In Ireland there was much that was familiar, including American pizza and hamburger fast food establishments. There are, however, differences in people which I also noticed. One that stands out is the way so many Irish men treat small children. With regularity men would bend over to engage my three year old son, giving him high fives. Once we jumped on a bus for a city tour (he loves buses and trains). As we settled into the seat the driver said that he was done for the day. A distraught three year old let the world know his displeasure as we dragged him out of that seat. Suddenly a young man appeared and did all he could to distract and console our inconsolable boy. On another occasion we were in the revolving door of a hotel. Needless to say, his stumbling steps are not ideal for quick travel. When I apologized to a businessman, he simply smiled and punched me on the shoulder as if to say, "He is a child, no harm!" Two taxi drivers also were very attentive to him.
Which got me to thinking about differences in cultures. Which led to a discussion today in Bible study. If Jesus had come to the Irish culture, how different would the New Testament writings be? In a sense we sort of know. Reading the Celtic Saints (Patrick, Columba, Brendan, Aiden, Briggette, etc.) we see their language is steeped in images and thought patterns different from our own. Now, because they shared the same Bible with us, they were shaped and formed by the same texts, but how those texts were translated in their lives and spirituality was radically different. Every Christian would do well to engage the Celtic writings, which are thoroughly Christian and so different from our own.
The same is true in Africa and Latin America. [One reason why the Pope seems to baffle us--he is shaped by different cares and concerns, he fights different battles.] It is easy to forget that the Almighty, Eternal, Triune God is bigger than our thoughts and culturally limited interpretations of Scripture and ways of imaging. The Irish are similar to me and mine, yet different. They spoke often of their Irish tendencies (among the things listed were excessive story telling, freedom with facts, excessive drinking, a disregard for time) and their rootedness to place (some families have lived in the same areas for five thousand years). The island is small (two hours across by bus, about five hours north to south---smaller than my state of Tennessee:42000sq miles to 32000sq miles) and much of the population is in one city, Dublin (a quarter to a third). As I shared the previous post, history, even ancient history, is ever present. Buildings constructed hundreds, even thousands of years ago are every where.The music is often steeped in history and references to past struggles.The past seemed to press into the present more incessantly there.
As I thought about God, once more I drifted into thoughts of His relationship with all manner of people. One theme of the Bible (something Fr. David preached on this weekend, go to our web page to hear it) is that God loves us, and us is every human being. That diversity of people generates a diversity of theologies and religious practices. The Irish, or Celtic, model of Christianity is worthy of consideration. It does not easily match up with an American Protestant mind set. Before we disregard it, we do well to ponder the saints and martyrs who faithfully carried the Gospel in the sixth and seventh centuries.We are their descendents. God loved them. And we have much to learn from them.
It is a better world, for example, where men love children.