Anthony D Buckley
From Anthony D Buckley and Mary Catherine Kenney 1995 Negotiating identity: rhetoric, metaphor and social drama in Northern Ireland. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.
BEING SAVED: A CHANGE OF IDENTITY
FIELDWORK BY A D BUCKLEY
Religious identity has a special place in Northern Irish life. Not least, this is because of its link to ethnic identity. Nowhere is the link more clear than among Protestant fundamentalists. Fundamentalists make a particularly explicit connection between their religion and the political aims of their ethnic group. This chapter and the next look at religious identity among fundamentalists, concentrating particularly upon pentecostalists in north Belfast and south Antrim. It will explore how, when someone is 'saved', he or she will change their identity.
The aim of this chapter is to look at some of the complexity in what is called 'getting saved'. When a person converts to fundamentalist Christianity, there is often more involved than, say, joining a dramatic society or a cricket club. The person will experience a profound 'change of identity' which in some cases can be painful. The process of 'getting saved' is one that is structured by narrative and example. It is, therefore, structured by metaphor.
Among the metaphors to be encountered here are, of course, the siege metaphor, but we shall aslso find metaphors drawn from family life and from the courtroom. These will be shown in the next chapter to have even greater complexity. Here, we shall look at the way a person can abandon the rhetoric which shores up a past identity so that he or she can lead 'a new life'.
We shall also see how this new identity finds an echo in concerns which are related to more narrowly ethnic identities. It has been shown that religious groups recruit from only one side of the ethnic divide. There is, however, also an intellectual link between religion and ethnicity. These chapters will, therefore, show how a religious identity is shaped through metaphors drawn from the family and the courtroom. They will also explore the intellectual relation between religion and ethnicity. An important point is that, even for Ulster's fundamentalists, religious identity cannot be reduced to ethnicity, nor vice versa. The relation between the two is, rather, one of translation.
It would be a mistake to see religious identity as merely a social identity. Identity is not reducible to a mere web of particular in groups, each related to its out group by a siege like imagery. There is more to identity (and to religious identity in particular) than the siege metaphor or even 'boundary maintenance' (Barth 1969). Identity is also a practical way of life. Despite this, one cannot ignore Northern Ireland's innumerable in groups defined by means of religious labels, doctrines and practices.
One set of these comprises the different denominations. There are the so called mainline churches, the Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Church of Ireland and Methodists. And there are very many smaller denominations of which the Baptists, Brethren, Congregationalists, Free Presbyterians and the Elim Church are among the biggest.
Cross cutting the denominations are other allegiances. Of these, an important group are the fundamentalists. Fundamentalism is present in all of the mainline Protestant churches and it provides the raison d'etre for most of the smaller ones. Fundamentalists also sometimes visit each other's churches to hear particular preachers, or they attend meetings in mission halls. Fundamentalists are also firmly and openly opposed to the Roman Catholic Church.
Another major grouping is is the ecumenical movement. It is found in the mainline and a few of the smaller churches. Like the fundamentalists, but less often, members of the ecumenical movement can dominate whole congregations. Their aim is to cultivate links between the denominations, and particularly between Catholics and Protestants.
There are also two sets of people who place special emphasis upon the so called 'Gift of the Spirit' (of which more later). One of these is the Pentecostalists. These are fundamentalist in their theology and have their own separate churches, of which the Elim church and the Churches of God are the most important.
The other group is the charismatics. Charismatic theology is, in many ways, similar to that of the Pentecostalist fundamentalists. Charismatics are found in all of the mainline churches. Despite what some might see as the almost Protestant emphasis of much charismatic theology, the charismatic movement is best represented in the Roman Catholic Church. Its ethos, however, unlike that of the Pentecostalists, is ecumenical.
In many congregations, there is a further division, not always clearly defined, between conservatives and liberals. The conservatives strictly and strongly uphold the particular doctrines and traditions of their church. The liberals want to allow individual interpretation of these traditions.
In Catholicism, conservatism looks back to the 1950s and earlier. This conservatism is most publicly known for upholding strict views on contraception, abortion and divorce. It also, however, embraces an active resistance to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. It looks back with fondness to the Tridentine mass and to devotional practices which have been discouraged or suppressed. I have noted, among conservative Catholics, as among liberals, a suspicion of the Vatican and the heirarchy.
Conservatism in the mainstream Protestant churches often takes the form of `evangelicalism' the doctrine of which fundamentalism can be described as an extreme or 'dogmatic' form. Like fundamentalism, evangelicalism emphasises the need for an individual to have had a direct personal encounter with God.
Presbyterians identify their conservatism with Calvin. Sometimes, this 'Calvinism' is seen as a form of evangelicalism; sometimes, it is not. Some conservative Presbyterians quietly resist evangelicalism, seeing it as the Arminianism to which Calvinists were, centuries ago, opposed ('Evangelicalism?' said one conservative Presbyterian with a smile. 'That's Methodism, isn't it?').
Religious conservatism, in many cases, can be linked to a desire to maintain the symbolic boundaries which set apart Protestant from Roman Catholic doctrines and practices. It is, therefore, related to the desire to maintain ethnic boundaries.
In many churches too, there is a fuzzy division between the enthusiasts and the mere participants. The most enthusiastic churchgoers are, to an extent, 'curators' (see Chapter 1) of their religious tradition: the religious word is `stewardship'. They enable the less enthusiastic to dip or plunge into the world of religion when they need to. Some of the occasional churchgoers see religion as a marginal part of their lives. Others are genuinely interested in religion, but feel no desire to identify closely with one or another faction.
Despite the existence of these, and, indeed, many other groups, both formal and informal, it is important not to regard religious identity as merely a matter of allegiance. More than this, it is important not to see beliefs, liturgies, dogmas and so forth entirely as diacritical markers used only to define social boundaries.
Identity is indeed partly a matter of allegiance to social groupings composed of people judged to be similar to oneself. And religious beliefs and practices are undoubtedly important here. But allegiance does not constitute the whole of religious, or, indeed, any other form of identity.
Unfortunately, the diversity of religious allegiances in Northern Ireland is bewilderingly large. To discuss the whole spectrum would need a volume or more. This chapter, therefore, will take as an example a small group of people with whom I worked for several months who live in north Belfast and south Antrim. These are fundamentalist Christians who were members of three Pentecostalist congregations.
Perhaps with the single exception of Catholicism, fundamentalism has attracted the hostile attention of 'cultured despisers' more than any other major form of Christianity. In my research I was pleased to find it a remarkably robust form of religion. It had a rich intellectual tradition which one could respect, and it addressed the real lives of its members in a very direct way. Although I do not personally share the views of fundamentalism, I was impressed by the sincerity, profundity, even wisdom, of many of the people associated with it. Indeed, it was its very liveliness and intellectual vigour that made it a subject worth studying.
In approaching such a small group, one becomes immediately aware of the more complex aspects of identity. More especially, fundamentalists do not just say that they are Christians. They also say they have become Christians. They have been through the process which they call being 'saved'. As such, therefore, they have undergone (to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the individual) a change of identity.
BECOMING A CHRISTIAN: A CHANGE OF IDENTITY
When describing their religious identity, the most common term used by fundamentalists, and also by charismatics and some evangelicals, is 'Christian'. To a considerable degree, the use of the term 'Christian' in this manner is contentious or even offensive. 'Christians' use the term to differentiate themselves from 'non Christians'. Among the latter, they include not only Hindus, Buddhists and Atheists, but also Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Roman Catholics.
Fundamentalists may also describe as non Christian other ordinary Protestant churchgoers. These, who may include members of the Christian's own congregation may be disparaged as merely 'religious'. Others may be even worse. They may have 'liberal' or 'modern' opinions. Such people may, for example, question the historical validity of parts of the Bible.
The 'religious' and the 'modernists', may also think that by attending church and by trying to be good, they may aspire to everlasting life. Fundamentalists strongly reject such a view as contrary to biblical teaching.
The people who are thus defined as 'non Christian' do not always accept this designation graciously. It can, indeed, be a source of annoyance. A Catholic woman once accompanied me to an interview with a Christian informant. She was quite startled and upset to find that he regarded her as a 'non Christian'.
For Christians themselves, however, this usage is quite simple. To be a Christian, a person must be 'born again'; he must have 'accepted Christ as his personal Saviour'; he must be 'saved'.
Stories of how a person is saved are called, in Northern Ireland, 'testimonies'. The testimony will, therefore, provide a focus for this chapter. When somebody tells his testimony, he does so by explaining details of his past life within a well defined framework. This framework is innately similar to the ones which define other people's testimonies (see Clements, 1982).
The particular actions and events which a testimony describes are certainly selected because they find a place in this narrative structure. Although, however, it is possible for somebody to fabricate or 'fake' a testimony, it is probably rare that the teller of the story intends to mislead. The events told in the stories may usually, therefore, be treated as 'true'.
Here is an outline of two testimonies. Because of their very great length up to half an hour each it is not possible to quote them in full.
Willie left school with no qualifications having 'done everything that usually a bad boy in school does'. In particular, he enjoyed 'fighting' and 'beating people up'. Starting work in a garage, he began to steal. He began with small objects, but soon had a shed packed with stolen goods. His girlfriend became pregnant and he married, but the marriage ended in divorce, largely because of his drinking. Increasingly, he drank and he borrowed money from his friends to pay for his social life.
Then, at the insistence of a friend who had lent him some money, he attended church. During the service the pastor made an 'appeal' for non Christians to raise their hands as a sign that they wanted to be saved. When this happened, Willie felt 'electrocuted'. 'I knew I should have been saved, but, oh no, Willie wanted the drink, and Willie wanted to enjoy himself. So I went out and I said, "Ach, they're a load of old headers in there"'.
Willie returned to his life of drinking and fighting: `I enjoyed beating people up. I liked seeing the blood flying'. But he was again urged by his friend to go to church. And again, he felt the need to be saved. Instead, however, he approached a psychiatrist for help to reduce his drinking.
Willie found himself sitting in a bar, knowing that he ought to be saved. Later, when the pastor again made his appeal for people to commit themselves, Willie felt a strong impulse and raised his hand.
Willie felt as though a bag of coal had been lifted from his shoulders. When he went home, he broke all the whisky bottles he found at home, and from that day never took a drink. Soon he had a regular job as a bus driver.
The transformation of Helen's life began with a car accident in which all her family, but especially her son, Sammy, were injured. The incident, and especially her son's suffering, deeply shocked Helen. She suffered a 'nervous breakdown'.
Despite medical and psychiatric treatment, she eventually found herself dejected at home, unwilling to meet her friends or even to leave her house. 'I came home absolutely helpless, and John (her husband) used to plead with me not to take my own life.'
One day, after several years of depression, she happened to meet a neighbour in the back yard. 'She's a Christian, and I didn't like her. She was a hypocrite as far as I was concerned.' The woman was excited, eager to tell Helen that her daughter had been recently saved.
Returning indoors, after the conversation, Helen sat down and cursed her neighbour.
She thought what she had said was 'the stupidest thing she had ever heard'. Despite this, Helen saw her past flow before her eyes 'like a drowning man'. 'And I thought of what I had come to. I was in the gutter, I couldn't have went any further. And there was nobody could help me. And I didn't want to live any more.'
Suddenly wondering if there was a God, she prayed angrily to God, 'God if you exist ... prove to it to me and ... give me back the life I've lost all those years I have lost you give them back to me.'
Suddenly, she felt peace. 'Peace flooded through me. And not only peace, but a realization that He existed ... and I got off my knees singing.'
Helen, who had been virtually housebound for four years, left the house and visited her mother. The mother, when she heard the story, thought Helen had finally gone mad. Soon, Helen found a church and began attending. And soon too, she had, by her example, persuaded her husband and many of their relatives also to be saved.
The Purpose of Telling a Testimony
This chapter deals centrally with the events described by the testimony, not with the narrative. Nevertheless, it is useful to outline the way the testimony is typically used during social interaction. Most of the testimonies I recorded were told to satisfy the curiosity of a passing anthropologist. There are, however, some more common purposes for telling a testimony, and all of them contribute to the practical creation of an identity.
Testimonies are told, first of all, to define the speaker as a member of a social category. The testimony defines the speaker as a Christian. In many cases, this is a fairly ordinary self-definition, comparable to other forms of narrative. It defines the speaker as someone who has a valued place in the story's framework.
In other cases, this self-definition may have a more formal aspect. A person may have to tell his testimony to a pastor or an elder before he or she can join a particular congregation. Many denominations or mission halls have this requirement. If the story is judged to reflect a genuine experience, then the individual is admitted.
A testimony may also be offered to others as an operational model, a model for action. Here it acts as an invitation to other people to change their identities. The commonest time to hear a testimony is in a church service where non Christians (or at least 'back-sliders') will be present.
Sunday evening church services, for example, are often advertized in the local press. Some Protestants will often visit churches where they are not members to sample the sermons of other ministers. Churches also occasionally organise 'missions' aimed at non Christians. On these occasions, members of the congregation will give their testimonies. The idea is that non Christians or back-sliders will recognise the similarity of their own situation with that of the speaker. Thus they may follow the speaker's example and become saved themselves.
RE FRAMING A PAST IDENTITY
One reason why the testimony is of interest is that it is in part deals with the topic of rhetoric itself. The testimony broadly describes two processes. In the first, the individual suddenly perceives that his or her habitual actions (prototypically drinking, but also smoking, theft, wife beating and the like) are sinful. Using Goffman's language, we may say that the individual redefines or 'reframes' these past actions.
Sometimes, as with Willie, the wickedness of the action can be quite considerable. In other stories, the evil is barely perceptible, except to the individual himself. For example, Helen's husband, John told me how he was suddenly and sincerely ashamed of his regular Sunday game of golf and subsequently of his smoking.
Sometimes too, (as with Helen herself) the wickedness consisted less in specific actions and more in a general turmoil which afflicted other people. Whatever the nature of the guilty actions, the testimony tells how the actions were deprived of their rhetorical support. Consequently, they were reframed and redefined as unequivocally evil.
The second process described in the testimony is the practical transformation of actions. This allows the individual to live a 'new life' of sobriety, frugality, hard work and 'clean living'.
In principle, as we have seen, individuals frequently and readily shift between frames. Everyday life involves a continuing process of framing and reframing specific situations whether for pragmatic or for rhetorical purposes. The reframing involved in religious conversion, however, is usually more painful.
The reason for this trauma is not easy to grasp. Religious conversion may be painful because of its quasi political and practical implications. The reframing or redefinition of one's habitual actions is sometimes a quasi political victory for somebody else's vision of one's actions.
Testimonies often tell of friends or relatives who have unambiguously told the 'sinner' about the evil or folly of his ways. To admit one's faults in such a context is often, therefore, to admit the truth of another's criticisms, to give way to that person's demands.
Another factor seems also to be the sheer upheaval involved in changing one's routines. The discovery that one's habitual actions are wicked or foolish or otherwise unworthy invites changes which are not always easy to make.
The resulting conflict is a form of 'self deception' and `double bind'. In a telling phrase, Fingarette (1969,39) describes self deception as a failure or unwillingness to 'spell out' a particular set of information. Sometimes, the person fails to spell out the information reflexively to himself.
Fingarette defines anxiety as an inability to act, caused by a strong emotion such as guilt. Even a flimsy rhetoric of self approbation, he suggests, can have the positive effect of allowing an individual to function, though this functioning may be ultimately self destructive, (Fingarette 1965, 76ff).
Commonly, however, as Haight (1980, 108 ff) claims, self deception also involves deceiving other people. Indeed, several people, whose testimonies I have heard, dimly knew that their lives were unsatisfactory. Often this was because friends and relations told them so. Instead, however, of spelling out what they knew to be a reasonable description of their action, the person placed their actions into an implausible rhetorical framework - an `excuse'.
Unfortunately, to reorganize one's life requires thought, reflection, planning and a renegotiation of one's relationships. The self deception which helps a person to function, therefore, can also inhibit a practical reframing of his situation. It can stop him changing his life. Fearing that to abandon his excuses will lead to guilt, anxiety and impotence, the individual's rhetoric can trap him in a self imposed 'double bind' (Bateson et al. 1956).
A testimony, therefore, describes how, nevertheless, somebody abandons a ricketty rhetoric and spells out the well known events of his life but in a new frame. No doubt, this new frame will already have haunted him for some time. Indeed, no doubt, other people will have long been offering it to him. This new frame defines aspects of his past life as foolish or wicked. In consequence, he now discovers himself to be guilty and worthy of punishment.
DOCTRINAL DEFINITION OF BEING SAVED
Fundamentalist doctrines of salvation address themselves directly to this double bind, to the desire to change, and to the impotence of guilt and anxiety. The following (edited) extract describes the doctrines of the Church of the Nazarene on the subject of redemption. It is a weighty statement based upon passages from Paul's epistle to the Romans, but it also provides a succinct exegesis upon the testimony and upon the experience of being saved.
Man is born with a two fold sin. There's a sinful nature in mankind which was given to our race when Adam sinned. This manifests itself in actual sins as we grow up. We believe that the necessity is laid upon man to turn from his evil ways. And Jesus came that he might deliver his people from their sins so we preach that there is a better quality of life, a higher quality of living available to all who will turn and who will live this higher way. And people will then come, by the grace of God in their lives, and say, 'Yes, I want to live that life'.
And at that point in time, the first thing that's uppermost in their mind is the guilt of sin: guilt for the things which they had done wrong, where they've displeased the Lord. The Lord offers forgiveness for those acts which are wrong, and we would encourage the penitent to seek forgiveness.
When he has the assurance that he has the forgiveness of God, then he goes out into the new life in Christ. You're not very long living in that new relationship until you realise that there's something warring against you. St. Paul depicts it as a war between the flesh and the spirit. 'The good that I would, I do not, and the evil that I would not, that I do.' 'Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?'
The picture he uses is the picture of the murderer who has the corpse tied to his body and he carries that around until eventually the putrification of that spreads into his own body and kills him.
And then, 'I thank God through Christ Jesus there is a way of deliverance.' So you come and ask God to cleanse you from inward sin, this depravity, and to fill you with the spirit and equip you for service and to give you victory.
This statement clearly supports the interpretation of the testimony given here. Much more important than mere wrong doing is the failure of the individual to act in harmony with his own wishes.
It was mentioned earlier that one of my informants, John, had suddenly felt an urgent distress at being unable to give up smoking. John told me that his pastor voiced the problem of smoking thus:
'If you stop smoking, do you believe that this will get you into heaven? Of course not. It's only because you want to be a Christian and you have a certain standard within yourself that you want to stop this'.
This surely is the nub of the question. A person feels bad when he fails to act in harmony with his own ideals. But when he continues to act badly, contrary to his own wishes, he feels doubly helpless.
THE SENSE OF HELPLESSNESS: FAMILY AND JUDICIAL METAPHORS
A central image defining a fundamentalist identity is the sense of helplessness. This sense of helplessness, however, is only a part of a more general imagery. It would be a mistake, for example, to regard helplessness as somehow restricted to fundamentalism, or indeed to religion. On the contrary, helplessness is commonplace. It is a universal human experience on which other, more culturally specific experience is built.
The main metaphor which the testimony elaborates is the family relationship discussed in the last chapter, that of parent and child. This is augmented with images drawn from judicial processes.
In earliest childhood, no child can alone satisfy the needs which will allow him or her (even physically) to survive. It is only because adults feel a strong impulse to provide the necessities of life to the helpless child that the human species can perpetuate itself at all.
A sense of helplessness is thus a moment in a symbiotic social relationship. Its other half is the desire to give 'nurture' (Berne 1975, 118ff). The desire to give to those in need is not mere sentiment. Humanity's survival has depended on it. Its prototype is the relationship of parent and child. But it is found not just in philanthropy, but in all intimate relationships (Midgley 1979).
The symbiosis of helplessness and nurturing contrasts sharply with the other main relationship of parent and child. This was described in the last chapter and it also provides a metaphor for other human relationships. Here, the nurture or punishment of the child is conditional upon the child doing good or evil actions.
Both these aspects of the relation of parent and child are explicit in the theology of fundamentalist Christianity. On the one hand, God is a Father and also a Judge. In this guise, God's task is to point to the wickedness of the sinner and to damn him to hell's fire. In contrast, God also appears as Jesus, the Advocate. As 'Mediator and Advocate', Jesus has the function, in the judicial metaphors of fundamentalist theology, of recommending to the Judge, not judgement and punishment, but mercy and forgiveness. Or, to use the contrast evoked by Berne (1975), Jesus represents the unconditional giving of the 'Nurturing Parent' which supplants the criticisms and punishments of the 'Judgmental Parent'.
These ideas of Judge and Advocate are, of course, judicial images taken from the court room, but they also contain an imagery derived from family life. In relation to God the Father, Jesus is Son. In relation to man, however, Jesus is God and, therefore, a Parental figure. In Levi-Strauss's sense (1961), but also in a biblical and hence a judicial one, Jesus is a 'Mediator' between God and man, being Himself both God and Man.
In this imagery, there is again an interpenetration of metaphors, In this case, images of family life merge with those of the court room. Because all images are multifaceted, a specific aspect of any one set of images can be evoked only by translating them into another set. Thus, the translation of family based images into those of the court room reveals parenthood in its judgmental and merciful aspects. And childhood is divided between rebellion and compliance, guilt and goodness, or mere helplessness. And all these images become metaphors for the relation between God and man.
THE SECOND COMING AND ETHNIC RHETORIC
It would appear at first sight that fundamentalism has little to do with ethnicity. On the evidence given so far, one could conclude that fundamentalism was a form of religious psychiatry. In fact, however, fundamentalism is closely tied to a radical form of ethnic Protestantism.
One should perhaps note that the fundamentalists of Ulster do not usually share in the kind of right wing conservatism with which fundamentalism is identified in the United States. Also, although there has been a connection between unionism and British conservatism in the past, most fundamentalists in Ulster are out of sympathy with the 'free market conservatism' associated with the name of Margaret Thatcher. Matters such as these are not, in any case, important issues in Northern Ireland.
The connection between Northern Ireland fundamentalism and ethnicity is, in part, a matter of recruitment, for fundamentalists are mainly lower class Protestants, who often feel a strong sense of ethnic allegiance. We have suggested, following Wallis et al (1986), that working class people often attach particular importance to specifically ethnic definitions of themselves, because other avenues to prestige and self-esteem are closed to them.
As well as this, however, the connection between religion and ethnicity is also metaphorical and rhetorical. In adopting a new identity, the people who now call themselves 'Christians' discover a ready made rhetoric which is relevant to Northern Ireland and to its ethnic conflict. This rhetoric comes from biblical prophecies, and speaks of Christ's Second Coming.
Chapter 4 showed that fundamentalists can distinguish themselves from outsiders on the basis of their spirituality. In this, they proved to be similar to countless other people who also thought their institutions (including they themselves) had a spiritual essence. Fundamentalism, however, goes further. It takes the division between good insiders and bad outsiders and projects it into cosmic history.
Fundamentalist views on the subject of the Second Coming do vary. Many ministers, indeed, take care not to be too specific in their opinions on the subject. They seem to fear stirring up theological 'trouble' among their members who may espouse differing views.
The most widely held belief among fundamentalists is a form of 'pre-millenialism'. This asserts that Christians will be 'taken up', or 'raptured' to meet Jesus in the air some say in the 'heavenlies' before the 'tribulation' which heralds the thousand years of Christ's rule.
This opinion is not, however, the only one to be found. Others particularly but not only members of the ecumenical charismatic movement incline to the opinion that Christians must 'go through' the period of tribulation.
Both these opinions agree that the tribulation will be a time when the earth will be ruled by the Antichrist (or the Beast, or the False Prophet). They also agree that the Number of the Beast, '666' (see Revelation 13, 18), will be branded on those compelled to serve him.
The stories of the last days are based upon the enigmatic prophesies in such books of the Bible as Daniel, Ezekiel and, above all, Revelation. I came across a common view in the early 1980s. This was that the ten horned beast of Revelation (13, 1) represented the feet of the statue (with 10 toes) in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Daniel 2, 31 35) and the fourth beast in Daniel's own vision. These, I was told, referred to the last Roman Empire (the European Community founded by the Treaty of Rome) which then comprised 10 nations.
There is a significant difference between most charismatic accounts of the Last Days and those described by the more common Protestant fundamentalists. For the charismatics, whose meetings include both Protestants and Roman Catholics, the Antichrist or Beast will soon be revealed to be a Jew. Non charismatic, non ecumenical fundamentalism, however, adopts the view, shared, for example, by the Presbyterian Westminster Confession. This is that the Antichrist is the Pope.
There are rhetorical implications in a view which identifies the Antichrist as the Pope. The opinion divides the world between those who have, and those who have not found God's favour. On the one hand are the Christians, whom God motivates and approves. On the other, there are the Roman Catholics. These are not only non Christian. They are also wittingly or not servants of the Antichrist.
Whichever of the different versions of prophetic theory a person may adopt, the overall frame is structured by means of a familiar metaphor. As in the testimonies, this metaphor defines a Christian as pre eminently embattled and helpless, but ultimately safe.
For those few people who believe that Christians must 'go through' the tribulation, the prophesies also show that God will protect them. Such a person may refuse to be branded with the Mark of the Beast during the Tribulation. He or she can still live by faith and rely on God for safe keeping.
The majority fundamentalist view also foresees disaster in the world. For them too, however, salvation is at hand. They look forward to being taken up to be with Jesus in the air, while the tribulation goes on beneath.
Fundamentalism is well known in Northern Ireland to be an exuberantly loyalist form of Christianity. Its prime focus, however, is not on ethnicity or politics at all. Instead, it fastens on the sense of helplessness which individuals experience in their daily lives.
The emphasis upon individual helplessness may perhaps reflect a genuine fragility in the real lives of many fundamentalists. Many seem to have found in their faith a radical solution to pressing personal difficulties. Many too, are working class people or the owners of small businesses striving to sustain a precarious, respectable style of life with few resources. For those with such troubles, the familial and judicial metaphors of fundamentalism can structure a genuine sense of helplessness within frameworks which point to regeneration and to hope.
This same pattern of helplessness and salvation rooted in metaphors of childish helplessness and parental nurturing is also used in relation to the broader context of Ulster politics and ethnic conflict. The identification of spirituality with helplessness is one which is entirely consonant with the siege metaphor described earlier. The Siege of Derry, for example, tells not only of the heroism of the defenders, but also of the extreme hopelessness of their situation.
The religious identity of even these, the most loyal of Ulster's Protestants, cannot therefore be reduced entirely to ethnicity. Nevertheless, their religious identity can readily be translated into an ethnic one.
Fundamentalism takes, as its central theme, ideas of helplessness and sin and the need for salvation and redemption. These images translate into the long standing Bible based religious traditions which identify the Antichrist with the Pope. As the final battle approaches between the Antichrist who is Pope, and the God who is their Saviour, Christians hope to find protection. Then, they say, when victory is finally theirs, all will be peace and joy.