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Let Evangelical Protestants be Evangelical Protestants

29 May 2014

Pastor James McConnell of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in Belfast has gone and done it. He declared in a sermon that: “Islam is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell”. Golly. Not since the Rev Ian Paisley got the boot into the pope as Old Redsocks and indeed as the Scarlet Woman herself have we heard anything quite so robust in the way of religious rhetoric. (Oddly enough, there was something almost lyrical about it; he had lovely cadences.) But the anti-popery tradition is precisely the context these remarks should be seen in. Evangelical Protestantism has a thing about false prophets; it also has a thing about telling it like it is. For most of its history it self-defined against Catholicism; Islam is just being judged by the same austere criteria of whether it accepts Jesus as a personal Lord and saviour…and I think it’s fair to say that it doesn’t.

Goes without saying, doesn’t it, that the natural response of the police is to investigate the Rev McConnell’s remarks as a hate crime. The remarkable thing about the episode however is that the pastor has been defended by the First Minister Peter Robinson, who says he doesn’t have “an ounce of hate in his body”. Moreover, he robustly declared that he himself had a problem with Muslims in terms of terrorism and sharia law, though obviously he’d trust them to go down to the shops for him…ie and bring back the change. This is so hair-raisingly un-PC, so riotously non-conformist, you have to salute Mr Robinson. It takes an Ulster Protestant to state the obvious from an evangelical point of view; that pastors have a duty to identify false prophets. If he’d been given the chance to elaborate, he’d probably point out that the Koran repeatedly denounces the very idea of the Incarnation and gives the Resurrection short shrift. So, in the strict sense of false prophesy, you can’t fault his logic.

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Now I need hardly say – need I? – that I come from a different end of the pitch, being a left-footer, a Taig. But I’m right with Mr Robinson when he tells the Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness where to get off on all this. Mr McGuinness has expressed his shock, his distaste, his outrage, at Pastor McConnell’s sentiments; Mr Robinson says he’s not going to take lessons on anything from someone so mired in terrorism as Martin McG. And he’s right. While you weren’t looking, Sinn Fein has morphed from a republican party with a close association with the IRA and a natural grounding in the Catholic community, into the most irritatingly politically correct body – north and south of the border – you will encounter. It’s Harriet Harman with a thing about the Easter Rising. But there is the taint of terrorism there. And this being so, I would, if I were Mr McGuinness, go easy on clambering onto the moral high ground; I would let evangelical Protestants be evangelical Protestants.

As for the hate crime thing, I think it should be fought tooth and nail on the simple grounds of religious freedom. Pastor McConnell is, from the biblical and evangelical perspective, entirely within his rights to condemn Islam on the basis of its own tenets. Indeed he may consider he has a duty to do so. I wouldn’t have dreamt of preventing him sounding off about popery in the old days – and I am simply assuming that, like Ian Paisley, he would have given it short shrift; he shouldn’t be gagged now when he turns his Protestant fire elsewhere.

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Show comments
  • pat murphy

    Racism is never ok as th first minister Peter Robinson is supposed to represent all the people of the north of Ireland. The evil of racism must is abhorrent to all decent people. As an old friend of mine always says. “If principles were easy we would all have them”

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Hmm, I’m not sure I’d arrive at the same conclusions. Pastor McConnell’s comments would have been largely ignored had the media not insisted that he repeat his comments as often as possible. But Robinson’s intervention is a different matter. Can you imagine what would have happened if David Cameron had used similar words to support a fire-brand preacher that denounced Islam (and all Muslims, including the ones working in the NHS) in a similar manner? The First Minister seems to think it’s perfectly OK to support a fundamentalist that only a tiny percentage of the Northern Ireland electorate could even begin to understand. The First Minister’s duty is not to be some type of ‘false doctrine’ exorcist. Rather he should at least pay lip service to Northern Ireland’s slow but inevitable transition to becoming a more pluralist and secular society – with a significant percentage of no-doctrine Atheists.

  • Gamerdomme

    The man is an embarrassment to Northern Ireland and I refuse to accept anyone with such backward ideas and closed-mindedness as a politician representing my country. It’s fine to have your own opinions on things, but he should probably keep them to himself and stop making us look like a global cringefest. At a time when there are already attacks on the homes of people from different ethnic, religious or sexual backgrounds, our leaders should be setting an example, not causing aggravation and making a bad situation worse. Religion needs to stay OUT of politics.

  • Terry Field

    This Pastor chappie sounds a very good egg, as my German neighbours would say.

  • LucieCabrol

    If we could just pause for a moment to remember the murdered civilians in our own community, on our own soil,murdered in the name of Islam.

  • LucieCabrol

    Yes but are the muslim’s really adding anything positive?

  • Bonkim

    Melanie – no problem a pastor throwing hell-fire and damnation on Islam or any other religion he is against but for the First Minister to join in – that is a no-go. First Ministers are supposed to speak for all the people of NI and this guy has broken the rule.

  • Roy Treeblossom

    Ideologies are many times ruling-systems inspired and partly controlled by spiritual powers, which can be either divine or diabolic.

  • stag

    Common sense really. Why is it in such short supply these days?

  • Mrs Josephine Hyde-Hartley

    What happened to my comment? Has it been hi-jacked by the usual frustrations one wonders..o well Jesus only ever called people hypocrites, blind guides, thieves..though of course he told Peter “get behind me Satan”. This was because he tells us Peter was more bothered about the concerns of men than the concerns of God.

    If this Pastor thinks Islam is more bothered about the concerns of men than the concerns of God – he’s either genuinely mistaken, trying to force yet another “issue” into the public domain or like Peter was before Jesus told him off.. full of bravado but not much sense.

  • Robertus Maximus

    Congratulations Melanie. A well-written article of non-PC common sense.

  • Nele Schindler

    I love this, it made my afternoon!

  • edlancey

    “Sinn Fein has morphed from a republican party with a close association
    with the IRA and a natural grounding in the Catholic community, into the
    most irritatingly politically correct body – north and south of the
    border – you will encounter.”

    Hardly surprising. Given that they were political Marxists it’s a short step to them becoming Cultural Marxists as well.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    As for the hate crime thing, I think it should be fought tooth and nail on the simple grounds of religious freedom.

    Correct response, wrong reason. It should be fought against on the simple grounds of freedom of speech.

  • Chingford Man

    I’m probably the only person here who has drank coffee with Pastor McConnell in the restaurant of his American-style mega-church many years ago (long story).

    He’s a rough-hewn unsophisticated character who looks like he could pass for a Mafia don. Thankfully he’s also an honest and sincere evangelist with the common touch who leads from the front. When his congregation built his latest 3000 capacity building (and they did literally build it themselves) he was out on the site mixing the cement. His church has been doing the Big Society at home and abroad for years, reaching out to drunkards, drug addicts, former terrorists, etc., people that most other churches would avoid.

    I’m not surprised he took his swipe at Islam. He’s barely missed a week preaching in 60 years and isn’t the type to mince his words. A world away from your average politely wet Anglican prelate.

    Northern Ireland is more politically correct than it was but interestingly the Catholic side is the more PC than the Protestant one. The unionist side of the political class remains close to its grassroots and simply isn’t interested in metropolitan cultural obsessions. In fact the DUP likes nothing more than tweaking the NI equivalents of Hampstead.

    Robinson and his wife used to go to McConnell’s church and I believe the former Finance Minister still does. So it’s quite influential in DUP circles, particularly with those who don’t attend churches in Paisley’s denomination.

    • Bonkim

      Regardless of whether you love or hate Islam, this Pastor certainly is no Christian, has no understanding of the teachings of Christ.

      • Dicky14

        Do you know what evangelical means? Why on earth should a true Christian not try to save heretics from their folly? That most Christian preachers have seemed to treat their duty as the social work division of the Labour Party is a peculiar modern phenomena and hardly one that spreads the Good News.

        • Bonkim

          No problem Dicky14 – I am sure the Taliban and Boko Haram have their own interpretation of evangelism and practise that – same as the Conquistadores and their Holy Fathers rammed the Papist religion down the throat of the natives torched on the stake.

          To Repeat – Pastor James McConnell is no Christian Evangelist following the Bible – doubt if he has the Christian spirit in him. But his sermon surely makes good copy.

      • LucieCabrol

        Hate it.

        • Bonkim

          Good –

      • Terry Field

        Please justify that. The long note above your short stubby little effort rather belies what you said.

        • Bonkim

          By your fruits you will know the tree. Go reason that yourself.

          • Terry Field

            I fear your fruits are withered.
            At some point your guardians have erroneously applied Roundup to you rather than Growmore.

            • Bonkim

              Blessed are those that don’t waffle fruitlessly.

              • Terry Field

                And blessed are those who can waffle fruitfully, and who are not cursed with a dry fruitless stump, and a stem that is bent and withered.

                • Bonkim

                  “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing or saying; forgive those of feeble brains and ignorant of the vagaries of your creation” Luke 23:34 as amended by the human hand .

                • Terry Field

                  Right on Brother. You and I need to protect ourselves from them.

    • LucieCabrol

      Almost brought a tear to my eye, enough to convert me to the way of the book…no.

      • Chingford Man

        It was meant to inform not to proselytize. Obviously wasted on you.

    • Thoughtful Ulsterman

      I guess nominal NI “Catholics” are more PC because many have for years been supporting political parties that don’t represent what would be traditional “Catholic” Christian values in the slightest (and for a lot it is a perceived ethnic marker). Rather, vote for militantly atheist leftist parties that have been supported for the inherently subversive nature of Marxism, along with the ability to stoke-up identity politics for guaranteed votes that leftist parties tend to do (and this isn’t only recent but goes back to their real heroes of Connolly and Pearse who were keen adherents of Marxism). Compare and contrast to southern Irish Catholics who are in an overwhelming majority in the south and hence vote for very traditional conservative parties.

  • The Masked Marvel

    Aren’t there a few Muslim preachers and public figures who would equally deserve McGuinness’s outrage before turning his attention to this pastor?

    • La Fold

      Lets be honest the outrage of a sectarian murderer would be quite ironic if it wasnt so sickening.

      • The Masked Marvel

        Indeed. Quite the moral compass.

  • Sean Swan

    Just in case anybody’s actually REALLY interested in the religious aspect -rather than the usual ethno-sectarian BS.

  • RavenRandom

    If you’re a Christian, then Islam is wrong. You have a duty to convert them to Christianity. Divine nonsense on both sides and all that. I never really understand how people of serious faith can sit by and do nothing whilst people worship other religions.

    • Andy

      Get it right. If you are a Christian (no matter denomination) Islam is heretical and all Muslims are thus Heretics. Mohammed was an Anti-Christ and so to believe in Islam you damn your Soul. A Christian has a duty to convert you and save your Soul.

    • Daidragon

      What should ‘people of serious faith’ be doing to all the non christians then?

      • RavenRandom

        Trying to convert us to their religion. If they genuinely believe our souls are in danger then logically it’s the “moral” thing to do.

        • Liz

          That sounds like a plan that can’t fail.

  • billinghamboy

    Good article about a perfectly Good pastor and I’m with Cooper1992 who wishes for more guts in the pulpit.The Sharia compliant politicians should hang their heads in shame for the (obvious to all normal people) mess we are in on this subject.

  • Sue Ward

    Actually I do trust followers of sharia. I trust them to stone women to death for marrying who they like, to ban girls from school, to hang apostates – including pregnant Christians – to execute gays, to persecute other religions, to destroy works of art and literature. Need I go on?

    • Terry Field

      They sound our sort of chaps.
      Why not let’em in.
      Let ’em live in the old milltowns.
      That’s it!
      I’ll put it to the Home Office.
      I’m sure they will oblige!!

  • Denis_Cooper

    “I wouldn’t have dreamt of preventing him sounding off about popery in the old days”

    Well, it isn’t “the old days”, and Islam is not any old faith, it’s a special case which must be afforded special protection from any form of criticism; ask Cameron or Miliband or Clegg about it and they would tell you straight off to stop being islamophobic and shut up unless you want to end up in court with the prospect
    of a prison sentence.

    That is the kind of country our mainstream political class have now created, and they like it and you can either like it or lump it.

    • an ex-tory voter

      They, as in successive governments both Labour and Tory, have failed in their duty to protect our borders and have allowed the influx of large alien culture bent on the destruction of the existing culture.
      Having failed in their duty these fools are now trying to prevent the inevitable clash of these opposing cultures by bearing down on the indigenous population.
      “This is not going to end well”.

      • billinghamboy

        Well said,why is it that so few of us have seemed to have realised the mess we have been put in?Lot of “have’s” in there,sorry,but it serves to illustrate what the political elite have dumped on the British people.

  • Cooper1992

    Well as an ex-atheist who is now an Anglican, I wish we could hear sentiments like this coming from the Anglican Church.

    I regard the latter as an important component of English culture, professing a ‘light’ Christianity. In doing this it should be highlighting the shocking destruction that Islam is having on this planet and indeed this country.

    Amen to Pastor James McConnell.

    • zoid

      i was raised as an anglican – but look at the composition of the clergy – it’s like the swp in dog collars and preaches a form of christianity-lite that new labour would be happy with.

      just listen to the likes of welby, sentamu, giles fraser and the previous hairy archibish of canterbury – they all seem ot have forgotten about rendering unto caesar that which is caesar’s and of the historical separation of lords spiritual and temporal…..jayz, they issue more opinions about how the world should be than st.angelina of jolie and the poor, put upon st.gwynneth of the conscious uncoupling.

      i gave up on the c of e when they disinvested in caterpillar because it supplied bulldozers to the israelis….that’s not a church issue, that’s socialist pally-vicitimhood pandering (possibly with a dash of good old christian antipathy towards jews)

  • maxmarley

    If the pastor finds it hard to trust Islam, should any of us be surprised.
    According to the Koran, all of us as kafirs/infidels are deemed worthy of some form of retribution.

    • Terry Field

      Does that include Monty Don. And the inhabitants of Woking?
      Just asked.

  • Makroon

    Ulster, twinned with south Waziristan.

    • GUBU

      Surely Birmingham would be more deserving of that particular honour?

  • swatnan

    God preserve us from the likes of Paisley.

  • Greenslime

    I’m an atheist but this is really starting to get to me now. What this idiot (and even idiots are entitled to a view) said is mild compared to what followers of the Prophet say about any other religion (or none) on a daily basis. They say it and authority just shrugs. We say it and the full weight of our PC executive comes down like a ton of bricks.

    Why did UKIP do so well in the recent elections? As a clue, part of the answer is above!

    • Liz

      Not in this country they don’t.

    • Terry Field

      This is one for Peppa Pig.
      He’s Hallal, you know.

  • Graeme S

    I agree with everything this protestant zealot has said about Islam … inaction to meet the threat will be the undoing of British and western Society.

    • la catholic state

      The powers that be encourage inaction in the face of Islamisation. In fact….they positively punish it.

  • Kennybhoy

    “It’s Harriet Harman with a thing about the Easter Rising.”

    Genuinely rotflol! :-)

    • CraigStrachan

      Me too, Kenny. (I’m trying to think of an equivalent description for the PUP. “Kate Hoey with a thing for the battle of the Boyne” doesn’t quite cut it…)

      • Kennybhoy

        Och stop it! My sides are hurtin! :-)

    • Terry Field

      What would rise at Easter in the presence of Harriet Harman. Not a lot, I should wonder.

  • JoeDM

    From my atheist point of view, I would not have used the same words as Pastor James McConnell, but in general his assessment of islam has hit the nail on the head.

    • Shazza

      Agree. Could use words like savage, primitive, barbaric, inhuman…..

      • Terry Field

        What about ‘small’. Can you say that? Can you say someone is ‘small’ if they are not large, and get away with it?
        A bit risque. what???

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Doesn’t this pastor know that !$lam has nothing to do with !$lam?

    & Mr McG is Harridan Harmon with a Kalashnikov and pliers.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Sinn Fein/IRA hasn’t morphed at all. The violent wing of Irish Republicanism has always been wedded to the arrogant left wing politics of Harmon and has always attracted covert support from British lefties. Of course they dare not openly endorse blowing up civilians in pubs or summary executions of innocent women, so instead they have romanticised the “struggle” and focussed with their usual relativism on the Irish Republicans as persecuted victims of perfidious Albion. The invention of Islamophobia is just more of the same.

    The summary executioner and left wing heroine Countess Constance Markievicz of the ICA (her murderous deeds carefully redacted by Wiki and the BBC) was almost a proto-Harmon.

  • Hubward

    It is worth remembering that the target of the Pastor’s undiplomatic comments also contain preachers who have expressed rather strident views on other religions and indeed those of no religion.

    • Ron Todd

      That certain other religion never has to self censor to avoid the wrath of the establishment.

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