A Christian minister and a last big message

Rev. Ian Paisley being interviewed by Eamon Mallie for the controversial BBCNI documentary on his life.
Rev. Ian Paisley being interviewed by Eamon Mallie for the controversial BBCNI documentary on his life.

A few months ago, Ian Paisley wrote in his newspaper column about the “fruits of the Spirit.” “…By their fruits you will know them,” says St Matthew.

Later in the New Testament, in his Letter to the Galatians, Paul lists the visible attributes of a Christian life. It’s clearly implied that those who do not show these qualities aren’t truly Christian.

These days the former Free Presbyterian Moderator writes more about religion than about politics. His columns in the News Letter are usually a very short sermon juxtaposed with bitter jibes at Peter Robinson.

The particular ‘sermon’ I’m thinking of, quoted the Apostle Paul on the defining characteristics of a Christian life, “…The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”.

In the Catholic tradition the list has been extended to include, charity, modesty and chastity.

Does that mean Catholics have a more demanding life? Maybe it’s just as well that Protestants haven’t added charity to the list!

At the time, I thought Paisley on the fruits of the Spirit was more than a bit rich, but who am I to say?

Incidentally, mentioning Paul’s letter to the Galatians reminded me of his Epistle to the Ephesians.

One Sunday, a hard-of-hearing parishioner came home from the Martyrs’ Memorial Church in Belfast. He excitedly told his wife that he had just heard Dr Paisley preach his best ever sermon. “It was all about St Paul taking his pistol to the Fenians,” he said.

“My work was as a Christian minister, that has always come first,” Paisley told Eamonn Mallie. Acerbically, the commentator Fionnula O’Connor quipped that the statement, “was as true as anything else he has said.” He also claims to, “have kept the faith”.

The message of his last TV interviews was his own greatness. To paraphrase faded movie star Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, Lord Bannside seemed to be saying, ‘I am big. It’s the party and the church that got small.”

So how does a lifetime belittling others, dishing out cruel insults and howling in anguish at any minor criticism of himself, measure up to the standards set for the Galatians? How does calling his loyal lieutenant of so many years “The Beast”, weigh up on the love, kindness, and gentleness scales?

Then there was that below-the-belt dig at “The Beast” and his family, when he said: “I’m a very happy man. My wife still lives with me and loves me”.

Didn’t the Pharisee get a bad press for thanking God that he wasn’t a sinner, like other men?

Mrs Paisley went further than her husband in her criticism of the Robinsons.

The “sleaze” came from, “the home of the man who’s now leader himself, Peter Robinson,” she said. Baroness Paisley of St George’s is a real lady.

On his church critics, Paisley says: “I regret that they do not have the ear of God on this matter”.

See, what happened when they lost their Pope who was qualified to stand in for the Almighty?

Now we understand why so many Free Presbyterians had, “tears streaming down their faces”, when it was time to say goodbye to their Great Leader.