Listening to a fascinating conversation between William Crawley and the Rev Dr Ian Paisley, hosted at Queen's this week past which Crawley has blogged about on his BBC page. Having just returned from a week far from these complicated shores, I nonetheless find myself picking up a train of thought that I hung up before I went; a further reconsideration of the legacy of the Big Man.
A couple of weeks ago, I did the unthinkable, and sat on YouTube for a while listening to sermon snippets from Dr Paisley. The man has, over the years, irriated and yet interested me; and now, at a point in his life when he is only heard from publicly in reflection, it seems to be a legacy that continues to become more and more favourable. I still find some of his past politics completely implorable, and his methods harsh; but the man is brutally honest, and seemingly more Christ-centered as the years roll on (in a way that resembles the Christ of the Bible, as a contrast to the Christ perhaps mirrored by uber-conservatives.)
I wonder, if the Reverend Doctor had remained an independent or Presbyterian preacher right up to this point and was only now to found a church, how it might differ from the sometime-divisive Free Presbyterian model. I await with anticipation what might happen if Big Benny XVI himself rolls onto these shores in the next couple of years; will Paisley be there, bellowing at the 'Antichrist?'
Perhaps, in the end, powersharing politics went some way to take a firebrand of a man and calm the flames enough that we could all stand a little closer. Or perhaps it is only now he is letting us see him for his true persona, and not what he would have presented to stir and encourage the inclinations of his disciples. There's certainly no denying that, re: the Chuckle Brothers, the Deputy First Minister seemed to find a man he could come alongside - and who of us ever really thought we would see that to begin with?
You can jump straight to the full interview here.