I’ve been remiss in writing these pieces by failing to mention the distinction between my dislike for the Orange Order and the fact that I am not, despite my political views, sectarian, at least in a religious sense.
I can honestly say that I do not care what religion anyone follows, or even if they have no adherence to any religion whatsoever, although I generally prefer the latter; I have had many friends of many faiths; Muslim women and men (one of whom treated me like a son), Native American friends from different tribes, Hindu friends, many Japanese friends and teachers whose beliefs were a mixture of Buddhism and Shinto, and so on.
But as fate would have it, almost all of my friends in this life have been Protestant.
I grew up in a very small, very predominately Protestant town. I was born into a Catholic family, baptised as such, and although my family was far from what you would call devout, recognised as being Catholic by the entire community. There were two Catholic churches in my town, the largest of which contained sixty-five parishioners. Being a Catholic was not exactly something to be ashamed about; just not talked about, because the overwhelmingly Protestant community, for the most part, had absolutely no understanding of Catholicism; they actually regarded it as something akin to witchcraft.
(I’ve had some friends that were witches, too.)
While most of us in the Catholic minority generally attended church either out of a sense of community and/or guilt, most in the Protestant majority attended church three times a week and were quite vocal both in private and in public about their beliefs. I had a few (okay, several) unpleasant experiences as a result of this fact, but since I was a child, I was largely spared of anything worse than confusion; I just didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
So aside from a half-dozen or so Catholic boys whom I counted as my friends, all the way through adolescence, my friends were Protestant boys, and they couldn’t understand what the fuss was about, either; what was more, they didn’t care what the fuss was about, or what their parents thought. They liked who they liked, and did not like those they did not like. Based upon the individual.
As it should be.
More importantly to me, however, was the fact almost all of my girlfriends were Protestant as well, at least nominally. Which is to say, they failed to protest at all; some of them whose parents were particularly “pious” were quite happy to enrage them by dating a long-haired Catholic boy. I’ve a few horrific memories as a result of that, but they are far outweighed by beautiful remembrances.
There was no Orange Lodge proper in this town, but a few Masonic Lodges, which are very similar in structure and purpose. My father, despite having been a lay teacher of both English and religion at a Catholic school in the town where we originally came from (where my mother was one of his pupils; insert your own Catholic joke here), was invited by his Protestant friends to join one of these lodges. He was interested in doing so, largely due to making business/social connections. When I pointed out that he would never be accepted because he was Catholic, he glowered at me over his glasses and said “I ain’t that Catholic.”
And yet he was denied membership by one vote, which is all it takes. Despite the apologies from his friends, he was quite disappointed. He spoke to me only briefly about it, and said something along the lines of however much you contribute to your community, if you are not from that community, you will never truly belong.
That broke my heart a little bit. But as a great man once said, “Being Irish means knowing, that in the end, the world will break your heart.”
So I’ve nothing against Protestants, or anyone else, at least not based on their religion, but rather their intolerance. Which, unless I’m mistaken, is in opposition to the stated views of most religions.
The Orange Order is intolerance incarnate. There are some Lodges in Ireland and elsewhere, that have allowed their lodges to be used by people of other faiths for various recreational and educational activities; that is commendable. But every summer, they show their true colours, whether out of a sense of tradition or semi-buried hate, and terrorize their neighbours; members of their “community.”
I can say that I have been tolerant; but I cannot tolerate certain things, and this is just one of them.