Alan in Belfast

I love the phrase "The Robinsons could never be Republican in Northern Ireland but in America they would be Republican all day long!"

And I agree that we have much to learn from Ainsley Hayes. She seems to be a kind of prophet - misunderstood at every turn, but powerful with her tongue.

We could do with some more folk Ainsley Hayes in Northern Ireland politics. There are some about - and they stick out liek sore thumbs from the rest.

But grace in lives, families, communities, parties, and even our churches would be a good thing.


As regards the West Wing reference, try this clip which, for me, summarises the fictional President's passionate approach to his faith.


Mark Finlay

Many thanks for this contribution.

I love politics, I love Ulster, I love West Wing (particularly the Ainsley Hayes character) and I have struggled personally with trying not to laugh and perpetuate the distribution of the myriad jokes bombarding me by multiple-channels of communication. (As a side, I wish our creative industries would channel the brilliance and wit into something that makes NI a few quid and grows our economy.)

Meanwhile, I am conscious of my own inadequacy and how we all [I] fall short of our [my] own expectations in our [my] own lives. More important I am conscious that 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God'. Grace is not one of my [our] better disciplines!

I heard the Alliance Party were talking of a more humble DUP. I pray we all become more compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient and bear with each other and forgive.


Nice article. I love Northern Ireland and its people, but in christian ciricles it is easy to jugde fundamentalists for being self righteous, but its easy for us to become just as bad in judging them, or a patronising tone or moralisng them in 'giving them advise'.... afterall let him who is without sin....
Maybe the church leaders in this land need to get serious about discipleship and building Godly character in those who claim to follow the name and live for the fame of Jesus.


Slightly off-topic.
What makes one a "fundamentalist"?
Is it beliefs held? - and if so, who or what specifies the tipping-point?
Or is it not beliefs held, but the way in which one outworks those beliefs that incurs the label?

Paul Hutchinson

Hello Mark

"Fundamentalism" is a pretty slippery word to define, and it's not as objective as it might sound. There are very few people today who would be happy to call themselves "fundamentalists".

Originally, in the USA in the early 20th century, the word was associated with conservative evangelicals (named after a series of influential articles called "The Fundamentals" written to defend orthodox Christianity against modern watering-down). For a time, evangelical Christians would have been happy to call themselves "fundamentalist".

However, the word very quickly became associated with extreme viewpoints and an unwillingness to engage with opposing views. Today, people can sometimes use the word a bit lazily, to mean "a religious person who's more conservative than I am". The word also now has strong associations with Islamic terrorists (even though Muslims generally see it as a Christian label).

Even so, talking about "fundamentalism" can help us look at the ways in which people (of various religious and secular persuasions) can hold rigidly to the things they believe, to the point where they get things out of perspective, get aggressive towards people who don't share their beliefs, and damage the credibility of the things they believe in. For example, evangelical Christianity has always supposed to have had the transforming grace of God at its very centre. And yet the impression that many people have of evangelical Christians is of people who are quick to attack anyone who diverts from a certain set of beliefs and lifestyle, and who worship a God who is basically out to get you (unless you can measure up to these approved standards).

Coming back to the original topic, thanks for your thoughts on this, Steve. It's easy to despair at the behaviour of people we feel have let us down, it's harder to follow Jesus' "love your enemies and pray for them" approach in a meaningful way.

I am reminded of the story of the Sunday school teacher who was teaching her class the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. At the end of the story, she closed in prayer, saying "Thankyou God, that we are not like that Pharisee..."

Paul Hutchinson

(Sorry, last post should have been addressed to "Me" rather than "Mark"....)

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