Jude Collins

Friday, 17 August 2012

John Waters, Katie Taylor and that religion thing.

Easily the most interesting article - and most read, according to the online listing - in today's Irish Times  is one by John Waters. For some people, the mention of Waters's name is sufficient to turn them off, because they feel his assertions of the rights of fathers somehow makes him anti-feminist.  I don't know enough about his views on that topic to say whether he is or not, but I find his take on religion and its place in southern society fascinating.

The central point he makes is one I've touched on myself: that the media find it a little tricky to deal with Katie Taylor's overt piety. She is clearly a religious young woman, who believes that her life and her success comes from God, and that the prayers of her supporters were a key part in her recent win.  It pulls you up a bit, that, doesn't it? Embarrassing, sort of. Quite contrary to the way sports people - or any public figure, short of a religious nut - talk.

Katie has one advantage - her faith isn't Catholic. Since she belongs to an evangelical Protestant church,  the Irish media are at a loss. So, as we Irish so often do when confronted with a problem, we step round it. The Irish media, as Waters points out, pretend they haven't heard what she said about Jesus.

I find Waters's article interesting because it is rare - very rare - to find someone in the mainstream southern media who thinks and writes about the place of religion in people's lives. I also find him interesting because it's always struck me as odd that the one thing that overshadows all our lives - our death and its meaning - is the one thing we really really don't like to think about, let alone talk about.  With falling church-attendance, congregations have been largely reduced to oldies, which young people tend to see as further proof of the stupidity of religion. "They know they're going to die soon, that's why they're there"  they say dismissively. But as Dr Johnston almost said, the prospect of dying does concentrate the mind wonderfully.

Waters has had the courage to question why we elevate the 'new atheists' like Richard Dawkins, and dismiss as fairy-tale believers those who make religion a central part of their lives.  Odd, that as  Anglo-Saxon poetry put it, we are like birds that fly out of the darkness into the noise and light of a banqueting hall for a few brief minutes, and then fly back into darkness once again. You'd think that  such a fact would shape our thinking about life and how we live it, and that if it didn't we'd seem crazy, reality-deniers. In practice, it's the other way round - people like Katie Taylor and John Waters are judged the nut-cases.

Interesting. Meanwhile, Katie Taylor should go down on her knees and thank God she wasn't born a Catholic. Otherwise the thoughtful southern media would have eaten her alive.


  1. Praise for Katie Taylor's unabashed faith in Jesus. And praise too for John Waters defense of her public expression of it, and his flagging of his media colleagues embarrassment of such expression.
    I cant help thinking that if she gave credit to an angel or indeed some other god our media pundits would be more comfortable with that.
    Understandable really in post christian Ireland.

  2. So those other competitors then, were they just not faithful enough to be chosen by Jesus as winners? and if he choses them whats the point in all those years of training?

  3. I'm sure we will all find it hard to believe that the republic of Ireland and its media are uncomfortable with a successful young Protestant woman in their midst. Hardly the Ireland of equals we keep hearing about.

    With her faith, no doubt if she kissed the ring of some Roman Catholic bishop the RoI media would be demanding she be raised to sainthood.