In my first week at the University of Strathclyde I was asked “what religion are you?”
“I think I’m a Christian” I replied, uncertain.
“No, which foot do you kick with?”
I didn’t understand the question so I said “I don’t really play ball sports, I’m into athletics and swimming.”
My interrogator was getting agitated, “Which football team do you support?”
“I’m not a football fan, I come from Melrose, we only play rugby down there.”
He stormed off in a rage. I didn’t know what I’d said wrong.
It was only when I left the Borders of Scotland, aged 17, to go to University in Glasgow that I encountered sectarianism for the first time. I called my mum later that week and said “Mum, there’s this thing called sectarianism. Religion only causes trouble. I’m never going back to church.” And I didn’t, for seven years. Then I discovered the real thing. An nonsectarian Christian faith in which followers of Jesus Christ loved their enemies and did good to those who hated them, blessed those who cursed them.
Glasgow’s sectarianism is tribal, not religious. It is old Scotland verses immigrant Irish and is played out through the support of the city’s two big football clubs, Celtic and Rangers. As a report by NFO Social Research staes
Perhaps of more importance, support for Rangers and Celtic is also seen as reflecting the sectarian divide in Ireland, which, again, is seen to be about much more than religious difference. [NFO Social Research].
Is there a solution? There is, and it lies in the person at the centre of Catholic and Protestant faith, Jesus Christ. The division in Glasgow is similar in nature to the division in the church in Corinth where allegiances were made to individuals other than Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:12-13 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
In Glasgow one says “I follow King Billy (William of Orange) and another “I follow the Pope” still others follow Christ.
When asked which religion I’m from, now I would say, confidently, “I am a follower of Jesus Christ who died for all my sins to make me right before the Lord and who rose from the dead for my eternal hope. I love him and follow his commandments, to love God and love my neighbour as myself.”