Second Coming of Paisley
My work has been peer reviewed and published through the Syracuse University Press
(The Second Coming of Paisley: Militant Fundamentalism and Ulster Politics) and the New Hibernia Review (“The ‘Prophet’ of Interposition: The Reverend Ian Paisley and American Segregation”). It has won two awards (from the American Conference for Irish Studies and The Louisiana State University Graduate School). However, it has come under dubious criticism from self-righteous secularists who fail to understand how Christian devotion and theology can become part of one’s worldview.
Contrast the following reviews (Links are provided due to space limitations):
The Irish Times declined to print my response, thus preventing a defense of my work and abetting to a journalistic lynching. Accordingly, I will publish it for them:
On July 20th, Susan McKay reviewed my first book; The Second Coming of Paisley: Militant Fundamentalism and Ulster Politics. As a new academic and an American who studies Northern Irish history, any acknowledgment from Ireland is appreciated. However, one expects the Irish Times to print an objective critique. Numerous colleagues have accepted my thesis that militant fundamentalists in North America influenced Paisley’s career, and I have never claimed to be the first to assert the connection. That reference came from a peer review the publisher chose to print on the inner sleeve. McKay asserts that other writers have “extensively discussed” the topic, but with the exception of Steve Bruce, they have only briefly addressed the transatlantic relationship and they always begin in August 1962. That month, Paisley and his father represented the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster at the International Council conference in Amsterdam. However, no writer has previously investigated Paisley’s relationship with Carl McIntire of New Jersey, which began in 1951. McIntire had founded the International Council of Christian Churches and on several occasion he came to Ulster to find new recruits. At the time, Paisley was well-known to North Americans, but his denomination was barred from membership in the International Council due to his attacks on fellow Irish fundamentalists.
My book is based on extensive material held at Bob Jones University, the Princeton Theological Seminary and at numerous smaller archives not available to researchers in the past. For example, the Carl McIntire Collection in Princeton opened six years ago and contains several hundred letters between McIntire and a large number of Northern Irishmen. Most are written to Paisley, but also to his father, Norman Porter of the Evangelical Protestant Society and the Reverend W. J. Grier of the Irish Evangelical Church. The correspondence began in the late 1940s and clarifies the date that Paisley’s transatlantic relationship started.
In her argument that “Jordan . . . exaggerates the role of American fundamentalism in the development of the young Paisley,” McKay is uniformed. North Americans came to accept Paisley as God’s prophet in Ireland, but only after his protest at the Vatican in 1962 and his first jailing in 1966. Over the next two years, McIntire and Bob Jones University brought Paisley to the United States for several, extensive speaking tours and only then did American fundamentalists “look up to Paisley.” His ‘martyrdom’ and the notoriety gained in North America convinced Paisley of the global consequences to the sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland and which I have clearly documented.
The Second Coming of Paisley addresses Paisley’s subtle shift from pre- to amillennialism, which he used to justify his political purpose. How this influenced Democratic Unionism is a complex subject and needs further research. There was never any intention to present a detailed analysis of his political career after the ‘Troubles’ began. McKay asserts that Paisley “never abandoned” his premillennialism and that amillennialism is apolitical anyway. My argument on eschatology was derived from discussions with Free Presbyterians and other fundamentalists who actually understand Paisley’s current theology. McKay must not be aware that the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster allows its members to assert either a premillennial or amillennial viewpoint. Bob Jones University took the same path as it became political in the 1960s, due to their fight with the federal government over student loans and their refusal to admit African American students. To this day, the institution remains Paisley’s primary American ally. Furthermore, neither view of the Second Coming in inherently political, but can influence those who profess them.
McKay asserts: “Jordan is at his most interesting when he contradicts his own thesis” and “He provides good examples on the overt political activism of U. S. fundamentalists.” She then mentions how Paisley’s views on ecumenism, communism and the Catholic Church are compatible with those of North American militants and notes Paisley’s association with segregationists, such as Georgia governor Lester Maddox. However, McKay never explains how my arguments are in conflict and instead disingenuously degrades the scholarship. In the mid-1960s, Paisley formed a strong bond with North American fundamentalists and was in attendance at the Bob Jones Bible Conference the night Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated (4 April 1968). Paisley commented on the violence caused by King’s murder, not several days later in his prepared speech, but between April and July and within the Protestant Telegraph. Paisley witnessed how the American civil rights movement not only forced the American South to desegregate and pushed the federal government to pass civil and voting rights legislation, but created racial turmoil. There is no coincidence that in August 1968, Paisley made it his mission to ensure that the Northern Ireland civil rights movement would not challenge the Protestant dominance in Northern Ireland.
McKay notes my failure to mention that Paisley quoted Ecclesiastes in his inaugural speech as first minister. Oddly, his use of a Bible tract that preaches conciliation actually supports my thesis. She then segues into an argument that Paisley is an egomaniac. It has been characteristic of North Irish historiography to portray Paisley as a “ruthless opportunist” more interested in power than his own theology. Yes, it is true that Paisley has a pronounced sense of purpose, but so do countless others who have chosen to promote themselves through public expression. This can include ministers, professors, musicians, politicians, and even journalists.
McKay implies that Paisley had a life-long plan to become the prime minister of Northern Ireland, and that his entire ministry was centered on accomplishing this goal. She believes that Paisley began his political career at age six after committing himself to Jesus Christ. If this is true and Paisley had the foresight to formulate his path as an infant, the militant fundamentalists of North America might be right and Paisley would be a prophet and “God’s man for Ulster.” McKay makes the peculiar statement that I ignored revivalism as important influence on Paisley, as if his religiosity was sincere after all. My book traces the history of revivalism in Ulster from the seventeenth century Scottish conventiclers through Paisley’s political career. Those who choose to read The Second Coming of Paisley can decide whether it offers “a poor understanding of Northern politics and Irish history” or new insight into an important subject.
Addenda: McKay could have been attacked on two additional points, as she made one egregious factual error (a journalist should be thorough in their research) and an argument that is blatantly absurd. Lester Maddox’s restaurant was in Atlanta (the capital of Georgia), not in Alabama (a state). It is ridiculous to argue that William Brown, who wrote An Army with Banners: the Real Face of Orangeism, a manuscript that has not undergone serious peer review, could take Steve Bruce of Aberdeen University – the author of several dozen academic works – “to task.” If McKay has better research, please publish it.
I would appreciate receiving criticism – but only ask for fairness.
Syracuse University Press
Steve Bruce (University of Aberdeen)
The Second Coming of Paisley
American Conference for Irish Studies