Evangelicalism and National Identity in Ulster, 1921-1998

Evangelicalism and National Identity in Ulster, 1921-1998

Evangelicalism and National Identity in Ulster, 1921-1998

Evangelicalism and National Identity in Ulster, 1921-1998

Synopsis

Evangelical Protestantism in Ulster is the most influential and historically significant sector of Christianity in Northern Ireland. This innovative and controversial book explores different Evangelical responses to the declining fate of Ulster Unionism during the period from Partition in 1921to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Focusing on how religious belief has interacted with national identity in a context of political conflict, it eschews a reductionist or purely historical approach to interpreting religion. Rather, using a combination of historical and theological material, PatrickMitchel offers a critical assessment of how Evangelical identities in Ulster have embodied the religious beliefs and values to which they subscribe. Evangelical Protestantism is often associated only with the Orange Order and with the controversial figure of Ian Paisley. This book's fresh analysisof a spectrum of Evangelical opinion, including the frequently overlooked moderate Evangelicals, provides a more rounded picture that shows why and how Evangelical Christians in Ulster are deeply divided over politics, national identity, and the current Peace Process. Patrick Mitchel concludes witha critical assessment of the political and theological challenges facing different Evangelical identities in the context of identity conflict in Northern Ireland. This is an invaluable guide to understanding both the past and contemporary mindset of Ulster Protestantism.

Excerpt

'Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and 'Love your neighbour as yourself.'

(Luke 10: 27 quoting Deuteronomy 6: 5 and Leviticus 19: 18)

'Everything is permissible'—but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible'—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

(1 Corinthians 10: 23)

From the discussion so far it is apparent that national identity is a complex phenomenon that touches upon many areas of individual and group behaviour. While my approach to nationalism and identity has been of a general nature, there have been many 'echoes' of the struggle between the two opposing national identities that shaped much of twentieth-century Irish history. It is time to turn to those echoes in order to begin to apply the functions of national identity to Ulster unionism.

My goal is a reconstruction of the character of unionist identity. This will be attempted in three stages. The first stage is an examination of the ideological content of unionism's historical myths that function to legitimize contemporary beliefs. The discussion below demonstrates how unionist mythology is double-edged, embracing both negative stereotypes of its Other while simultaneously incorporating positive understandings of itself. The second stage is how unionists sought to implement and express their identity in what I call unionism's 'golden era'; the period from Partition to the collapse of Stormont. These fifty years of unionist hegemony were characterized

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