Monday, July 22, 2013

The Orange Order: Faith Proclaimed or Feet Parading?

The other day, I was in a national shop in a local town. The assistants are always polite, always friendly, mostly chatty. Picking up and scanning the copy of The Irish News I was buying, the lady quickly made a few assumptions and asked me who would win on Sunday. I had to confess that I didn't know what she was talking about. It turns out it was the GAA Football Ulster Final yesterday between Donegal and Monaghan, which was won by Monaghan 0-13 to 0-7, although I couldn't have told you that without looking.

The assumptions were plain and obvious - buy the Irish News, be a Roman Catholic / Nationalist / Republican, and chat about Gaelic Football. It's precisely because those assumptions are in place (similarly, probably with those on the 'other side' who buy the Newsletter) that I wanted to share a couple of articles from The Irish News last week. Many who need to read them would never ever pick up a copy of The Irish News - but perhaps they'll read them here.

They are both by William Scholes, the faith and religion editor, and were published on Thursday 18th and Friday 19th July. First up, 'Faith proclaimed becoming lost to order's feet proclaiming.'

In it, he explores the 'juggernauts of religion, culture and politics' colliding for the Orange Order. Reflecting on the scenes from the Woodvale Road after they were banned from returning along the Crumlin Road past Ardoyne shops, he says, 'Sorting out where it stands on faith would seem to be central to that.' As he declares, 'Something has clearly gone badly wrong for the Orange Order, certainly in Belfast, if feet parading has become more important than faith proclaimed.'

While recognising that Belfast is a case apart, and in other places, such as Fermanagh, the Twelfth is an entirely different kind of a day, it all comes down to identity:

It seems to be a question of identity. If the Christian's identity lies "in Christ", then while flags, parades and other expressions of culture can remain vitally important, they are no all-consuming.

My thought is on how the actions of attacking the police can be a witness to the love of Christ and his concern for the lost.

The second article came a day later, entitled 'Orange Order needs to have critical friends.'

Scholes focuses on the debate in the recalled Stormont Assembly on Tuesday on the parades issue.

There was going to be a showdown. And after a weekend of violence, intemperate words and the usual blame game, this wouldn't just be any old showdown.
It would be Achilles stepping out of his tent on the Plain of Scamander and confronting Hector at the gates of Troy. It would be King Henry V at Agincourt on Saint Crispin's Day.
But in the end, it was more like Noggin the Nog. Or was it Mike the Knight?
Tuesday's debate at the recalled assembly was the build up to the let-down, at least for anyone expecting a full-on blood on the carpet battle..
For anyone who clings to the belief that politics is the answer to our problems, there were glimmers of hope to be discerned.

The end point and conclusion of his opinion piece should provide a plan for the future:

It is highly tempting for the silent majority of the Protestant community - as if it were a homogeneous bloc in the first place - to allow its apathy towards the Orange Order in Belfast to turn into disavowal.
But that would be a mistake. If Orange ears are apparently shut to nationalists, then it is for other Proetstants to help them see another way.
Some might prefer the order to stop paying lip service to a Christianity its actions at Woodvale contradict but as long as being "Christ-centred" is part of its DNA, Church leaders in particular will have a duty to be involved.

Two important articles, albeit almost entirely hidden away from the eyes who most need to see them, because they're appearing in the Irish News. We give thanks for the peaceful parade / protest on Saturday, but the order needs to find a new way forward, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the whole community as a matter of first priority.

Note: Both articles are used with the permission of the author, William Scholes.

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