7 January 2015


Joshua T. Searle. The Scarlet Woman and the Red Hand: Evangelical Apocalyptic Beliefs in the Northern Ireland Troubles. Lutterworth Press, 2014.

Most British people of my generation can remember the long Northern Ireland Troubles, the euphemistic term for the de-facto civil war that raged in that province from 1968-1998 and is not entirely dead. They also remember that religion fused with ethnicity played a major role in that conflict. 🔻
This book looks at the role that evangelical Christians played in that conflict, especially those associated with Ian Paisley, who is the single most quoted figure here. Searle demonstrates how apocalyptic visions and rhetoric played a major role in the Protestant world view. Essentially this was a world view in which Revelation was the most important book in the Bible (and it seems the Gospels the least important), and in which Ulster Protestants see themselves as the last true Christians, under siege from the forces of darkness, led by the Roman Catholic Church, perceived by them as the whore of Babylon, anti-Christ and etc. For some of these evangelical protestants, the Northern Ireland conflict is more or less the battle of Armageddon itself.

Though Searle, who is on the facility of Spurgeon’s college, a Baptist theological college, describes this book as a “sympathetic account”, I have to say that I found little to be sympathetic about the world view of these people, indeed, in particularly the final chapter on Apocalyptic dualism, this is a portrait of people who see the world in sharply dualistic terms, and who see themselves as the one true saving remnant, the one true core of the one true faith, an ideology not that removed from the Moslem jihadis. Of course all the rest of us are just so much trash to be thrown on the rubbish heap. They share, to a lesser extent, the same hostility to joy, art, music and the whole good earth in general.

Perhaps the saddest revelation in this book is that Ian Paisley did not really experience any near-death experience conversion to peace and love, and remained the same old Paisley underneath the 'Chuckle Brothers' routine with Martin McGuiness.

I should warn any casual reader looking for enlightenment on this subject that this book has all the hallmarks of the regurgitated thesis, in that parts are written in near incomprehensible jargon, and it would appear that even Baptist theology students have to pay homage to St Derrida these days. -- Peter Rogerson.

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