The Apprentice Boys March of the Orange Order leads through a street in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The march, which involves the playing of traditional Orange songs such as ‘The Sash My Father Wore’, celebrates the ending of a seige on the town by the Catholic army under Lord Antrim in April 1689. An earlier attempt to hold the city was foiled by a group of 13 apprentices, hence the name of the march. Catholic protests against the march in 1969 led to stone throwing and rioting and partly towards the IRA terror campaign of 1969-1994. The 1995 march took place against protests that this kind of provocative behaviour should not occur in the light of the ongoing peace talks.
I didn’t always have a keen interest in religion and spirituality. Growing up as a kid, I was pretty average and didn’t belong to a churchgoing family. Weekends were mostly spent cottaging or skiing. And that really left no time nor interest for sitting in a stuffy old church on Sundays.
Things changed, though, and I became increasingly interested in psychoanalytic and, soon after, numinous issues. This led me to India where I did a Masters in Comparative Religion. Because, however, I had virtually no religious background, I remember being caught off guard by an Indian professor who once asked me, “Are you Protestant or Catholic?”
“Uh… I was baptized in the Anglican Church,” I replied after quickly remembering what my parents had told me. So walking home from class I mused, I guess that makes me a Protestant.
In other words, I hardly knew the difference or, at least, never really gave it much serious thought. I was far more interested in Asian religions at the time. Christianity just seemed so wooden and non-experiential.
Again, things changed and I actually converted to Catholicism in 2001. But that’s another story. And today I am far from an uncritical Catholic, believing – or pretending to believe – in all the teachings piped in from the Vatican. In fact, I have evolved so much since converting that I only hold the core of Catholicism close to my heart. All the rest, all the hypocrisy and clannish thinking, well, I had to let it go.
Some may say I’m a “fallen away” or “lapsed” Catholic. But I’d just say that as I grew in spiritual maturity, the confines of the Church became more of a hassle than a help.
So with that personal preamble, I’ll jump to what I wrote about Protestantism several years ago:
Protestantism is a Christian movement that separated believers from the Catholic Church and its Papal authority in the 16th and 17th centuries.
A Protestant is a member of a Church that follows regulations formed during the Reformation. And today I would add… Important figures in the Protestant Reformation are John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Ulrich Zwingli.
And that’s about all I have to say on the topic. I don’t find it very fruitful to enter into debates about “who’s right” because, frankly, I see both Protestant and Catholic teachings as only partially right. So why get into all the fuss of heated debates? I think many who do that are really working out their inherited biases and unresolved complexes, all under the mask of being righteous and holy.
In my case, I find it liberating to finally say what I really think rather than hold back out of fear. As a new Catholic, I knew I didn’t agree with everything. But I feared that if I said so, they’d kick me out. I admit, I wouldn’t like it if that happened today. But as Elton John sings,
And you can’t go back, and if you try it fails
Looking up ahead I see a rusty nail
A sign hanging from it saying, ‘Truth for sale’
And that’s what we did, no lies at all, just one more tale
About the captain and the kid