Onward Christian Socialism

Tonight, on Patricks Day, The Pensive Quill features guest writer former Blanket columnist and self proclaimed right-wing commentator, Dr John Coulter.  He maintains that the St Patrick’s Day celebrations for Ireland’s Christian patron saint should be used to boost the concepts of Christian Socialism.

Christian socialism is the springboard which the Labour movement in Ireland, north and south, can use to save the island from the ravages of Tory-style cuts. The Occupy movement, which has set up tent camps near major Christian cathedrals, has shamed the Churches into facing up to their responsibilities in combating poverty.
Ironically, the Cameron-Clegg coalition has become the champion of so-called secularism and pluralism in society. These were once the bastions of extreme socialism and Marxism.  But the Tories and Lib Dems in the UK and the Centre Right Fine Gael in the Irish Republic have pinched secularism and pluralism from the hard line Labour movement.

Northern Ireland, once the heartland of the Irish Bible Belt, was one of the first UK regions to introduce same-sex civil partnerships. The Republic’s paedophile priest scandals have fatally ruptured the Church/State influence cemented by iconic Irish leader Eamon de Valera. Irish Catholicism is on the run and even the Vatican has been publicly condemned by Fine Gael Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

With the peace process holding in Ireland, a new conflict is emerging. The centuries-old sectarianism between Protestantism and Catholicism has been steadily eroded since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Fears that sectarianism would be replaced with racism, homophobia, even Islamophobia, have largely proved unfounded. The new Irish battle is between those with a Christian faith, and those who see themselves as militant atheists, humanists, secularists and pluralists.

It is a scenario which plays perfectly into the hands of Christian socialists, who base their political agenda on the Biblical Beatitudes of Jesus Christ. They are found in the New Testament Matthew’s gospel and list the words of Christ is what has become known as The Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew Chapter 5, verse 3 states: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” If ever there was a call to arms to combat poverty, it is contained – and symbolised – by this verse. However, the major challenge is – do Christian socialists have the will to use the churches to put Christ’s words into practical action on the ground in the island’s working class communities?

Jesus Christ was the world’s first socialist. Some theologians even claim that Karl Marx himself – in spite of Marxism’s obvious atheism - based Das Kapital on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. Just as the Methodist Church inspired many in the early Labour movement in Britain, Christian socialists now have a golden opportunity to assert their influence in the overall Irish Labour movement.

Irish Christian socialists should not be compared to the fundamentalist Moral Majority in the United States, which plays such a pivotal role in the election of Presidents. Unlike the US, Irish Christian socialism is not a hardline, radical Right-wing lobby.

However, the Irish Christian socialist fraternity faces the twin temptations of becoming embroiled in the major debates currently rocking traditional Christian denominations in Ireland – the ordination of openly gay clergy, some of whom have entered civil partnerships, and the ordination of women clergy.

Gay marriage threatens to split Irish Protestantism; the women clergy issue poses a major hurdle for Irish Catholicism. If the Churches decide to bog themselves down in theological fragmentation, the general secularist movement will have won the day.

If traditional Protestant and Catholic denominations do not take up the challenge of the Beatitudes, that baton will be grasped by the steadily growing Pentecostal movement in Irish Christianity.
Steeped in the theology of the Beatitudes, this movement takes its political influence from the US’s Southern black Baptist churches which were to the fore in the American civil rights crusades.


  1. RE: '...baton will be grasped by the steadily growing Pentecostal movement in Irish Christianity.' If and only if they do not become like an ingrown toenail - absorbed in esoteric notions they are on a higher plane of spirituality than the rest of mankind including christians affiliating with an established institution. Atrocities occur within the Pente movement also.

    The Moral Majority aka the clustersofheadfucks are not just a US reality but exist worldwide. Pseudo spirituality dressed up as righteousness. As a Christian ex Catholic i think the only hope for Ireland is the secular way now. NB We christians have failed in every department and should shut our pontificating cakeholes about what we believe, what religion we glue ourselves to and so on. Shut yer faces one and all and live out what we believe - walk the talk.

    Liberation theology...
    RE: 'Jesus Christ was the world’s first socialist.' He also exposed the toxic workings of ALL religious institutions thinktanks & the subjugation they enforce whilst purporting to represent the people. '... you who oppress the people - you whitewashed graves' - Jesus

  2. SMH Mary hon I know what I,d do with that baton....humanity is a better term for the love of most of your fellow man,than christian..that term has been besmirched beyond repair I,m glad to say hon.the sooner we dump or as they used to say consign all religions to the dustbins of history then the sooner we the working classless can unite on a common cause,but my fear is what will those in power replace god with if it looks like he has lost the plot,remember the saying that if god hadnt existed politicians would have invented him

  3. Saint?MaryHedgehog,

    You seem so right about secularism being the only solid way forward for Irish society. It has to be a tolerant secularism. At present there are more than a few who want to describe the secular defence of rights as ‘aggressive secularism.’ This is just ideological positioning. The evangelical phenomenon in the US is worrying because it is so transparently false yet millions buy into it and keep giving the charlatans money.


    It is also said that man who cannot create a single worm makes gods by the dozen

  4. Just found this on The Atheist Camel Blog:

    Christianity in 105 Words

    The belief that a walking dead Jewish deity who was his own father although he always existed, commits suicide by cop, although he didn't really die, in order to give himself permission not to send you to an eternal place of torture that he created for you, but instead to make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh, drink his blood, and telepathically promise him you accept him as your master, so he can cleanse you of an evil force that is present in mankind because a rib-woman and a mud-man were convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. -- Anon. ______________________

  5. Anthony,

    this is hilarious thanks for posting needed a good laugh even though there is truth in the 105 words.

  6. Tain Bo/Marty,

    I found it so funny myself. There is so much truth is so few words. It said it all indeed.


    as always thanks for contributing this piece to the Quill. I guess being ‘right wing’ you will be ideologically opposed to a Christianity that is socialist. I find it heartening to see secularist pluralism being extended to more walks of life and pushing back the authoritarianism of religion. If it doesn’t use others for target practice religion can pretty much go about its business, like any other provate club.

    I don’t see the cleavage in Irish society along the lines you outline. I think we are seeing a reassertion of the old class divide even of it is not being played out at the political level. But then you allude to the autonomy of the political with your reference to secularism having moved or being rearticulated into the Tory/Lib Dem discourse. Blair was pretty weak on secularism in my view. Actually wanted a blasphemy law. Imagine not being able to mock your local golf club.