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Time for Orange to change tune

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

The Orange Order must celebrate its so-called Christian roots by marking today's Mini Twelfth by playing only Gospel hymns at contentious flashpoints.

July 1 commemorates the anniversary of the opening day of the bloody Battle of the Somme during World War One when the British suffered more than 50,000 men killed, wounded or missing.

While the Orange Order has hijacked many Somme memorial events, Catholics and Protestants were slaughtered side by side by German machine-gunners.

This is probably because 1 July was the original date of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 under the old Roman calendar. It changed to the Gregorian calendar of 12 July in 1752.

But what the Orange really needs to return to is the roots of The Qualifications – the oath which a man swears upon joining the Order.

This oath states members of the exclusively Protestant order "should strenuously oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of Rome".

They swear this during an initiation ceremony known as 'Riding The Goat', a ritual which makes the Order opposed by even hardline Protestant fundamentalists.

Also in the oath, an Orangeman must swear to be "ever abstaining from all uncharitable words, actions, or sentiments, towards his Roman Catholic brethren".

The problem for the Orange lodges is not the behaviour of its members on the march, but in many cases, the music being played by bands accompanying the Order.

The Order simply telling bands to play Gospel hymn tunes when passing Catholic chapels or nationalist flashpoints is not the solution.

Many sectarian lyrics have been written to the music of Christian hymns and choruses. What may seem to nationalists a Gospel tune as a blood and thunder loyalist flute band passes by is actually a sectarian song.

One of the greatest Christian hymns is 'What A Friend We Have In Jesus'. But its tune is also that of the sectarian chant, Holy Mary – 'Holy Mary I am dying, just a word before I go; set the Pope upon a table and ram a poker up his hole.'

The overwhelming majority of Protestant Sunday School children will learn the Gospel chorus, 'Jesus Loves Me, This I Know'.

But its loyalist lyrics are: "Jesus loves me this I know, 'cause I come from Sandy Row, walkin' up and down the Falls, kickin Fenians in the balls."

Another popular children's Christian chorus is 'Give Me Joy In My Heart, Keep Me Praising.'

But to the loyalist tune the words are: "Give me bullets for my gun keep me shooting, keep me shooting all the Taigs in the IRA."

To avoid this situation, the Orange Order must draw up a list of approved Gospel hymns which have not been hijacked by extreme loyalist lyric writers.

For example, the rapidly growing cross-community Pentecostal movement is virtually the only Christian faith increasing in Ireland while other denominations are losing vast numbers from their pews.

The Pentecostalists – also known as the Elim – have introduced a whole series of new Gospel praise songs called Hill Songs, which originated in Australia. Music and praise are at the heart of these Hill Songs and the lyrics are overtly Christian.

By all means hammer out the Sash and Derry's Walls in loyalist areas, but if the Order is to be seen as truly Christian, its' bands should only play Hill Songs – especially outside chapels and Catholic districts.

Better still, the Orange should follow the model of success of the famous Donegal Dander to Rossnowlagh beach on the Saturday before each 12 July.

Hymn tunes are the order of the day as Orangeism portrays itself as Christian family organisation; no political speeches, just enjoyment and a Gospel service.

If the Order does not revamp its music, its image will revert to its roots in the violent Peep O'Day militia which openly attacked Catholics.

July 2, 2013

This article appeared in the July 1, 2013 edition of the Irish Daily Star.



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