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John the Baptist

Religion is a touchy subject in Ireland, especially in the six counties, that part of the nation still subject to alien overrule. This is perplexing to outsiders. The majority of the population there claims affiliation to Christianity, and sets the most horrible examples of inter-communal hatred, bigotry, and bloodshed.

Leaving aside political ideology, the factions that hold sway in different small regions of those six counties have that one thing in common, they are Christians. And a more quarrelsome group of Christians havenít been seen since the days of the early schisms chronicled so well by the historian, Eusebius.

There are Catholic Christians, Protestant Christians, Methodist Christians, Presbyterian Christians, Anglican Christians, Calvinist Christians, a host of others, and bringing up the rag taggle rear, the Jones/Paisley Christians. When I was a wee boy I lived in the six counties. I know whereof I write. Even then we had professed Christians coming out our ears. If you werenít a Christian, what were you? Something unmentionable. An outcast. Someone without a label.

Imagine my horror when I discovered that my best friend, the boy I played with every day on a quiet street in Strabane, hadnít been baptised! At least he didnít remember being baptised.

That was enough to fill me with evangelical zeal. My five-year old theology convinced him that he had to be baptised, and the sooner the better. So off we went, a budding John the Baptist and his disciple, heading for the nearest Catholic church, some streets distant.

Unfortunately, our mothers discovered we were not to be found where we should have been, and started a hurried search. They caught up with us before we could claim sanctuary, and hauled us home.

My friendís mother seemed extraordinarily upset. She was an upright member of her own church, and here was Rome trying to steal away her only child. Thankfully, in a few days the two mothers were reconciled and laughed together at their children's escapade.

Thus ended my career as a modern-day John the Baptist.

I think the Christians in the six counties should take a look at the spectacle they present to the rest of the world. They are the laughing stock of Christendom, or so says my seventy-year old theology.

The End


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