I took myself to Glasgow yesterday for a conference on Sectarianism.  The east of Scotland is largely free of ‘in your face’ sectarianism although that probably means that I haven’t grasped the nuances of it yet.  The west of Scotland is a different matter.  I got my ten minutes at the beginning with representatives of other churches.  Since I left Northern Ireland, I have become more aware of some of the unintended effects of sectarianism – chiefly the way it actually becomes at low levels part of the glue that holds communities and churches together.  It produces a illusory sense of solidarity rooted in ‘us and them’.  In that way it creates a false strength in churches while hollowing them out from the inside.  Some of the fragility in our churches here in Scotland is precisely because that glue isn’t there – and, difficult as it is, we’re the better for it.  By the way, I still believe that the ‘English Church’ tag is sectarian because it carries the combination which is at the heart of all sectarianism – a mixture of religion with one of the other strands of identity.


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  2. My goodness! Not a kind response to people who are writing with integrity and knowledge about a complex subject.

  3. Interesting. I had thought “sectarianism” was passe in the UK. I have made several visits to Scotland and suggest the tiny Christian presence there spend more time on evangalizing than labeling and interfering with the political lives of your neighbors. You can’t imagine how empowering it is when you live in an area where everyone goes to some church regularly. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t go to church. If you get busy with preaching the Word to the unchurched and quit messing about with social engineering you would find out in a decade or so you are living in a Christian society. However,from what I read lately, that’s no longer a priority of Churchmen. Sad. Lovely country.

  4. In Dublin, they’re apt to use euphemisms like ‘ethos’, but sectarianism certainly exists, both religious and social. I vividly remember, when I moved to a different area, my dentist, mistaking what I then was, telling me that there was a nice Protestant lawn tennis club near my new address.

  5. And liberal bigotry is the worst: ‘Thank God I am not like that bigot over there.’
    But to return for a moment to Ian’s comment about sectarianism in the Irish Republic .. it will be interesting to see how the legal action taken by four protestant schools against the government over the programme to redeploy redundant teachers plays out.

  6. I’m not that sure you are disconnected, any more than me, but coming from essentially (maybe) a non-sectarian social structure I am more sensitive to slight versions rather than ‘full-on’. If you look none too hard you can see the cracks though in a society that defines itself by what it is not. And that makes one wonder whether there is anything that is able to define itself by what it is.

  7. We are much nicer in Dublin, we talk about our ‘ethos’ and the Government gives us lots of money for maintaining that ethos. I suspect that there would be a fear of finger pointing by more in your face elements in another jurisdiction if we were not treated with such niceness.

  8. And English Muffins in the US of A. Interesting that you have picked up a sense of ‘the glue’ in the culture. I have to say that I haven’t – apart from a slight holding of the SEC in a supportive wrapping of tweed. It could be that, after the Northern Ireland version, I don’t notice ‘proper sectarianism’ unless it is ‘full on’ [although I think I am more likely to be hypersensitive about it] – or that I, to my shame, live disconnected from the kind of broad-based local community contact that you enjoy!

  9. heard it at my first burial yesterday – the English Church…sounds like a brand name (English Tea!). Not sure I agree with view of E Scotland as I have felt that glue quite pronounced – but then I come from the CofE and am further west than Perth. But it does hollow out… and it makes conversion a two step process at least, if not impossible…

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