conservativism work in practice?

The Catholic Church should lift any ban on ordained clerics becoming councillors, MLAs, TDs, MEPs and MPs. They should not have to leave the priesthood or holy orders before standing for election.

As a weekly newspaper deputy editor in the late 1980s, I recall the many contributions which the controversial cleric, Father Pat Buckley, now Bishop Buckley, made when he was elected as an Independent to Larne Borough Council.

Week after week, he sat in the Unionist-controlled Council chamber in his clerical suit. He may still be regarded as a maverick by the Catholic hierarchy, but he broke the mould that only Protestant clerics could get themselves elected.

Love him or loathe him, Ian Paisley senior – the late Lord Bannside – slowly nudged his DUP into power-sharing with republicans. He was greatly assisted in this process by other Free Presbyterian clerics, including the Gospel-singing former South Antrim and Mid Ulster MP Willie McCrea.

Many Protestant churches have to exorcise the taboo of allowing women ministers into the pulpits as a first step to getting female Protestant clerics elected.

The Catholic Church will have to make celibacy optional for priests, nuns and members of its holy orders as a first step to allowing its clergy get elected, too.

Irish Christians and Biblical standards are being steadily marginalised across the island. For too long, Christian Churches have basked in the luxury of trivial theological debates about what type of head-gear women should wear at church; how loud men’s ties should be during a religious service; what type of music should be sung; what kind of musical instruments should be used during the praise time; where non-members of the church should sit during worship; should men be allowed to remove their jackets during a warm summer service … and the list goes on!

Some churches in Ireland insist that a person has a formal interview with church leaders before they are deemed suitable to join, giving rise to the stereotype that it is harder to get into some so-called Christian churches in Ireland that to enter Heaven itself! Perhaps the key question which should be asked is – What Would Jesus Do?

Roll on the day when a Christian coalition of married Catholic priests and ordained Protestant clerics holds the balance of power at Stormont and the Dail.

The Bible has often been blamed for sparking the Troubles with For God and Ulster on one side, versus Holy Mother Ireland on the other.

But the splits and scandals which have bedevilled the Christian churches in Ireland can only be truly healed when the Bible is restored to its once influential position in politics.

No doubt the supposedly increasingly vocal band of secularists, humanists, atheists, agnostics, and militant liberalists will be calling for me to be burnt at the stake as a heretic for daring to suggest there is still a role for Biblical Christianity in Irish politics.

I wonder, too, how many thousands of people would turn up to attend a Biblical Christian Pride March through Belfast. The LGBTQ community campaigned consistently over the decades for equality and the right to be recognised as a significant minority on this island. I wonder how long it will be before Biblical Christianity is reduced to the status of ‘minority’ in Ireland?

I’ve had my knuckles rapped in the past for daring to suggest that a time may come in Irish politics where Biblical Christians form their own Irish Christian Party because existing movements have become too liberal in their policies. Maybe the day of the so-called ICP is now about to dawn?

  • Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

1 comment to ''Ireland Needs More Clergy To Become Politicians"

  1. "But the splits and scandals which have bedevilled the Christian churches in Ireland can only be truly healed when the Bible is restored to its once influential position in politics."

    What utter shite. All the division in Ireland can be sourced from the Bible, and people saying "Ah but they are not interpreting it correctly".

    The dead-set last thing Ireland North&South needs in MORE religion in politics. Let our young be free of your prejudices please.


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