Monday, March 16, 2009

Not Wearing Green For St. Patrick's Day... Again

Last year (2008) I was a week late for tomorrow's holiday, so here is a re-vamped version of last year's post: Immured in Green:

Every year I'm asked why I -- as a "religious" fanatic -- never wear green on St. Patrick's Day. While I do attend church every time the doors are open, I'm actually not "religious" -- religions are based on tradition first. In most areas, I'm not a traditionalist by any stretch of the imagination. Although I wear suits & ties with dress shirts several times every week, I quit wearing white dress shirts entirely sometime back in the late 1990s. The one exception being a white shirt I rented for my wedding day. Plus, I usually wear cowboy boots with my suits.

People think of me as "religious" because I do attempt to live right, to base my beliefs on the Bible, and to teach my kids to have their own set of high ethical standards based on the Bible. Of course, just like everyone else, I still succeed some days and fail on others -- depending on the minute, hour, day, week, month, and year, but when it comes to St. Patrick's day I avoid including green in every (visible) part of my wardrobe. Instead, I wear maroon -- and that prominently.

I started my personal "not wearing green" trend in junior high and continued this non-conformist trend throughout high school, college, and to the present. Prior to college, without some explanation, few understood why I wouldn't wear green. Every year I explained that both Catholics and Protestants celebrate St. Patrick's Day, all the Catholics wear green, and all the Protestants wear orange. As an orange-wearing kid, in green-wearing schools, I'd get the inevitable, "Prove it," every year. Thus would commence a short social sciences lesson on the Irish and their flag. I'll relate it here, very briefly, for those that may not have heard it before:

The Irish flag consists of 3 vertical stripes, green at the pole, orange at the opposite end, and white between them. Green signifies Catholics, orange -- Protestants, and white -- the peace that should be between them. Their "Irish-ness" supposedly enough to unify even opposing religious views.

After that brief explanation, most understood my self-imposed abstinence from green for the holiday, and a few others even began to wear orange as I did. In more recent years (I believe it was in college, but am uncertain), I've refrained from wearing orange as well -- this change was brought about by studying church history. I am a Baptist, and Baptist history is a very different, separate "tree" than both Catholicism 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 (I usually allow +/-75 years to and from each end). "Protestantism" began as an off-shoot out of Catholicism as the early champions of the Bible attempted to reform the Roman Catholic church. They wanted worship to line up with the Bible rather than the traditions of men. Officially, Protestantism is said to have "started" when Luther broke away from the Roman Catholic church in the early 1500s. The Lutherans were followed by the Church of England, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, and many other denominations that all now claim to be Protestant.

The difference between "Baptist-believing" churches and all of the others, is that they existed prior to Luther (as early as the 1400s) and all held to the belief that for baptism to be of any effect, it had to be practiced Biblically. The Bible states baptism is to occur after one's salvation as an act of obedience to God and as an identification with your faith in Christ as Savior. "Baptizo" meaning to "immerse completely," has a definite and entirely different meaning than "rhantizo" -- "to sprinkle."

These Baptistic churches were persecuted throughout the entire dark ages because they wouldn't conform to Rome's mandates, but only to the scriptures. Prior to being called "Baptist" these churches were called by many other names: Ana-Baptists, Anabaptists, 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 views unaligned with the Bible (i.e. Catholicism and Orthodoxy). Wittenburg wrote in 1607, "Our modern Anabaptist are the same as the Donitists of old. They took no account of the baptism of others ..."

Based on my study, there were churches referred to as "Anabaptist" as early as the 200s -- predating the reign of Catholicism's Constantine (306 A.D. - 312 A.D.).

I said all that to say, as a Baptist, I won't be wearing green for this holiday -- ever. Associating myself with the Roman Catholic religion that has (over many past centuries) killed thousands that believe the Bible as I do would be remiss on my part. EDIT: (I realize, in the USA, as well as most other parts of the world, this is no longer condoned by anyone in the Catholic Church. Although, the Muslims have picked up where the Catholic church left off a few hundred years ago.)

I could wear orange, as many different Protestants of today hold beliefs quite 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 also held beliefs widely divergent from Baptists, and some went so far as to persecute Baptists, just as the Roman Catholics did.

No matter how similar my beliefs are to those of others, I know that I'm not Protestant. Because I'm a Baptist (of the conservative, independent, and Biblically-based fundamental variety... that have existed "underground" for centuries), I hold to views that are separate from both Catholicism and Protestantism. So, as a matter of personal preference, I eschew BOTH green AND orange on St. Patrick's day.

If I don't have any clean maroon shirts, I'll substitute red -- whatever color I have that is as close as possible to the color of blood. Maroon and red are close to orange (as many of my beliefs are close to mainline Protestants of today and of old), but are obviously different colors.

In this way, if someone asks about my lack of green (or orange), 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 that follows the Bible over traditions) it's my belief that each convert should be baptized after their salvation.

Explaining the green/orange observance of St. Patrick's day has yet to enable me to lead anyone up to (or through) the Bible verses that promise 100% certainty of salvation (and eternal residence in heaven), but maybe this St. Patrick's day will change that.

As a side note, I am part Irish, BUT I am NOT Catholic, never have been, never will be, and if you attempt to punch or pinch me for not wearing green... well, let's just say you may contribute to my delinquency. =)
(That's a joke... don't forget to smile.)

* * * * * * * EDIT * * * * * * *
NOTE #1: Actually left home early in the morning on St. Patrick's Day for an appointment. Was running behind, and couldn't find any clean maroon (or red) shirts -- so I looked for an orange stand-in -- came up short there too. Ended up wearing white. (Was able to find a maroon polo later when I came home for lunch.)

NOTE #2: Was able to use my non-green shirt as an "opportunity" for the first time!


deovindice said...

Orange wearing Baptist

While I agree with your insight into the historic differences between baptists and protestants, our modern baptist doctrines have more in common with some of the early Celtic churches than with the groups traditionally known as Anabaptist. The Anabaptists would more closely resemble the Amish than modern Baptists. One of the most important distinction is the doctrine of eternal security.We have the Scottish Presbyterians to thank for that one. As far back as I can tell, the Anabaptists don't believe it. It was in fact in Great Britain that the Baptists we know today came into being by uniting elements of Anabaptist doctrine with Scottish Calvinism. The Scottish Covenanters were persecuted by the Church of England for refusing to acknowledge the king as head of the church. Many of these persecuted Scots fled to the New world and are the direct ancestors of most of the baptists in the South. So, I happily wear orange today in honor of my Scottish forefathers whose cry of "no King but Jesus" helped give birth to this great nation.

m@t said...

I should've taken a little more time to make sure I was clear:

I don't have any problem with those wearing orange for the holiday; just (non-Catholic) Baptists wearing green. =)

Also realize that many of the re-baptizers of old didn't line up (doctrinally) exactly where I do today. The common thread I was following across the listed denominations is 4-fold -- the rejection of: infant baptism, sprinkling, baptism as a means of salvation, &/or baptism prior to salvation.

Had hoped that by wearing red, even individuals wearing orange might take notice, comment, and create an opportunity to relate the Gospel.

Thanks for your additional insight. It's challenged me to learn more.