By Bruce, Steve
New Statesman (1996) , Vol. 125, No. 4312
A cold and wet Friday lunchtime in November. Shoppers scuttle across the broad street, from one centrally heated shop to another. At one corner of the square a small band of attentive followers stands around a large man with a microphone, a loudspeaker and a message from the Lord. The shoppers pay no attention. Just another street preacher on a corner in Belfast.
Except this preacher has an RUC bodyguard and is unique in the history of western civilisation. He has founded a church and a political party and both enterprises have prospered. He has sat in the House of Commons for 26 years and has been elected to the European Parliament four times. The church he started 50 years ago has 57 congregations in Northern Ireland, two in the Irish Republic, eight in mainland Britain, and more than 20 in the United States, Canada and Australia. The Reverend Dr Ian R K Paisley MP MEP has come a very long way since he learnt his street-preaching technique in south Wales.
The regular Friday open-air spot outside Belfast's City Hall is roots Paisley. Contemporary Paisley can be seen on Sunday, in his modern Martyrs Memorial church on the Ravenhill Road in east Belfast. A taxing schedule of services begins with an hour-long prayer meeting. Then the morning service with a long sermon. After that, he is taken home - in an armour-plated police car - for lunch. After lunch he would normally preach in one of the outlying Free Presbyterian churches but today he is back in his pulpit to conduct a service for the Orangemen of Ballymacarrett District No. 6. A brief break for tea and it is back again for a second prayer meeting and the evening Old Time Gospel Hour.
This is Reformation Sunday: the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his objections to the mediaeval church on the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg. The three sermons he delivers are vintage Paisley. The distinctive doctrines of the Reformers are set out against a background of dire warnings. Rome has never stopped fighting the light. After the Reformation it used the violence of the Inquisition to restore its grip on Europe. Now it condones the violence of the IRA as Irish nationalism strives to destroy one of the last strongholds of the evangelical gospel. We may not know when the Lord will return to complete his work but there are plenty of signs that we live in the End Times and the growth of the European Union is one of them.
A European super-state is one of the events prophesied in the Bible (and, as Paisley puts it, "prophecy is history before it happens") as marking the approach of the (Biblical rather than chronological) millennium. The 12-star flag of the European Union is a popish symbol, the crown of the Virgin Mary.
Ulster Protestants will resist the march of Rome. They should also resist the enemies within: the compromising liberal Protestants, the "ecumeniacs" who betray their inheritance. The compromisers of true religion have their counterparts in the political sphere.Just as the Free Presbyterian Church maintains a Biblical witness against apostasy in religion, the Democratic Unionist Party will maintain a political protest against any would-be compromisers in the Ulster Unionist Party.
But above all Paisley is an evangelical preacher. It is not enough to be an ethnic Protestant or a regular church-goer Or to be good-living. That is the popish doctrine of works. Only acceptance of the once and forever sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ can save us. We must be washed in the Blood of the Lamb.
On Monday morning the car with the thick green glass windows that sits unusually low on its suspension delivers Paisley to Stormont for yet another session of the talks on the future of Northern Ireland. The main business is limping through lengthy presentations of each party's views on the decommissioning issue. The previous week the UK Unionist Robert McCartney had spoken for two days. So Paisley spoke for two days and two hours. …