Many people view me as spiritually mixed up! Then again, many folk believe I’m just mixed up generally as a result of my experience in life as a preacher’s kid.
After all, I am a Presbyterian minister’s son, married to a Baptist pastor’s daughter, and worship regularly in an Elim Pentecostal church - so work that one out theologically!
Last week, the mainstream Presbyterian Church held its General Assembly and while there were some interesting debates around gender equality and same-sex marriage - especially during the breaks when delegates had the opportunity to talk privately with one another - the subject of how faith should be celebrated in schools was largely ignored.
The bottom line is that Christian Churches - of whatever denomination - must get out of their pulpits and pews and fight to save faith schools in Ireland or the secular society will have us drowned in a sea of forced integrated education.
While it makes common sense to cut the number of administrative bodies controlling schools, that should not mean we waste millions of much-needed funding on the integrated education sector.
Northern Ireland requires a clear, single education body which at the same time protects the identity of the Christian ethos.
Listening to the pundits who sing the praises of integrated education, you would think they had magically discovered the cure for eight centuries of conflict in Ireland.
But in Northern Ireland, the regional colleges and universities have been providing integrated education for decades.
For example, affectionately still known as the ‘Tech’, these regional colleges have had Protestants and Catholics mixing together in the classroom for generations.
Yet Stormont seems hell-bent on slashing funding to such colleges.
It will only be a matter of time for the trendy liberals of the ‘politically correct’ brigade are successful in banning Christian morning assembly in many schools whether they be primary or secondary.
Meanwhile, the Christian Churches sit on their asses and do nothing.
Too many churches, especially in mainstream Christianity, are more interested in preserving their image than helping young people cope with the stresses and strains of modern society.
Okay, I fully recognise the pressures which the pandemic has placed on places of worship, especially as a result of the initial 2020 lockdown when all churches were physically shut, forcing many of them to go online for Sunday worship and mid-week Bible studies.
The pluralist and secular society has provided a more attractive alternative to the traditional Sunday School and Bible classes which were all the rage in the Super Seventies.
Instead of pushing integrated education, the Stormont Executive (once it has Covid firmly under control) should pump cash into helping existing schools provide sound Christian education classes as part of the school, college and university curriculum.
If the mainstream Catholic and Protestant denominations are not careful, teaching Christian values will be booted out of schools altogether.
In this scenario, it will be left to the growing band of smaller independent Christian denominations, such as the Elim Pentecostalists, to provide Biblical teaching to our children.
Elim celebrated its Irish centenary in 2015 and has become one of the fastest growing faiths on the island, pulling in converts from across the religious divide on both sides of the border.
While abortion, same sex relationships and gender identity are important subjects for the Christian Churches to take stands on, those churches must not forget that the real battle for the Christian faith will be fought in the schools.
Catholicism is still recovering from the clerical sex abuse scandals while Protestantism is so split it’s hard to know who really speaks for the faith. For example, I’ve used the term ‘mainstream’ to describe the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s General Assembly.
There are also other denominations which lay claim to the term ‘Presbyterian’. There is also the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church (known as the Covenanters), the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church (also known as the Unitarians), and not forgetting the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster founded in 1951 by the late Rev Ian Paisley. Put bluntly, which one of these five is the ‘true’ Presbyterian faith?
Lose the schools battle and the churches might as well shut up shop for good.
Unfortunately, many Christians are too scared about upsetting people. Many clerics need to have the courage to get into the community and defend Christian values.
Have we reached a situation post Covid where there are too many toothless twits wearing dog collars who are more interested in getting pats on the back from their flocks rather than getting their hands dirty for the faith?
Then again, the genuine open air evangelists have had their work tarnished by the increasing band of so-called street preachers whose sole aim seems to be to provoke sections of the community and get themselves arrested.
These street provocateurs are more interested in getting themselves branded as modern-day Christian martyrs than actually preaching the Gospel.
Social media footage of some of these street provocateurs in action with their public address systems fuels the perception they are more interested in taunting sections of society, such as the police or the LGBT community, than genuine and responsible evangelical Christian preaching.
The problem is, these street provocateurs are getting the genuine open air evangelists a bad reputation and all are becoming tarred with the same brush.
Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.