Author Spotlight: Richard Lawrence Jordan
Book: The Second Coming of Paisley: Militant Fundamentalism and Ulster Politics
Richard Lawrence Jordan received his PhD in modern British history from Louisiana State University. He was awarded the 2009 Adele Dalsimer Prize for Outstanding Dissertation from the American Conference of Irish Studies and the Distinguished Dissertation Award from Louisiana State University. Jordan’s new book, The Second Coming of Paisley, provides a detailed examination of the relationship between the Reverend Ian Paisley and leaders of the militant wing of evangelical fundamentalism in the United States.
Describe the types of research you conducted for The Second Coming of Paisley?
“The research for this book was undertaken for my dissertation while at Louisiana State University, was fairly straight forward and involved the libraries and archives of Northern Ireland (Queen’s University, Belfast Central Library, Linenhall Library, Union Theological College etc.) and those in the United States. These included those of numerous universities, but most notably the Carl McIntire Collection (Special Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary), and the Mack Library and Fundamentalism File at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina.”
What sort of conflict did Paisley experience over the years?
“Paisley has created a substantial amount of controversy during his career, which began shortly after embarking on his ministry in 1946. As a youthful, Calvinist and evangelical crusader in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Paisley was initially accepted by the growing fundamentalist community in Ulster. But after exposure to the militant theology of the Reverend Carl McIntire of Collingswood, New Jersey in 1951 and after contact with McIntire’s cohorts within the International Council of Christian Churches, Paisley followed their brand of separatist and antagonistic militant fundamentalism. During the 1950s and into the 1960s, Paisley attacked the liberalism and modernism that many Irish Presbyterian clerics and seminarians professed, and which was accepted by many other Irish Protestants. He also crusaded against the political and theological designs of the Irish Catholic Church and the attempts by moderates within the Ulster Unionist party to reconcile with Northern Ireland’s catholic community. During this period, Paisley formed an intimate relationship with segregationists, such as the Bob Jones family of South Carolina. After being jailed in the summer of 1966 for protests in front of the Presbyterian General Assembly in Belfast, Paisley was anointed as God’s prophet and martyr in Ireland. Paisley began annual tours of the American south just as the American civil rights movement and federal policy proved effective in changing the Jim Crow laws of the American south. When the Northern Ireland civil rights movement began in the mid-1960s and demanded equal voting and economic rights for Catholics, Paisley adopted tactics that North American militants used to oppose civil rights for African Americans in the American South and became the most vocal and physical opponent to civil rights marches in Northern Ireland.”
What was Ireland’s political situation throughout Paisley’s lifetime?
“Paisley was born in 1926 in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. So he never ‘arrived’ in Ireland as an immigrant, but as a young preacher on the streets of Belfast after the Second World War. The political situation in Ireland at that time was a post-war Europe overshadowed by the United States and the Cold War. Northern Ireland was firmly under control of the Ulster Unionist Party (a party that the protestant landed elite and business community dominated), but southern Ireland was in the process of converting from the Irish Free State (a Dominion of the British Crown) into the Republic of Ireland. In response, the British government made a stronger commitment to the union between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Although the catholic community in Northern Ireland was generally complacent, there was signs of growing restlessness with Unionist rule from both Catholics and the protestant working class, a new sense of assertiveness from the Irish Catholic Church and the Irish Republican Army, and in the realm of religion, the expanding ecumenical movement.”
“The religious aspect interested me more, but naturally politics has its appeal. The conflict within Protestantism and between fundamentalists and liberal/modernists is fascinating, but so is the interaction between religiosity and the political and economic situation in Ireland from the First World War through the 1960s and up until the outbreak of the Ulster ‘Troubles.’ How all these factors reacted to the infusion of Northern American militant fundamentalism and to the call for civil rights creates a great story.”
Do you have a personal connection to the topics in this book?
“There is an indirect connection between the Northern Ireland troubles and my personal life, which drew my interest long before I entered the world of academics. From the age twenty until returning to school in the late 1990s, I was in the music business, running an independent record label that specialized in Alternative and Americana. This lifestyle required many trips to the British Isles during the 1980s, and with an interest in history, I was naturally attracted to the situation in Northern Ireland.”
Are you considering writing anything else in the future?
“I am constantly doing research and writing. Currently my time has been taken up with a second manuscript on Paisley and North American militant fundamentalists and their opposition to both the American and the Northern Ireland civil rights movements. Moreover, the second book considers the interaction between both sets of militants and both groups of civil rights activists.”
The Second Coming of Paisley: Militant Fundamentalism and Ulster Politics will be published in the next few weeks. To purchase or learn more about Richard Lawrence Jordan’s new title, visit the Syracuse University Press website.