That which motivated the opposition of the majority of our forefathers to home rule in the 1880s was a love for the Gospel and its mercies.And an enormous, ear-splitting "Hurrah" for that!
They believed that it would entail the enthroning of Roman Catholicism and undermining of their civil and religious liberty. Their fears were summarised by the maxim "home rule is Rome rule!" and expounded in the Ulster Covenant of 1912.
The clinging to Great Britain by Ulster Protestants in 1921 was seen by them as a parallel to Ruth clinging to Naomi, when bidden by her to return to Moab, (Book of Ruth 1:16-17).
They sought the preservation of their Protestant faith primarily by this political alignment.
That priority was very much alive in the 1880s, 1912, 1921 and in the 1960s and 1970s but is now seen as an anachronism within unionism.
Rev. Ivan Foster, former DUP assembly member, retired Free Presbyterian minister and the man responsible, probably more than anyone else, for bringing down Ian Paisley:
Great Britain of 100 years ago was a place where Biblical Protestantism was much more evident than it is today.The United Kingdom's secularism, multi-faithism, by definition, need not logically follow onto a "hatred of all things scriptural". Liberal secularism, in a British context, permits the likes of Rev Foster and fundamentalists of all religions to propagate their views in the public space, as long as they keep within a fairly liberal (there's that word again) set of laws.
Now its secularism, its multi-faithism, its hatred of all things scriptural, its abandoning of the moral standards considered sacrosanct but a generation ago, and its embracing of the aspirations of those regarded deviants until recently, make it as uninviting as was Sodom to Abraham.
What it doesn't permit is for the proponents of those views to eliminate all other voices from that public space. An example to illustrate what I mean: as far as I am concerned, Christian and other religious fundamentalists are fully entitled to give us their opinion on women’s reproductive rights; they should not be entitled in a modern democracy, however, to force those views on every member of that society, irrespective of that member's personal opinion, beliefs or circumstances.
The truth is a union with a Great Britain grovelling before those who open "their mouth in blasphemy against God", provides no prospects of comfort to those who love the Word of God.Something I’ve contended since the beginning of this blog is that there is a section of Northern Irish opinion whose Britishness and Unionism is conditional and of much less important than their protestantism. All the things Foster rails against in the modern United Kingdom, I, as a Unionist, see at worse as harmless, at best as positive advantages for our nation. That makes me at core a British N.Irishman, Rev. Foster a protestant Ulsterman.
Rather, it is a threat.
Republicans often ask how can they persuade Unionists to think more positively towards their 32 County Nirvana. With British Unionists, they’re genuinely wasting their time- our long term aim is not to ensure the survival of a religious faith but to help the Northern Irish enjoy the same kind of social and cultural freedom enjoyed by our fellow citizens in the rest of the UK. With the likes of Foster, I’m really not so sure. Guarantee them their tribal homeland, a Prodistan where swings are forever locked up on Sundays and where the only good pub is a closed one, and you just might have a chance.
Friends and foes alike of the Orange Order may see certain comparisons with Rev Foster's attitude towards our nation and those held by the OO in the mid 19th Century.