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  • The Second Coming of Paisley: Militant Fundamentalism and Ulster Politics by Richard Lawrence Jordan
  • Cian T. McMahon
The Second Coming of Paisley: Militant Fundamentalism and Ulster Politics, by Richard Lawrence Jordan, pp. 359. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2013. $39.95.

One of the most exciting trends in current Irish historiography has been what is commonly referred to as "transnational history." Although scholars often disagree over how to define the genre, all concede that it generally refers to understanding connections between Ireland and the wider world. This approach has been particularly popular with historians of Irish Presbyterianism, such as Patrick [End Page 143] Griffin, Kerby Miller, Peter Gilmore, and others, who have successfully unearthed theological, material, and personal connections among co-religionists in Scotland, Ulster, and North America. Richard Lawrence Jordan's The Second Coming of Paisley never explicitly associates itself with transnational historiography. But it can be read as a contribution to that literature, as it uses Ian Paisley's career as a fundamentalist preacher and Unionist politician to shed light on "the historical, cultural, and theological relationships between British, Irish, and American Protestantism." This is a complicated project based on an awardwinning dissertation, employing primary sources from both sides of the ocean.

Jordan's goal is to understand Paisley's fifty-year "transformation from a predominantly religious crusader into a full-fledged politician" or, from a more precisely theological perspective, "from a premillennial crusader to an amillennial politician." How is it that a Christian fundamentalist who, in the 1940s and 1950s, belligerently rejected modernism, liberalism, and ecumenism and, in the 1960s, steadfastly opposed any and all acquiescence to Catholic civil rights could, by the early 2000s, enter into a power-sharing government with a former member of the Provisional IRA? Jordan traces this trajectory by situating it in the context of transatlantic Protestantism more generally. In particular, American militant fundamentalism deeply impacted Paisley's "theology, his style of protest, and his self-image as a 'martyr' and 'prophet'."

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 offers a broad, historical overview of the three major factors that shaped Paisley's worldview. These are transatlantic Presbyterianism since the seventeenth century (Chapter 1), twentieth-century American fundamentalism (Chapter 2), and Protestantism's own unique history in Ireland and especially Ulster (Chapter 3). Building on the works of a wide range of scholars, from Leigh Eric Schmidt to Steve Bruce, Jordan ties Ian Paisley's career to the "confluence of religiosity and political activity" that has characterized transatlantic Presbyterianism since the 1600s.

The heart of the book lies in Part 2, whose five chapters analyze Paisley in the 1950s and 1960s when his intransigence was at its height and his theological and ideological connections to such American fundamentalists as Carl McIntire at their closest. McIntire was the founder of the International Council of Christian Churches, a global organization dedicated to promoting "a worldwide fellowship of militant fundamentalist churches" and opposing both the Catholic church and ecumenism generally. Militant fundamentalists such as McIntire and Paisley both shared common cause on a range of issues—including a vehement opposition to civil rights protestors on both sides of the ocean in the late 1960s. In the United States, where African Americans were marching for full equality, McIntire perceived "a plot . . . to use integration, civil rights agitation, and black street violence to destroy America's Protestant churches and establish a godless America." Likewise, Paisley and his followers believed [End Page 144] the Catholic civil rights movement was "nothing more than a thinly disguised coalition of Irish Republicans, Communists, and the Roman Catholic Church . . . [which] threatened the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the existence of Bible Protestantism in Ulster." This shared fear, argues Jordan, transformed Paisley's relationship with American militants "from a theological union into a broader Christian-political crusade." Part 3 offers an overview of Paisley's career since 1969 from fundamentalist crusader to savvy politician.

Jordan's book has a strong narrative drive as it takes the reader through Ian Paisley's career from the 1940s to the present. In so doing, Jordan unearths some funny anecdotes. In October 1964, for example, Paisley sent a cable to U Thant, secretary...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5815
Print ISSN
1092-3977
Pages
pp. 143-145
Launched on MUSE
2014-03-15
Open Access
No
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