Sunday, March 23, 2008

Immured in Green

I realize this post is a week late, but if I wait until next year, it will probably be a week late then as well, so... three hundred fifty-eight days early... here's my 2009 St. Patrick's day post:

Every year I'm asked why (since I'm so "religious") I never seem to wear green on St. Patrick's Day. It's not that I attempt to be "religious" I just try to live "right" -- and of course, just like everyone else, I succeed on some days and fail on others. On St. Patrick's day I actually make every attempt to avoid green -- on every part of my wardrobe (I don't check the tags of my clothing or the toes of my socks, just the visible portions of it).

Even in junior high and high school I insisted on running the risk of resisting the green trend -- granted, it was very small risk, but risk nonetheless. (For some reason, jr. high boys like to punch and the girls like to pinch any non-greenies they can find.) I was constantly explaining that both Catholics and Protestants celebrate St. Patrick's Day, the Catholics wear green, and the Protestants wear orange. Although I'm a small part Irish, I'm NOT Catholic, never have been, never will be, and I shouldn't be punched or pinched for wearing orange. Then I'd get the inevitable, "Prove it," which was rather simple if the person had ever seen an Irish flag.

The Irish flag consists of 3 vertical stripes, green at the pole, orange at the opposite end, and white between them. Green signifying the Catholics, Orange the Protestants, and White signifying the Peace that should be between them -- their shared "Irish-ness" unifying even opposing religious views.

In recent years, I not only refrain from wearing green, but orange as well -- the change was brought about by studying history. I'm a Baptist, and Baptist history is a very different, separate "tree" than Catholocism and Protestantism.

The "dark ages" lasted a little over 1,000 years -- different people observe differing events to "mark" the beginning and end, but the approximate dates are 450 AD to 1600 AD (if you allow +/-75 years to/from each end you'll avoid much contention). Protestanism had earlier champions that attempted to reform the church to line up with the Bible, but didn't officially "start" until Luther broke away in the early 1500s. The Lutherans were followed by the Church of England, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, and many other denominations that now claim to be Protestant.

There were "Baptist" churches prior to Luther (as early as the 1400s) and prior to being called "Baptists" these churches were called "Ana-Baptists" or Anabaptists. There were persecuted churches throughout the entire dark ages that were called Ana-Baptist and Baptist, but sometimes they were called by other names as well. A few of those other churches holding to "Baptistic" or "Anabaptistic" beliefs were the Montanists, Novations, Paterins, Donatists, Paterins Cathari, Paulicians, Arnoldists, Henricians, Albigenses, and Waldenses. Generally, these all believed in rebaptizing any new converts coming from churches holding heretical views of the Bible. Wittenburg wrote in 1607, "Our modern Anabaptist are the same as the Donitists of old. They took no account of the baptism of others ..." To the best of my knowledge there were churches referred to as Anabaptist as early as the late 200s (predating Catholicism's Constantine).

I said all that to say, as a Baptist, I would be remiss in wearing green and associating myself with the Catholics that have over the centuries killed many thousands that believe the Bible as I do. I could wear orange, as many different Protestants of today hold beliefs similar to my own and the general public cannot differentiate between a Protestant and a Baptist. However, in the early days of Protestantism, many of those denominations held beliefs widely divergent from Baptists, and some went so far as to persecute Baptists.

No matter how similar my beliefs are to those of others of today, I know I'm truly a conservative Baptist (of the independent and fundamental variety), and have views that are separate from Catholicism and Protestantism. So, as a personal preference, I've decided to eschew both green and orange on St. Patrick's day. I now wear maroon, or (if I don't have any clean maroon shirts) red. Maroon and red are close to orange (as many of my beliefs are close to mainline Protestants), but are obviously different. And if someone asks, I can point to my red article of clothing and explain God's exclusive requirement of Christ's blood sacrifice to remit any and all sin, the importance of accepting this sacrifice, and how, as a Baptist, it's my belief that each convert should be baptized after salvation.

Explaining the green/orange observance of St. Patrick's day hasn't yet enabled me to lead anyone up to (or through) the Bible verses that promise 100% certainty of salvation (and eternal residence in heaven), but maybe the next observance of St. Patrick's day will change that.

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