St Andrew, Glencairn

Glencairn Methodist Church

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October 2012

British or Irish? A question of identity!

We who are born and live in Northern Ireland or "the six counties" have a unique privilege. We can legally choose to travel on either a British or an Irish passport, that is, we can choose to be British or Irish. Usually we choose according to the community we belong to, or whether we "feel"  to be the one or the other. We should of course be free to choose whichever we feel is right for us, but sometime community pressure requires us to conform. Of course some people are "not bovvered"  and make their choice simply on which passport is the less expensive.

But this is not the whole story! Take me for instance, being a "Prod" I choose to buy the (more expensive) British passport and feel myself to be British. But yet, when I travel abroad and strangers ask me where I come from, my answer is Ireland. If they probe more deeply they usually get a long explanation of the finer points of being both British and Irish at the same time. As a rugby fan I support Club Ulster, who play in the Celtic league and are recognised as an Irish team, and, of course,  the Irish International side. I cheered for all Olympians from the North, whether they played for Team GB or Team Ireland; I rejoiced at all their successes and wept at their misfortunes (quietly and into myself lest I drop my manly image!) There was some debate in the media recently about whether Rory McIlroy (a good golfer) should represent Team GB or team Ireland at the 2016 Olympic Games. Likewise there was some debate about whether Andy Murray (a good tennis player) was Scottish or British. Furthermore, to add to the confusion, I belong to the Church of Ireland, which is the Irish Branch of the Anglican Communion of churches, and it sees itself as both Catholic and Protestant (Book of Common Prayer 2004, p 776)

But when it comes to being a citizen of the Kingdom of God or a citizen of the World, Christians have no choice. Having a foot in each camp is impossible. When a person becomes a Christian, they choose to renounce their citizenship of the World in favour of the Kingdom of God. St Matthew records Jesus as saying, "No one can serve two masters" (6: 24) and St Paul writes, "Many (people) live as enemies of the cross of Christ... Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven." (Philippians 3: 18-20)

When it really matters, what is your identity?


3rd October 2012


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