Enough Religion to Make Us Hate: Reflections on Religion and Politics

Victor Griffin – former Dean of St Parick’s Cathedral, Dublin – describes the experience of being brought up as a member of the minority Protestant community in the Republic of Ireland.

‘Perfect basic material for study in the parochial setting… Properly used throughout the Church of Ireland, the result could be a lot of better informed, far more deeply concerned, and far more determinedly anti-sectarian people.’ – Church of Ireland Gazette

Topics: Social & Environmental Ministry. Ages: Adult. Resource Types: Books.

Review & Commentary

One thought on “Enough Religion to Make Us Hate: Reflections on Religion and Politics

  1. Review

    Those of us Americans who revelled in the rich satires "Gulliver’s Travels" and "Tale of a Tub" by 18th Century English writer Jonathan Swift might recall that he was made Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin in 1714. He served there with distinction, as have many of his successors, none more so than Victor Griffin, now retired but by no means inactive in Irish political and religious life. A clerical life almost evenly split between the Province in the North and the Republic in the South, indeed a full 22 years in each.

    Griffin has now taken half of an epigram from his predecessor dean, whose full quote was "enough religion to make us hate and not enough to make us love" As TCPC arrives in Ireland this autumn, they can find no better guidebook about what it is about Christianity, in this most Christian island in the world, that makes people bomb and shoot each other with depressing regularity almost every night in Belfast, all in the name of Christian sectarianism. At the close of the 20th Century, only Rwanda exceeded Northern Ireland where Christian denomination alone was considered sufficient reason to murder. Over 3,000 such deaths since 1970.

    Griffin was blessed with a tolerant Protestant father who set him on a course where he was from his early years "equally at home and at ease in both traditions." His Northern ministry was in Derry/Londonderry (even in naming cities there is a religious divide: to Catholics it’s Derry, to Protestants, Londonderry) His ministry in that medieval-walled "Maiden City" began just after World War II and continued into 1969 when the first non-sectarian civil rights march was clubbed into submission by the protestant "B Special" police. He characterizes those early days as "politicized religion masquerading as Christianity, with unionism wedded to Protestantism and nationalism to Roman Catholicism." Yet, when he moved South to Dublin in the early 1970s, Griffin found himself fiercely criticized by the then dominant Roman Catholic Church for his moderate views on abortion and for his 1986 stand on the referendum on allowing divorce.

    Significantly, as the century ended, and the Republic took on more the appearance of a secular European state, Griffin saw even a majority of Catholics move close to his principled position. Griffin, like Swift before him, cheerfully took on the pretentious potentates of his time wherever he served. He recounts with relish enlisting the help of the notoriously venal Fianna Fail leader Charley Haughey in his first quixotic but eventually successful effort to save from the Dublin Corporation urban planners the lovely old Liberties section of Dublin which abuts St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Beginnng on a soapbox with megaphone on a street corner, Griffin carried his battle to Haughey’s lion’s den in Kinsale and got the decision reversed. Griffin, in a chapter entitled Absolutism: The Perversion of Christianity shows himself a perceptive philosopher of progressive Christianity. "God…. will not be bound by any strictures we will place on his love and justice" "We try to hold him in the doctrinal and institutional tombs…but God will not be bound by human dogma."

    Dean Griffin, although now formally retired, has not withdrawn from the battle. This very spring this reviewer attended conferences where his voice is still heard and heeded. Sectarianism in the form of segregated schools and the perversion of Christian worship for Orange tribal rallies are still real problems urgently needed to be addressed. There the voice of Dean Victor Griffin is still heard and heeded. His religion has now become enough religion to love.

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