Gibson, grand chaplain of the Orange Order, has been a prominent spokesman for the loyalist protesters and was on the DUP’s team at the Haass Talks.
Among Gibson’s more notorious comments were those he made when describing a new mural painted of Gerry Adams in West Belfast. Gibson said:
“I see they’ve painted a new mural to him on the Falls Road. Sadly, it’s not a memorial mural.”
In its report on the speech, the Mirror reprinted a Tweet that said:
“That’s not very Christian of you, Merv.”
Two members of Fitzroy Presbyterian, Dave Thompson and Brent van der Linde, have offered a more sustained Christian commentary on Gibson’s speech, producing this YouTube video.
Thompson and van der Linde take issue not only with Gibson’s comments about Adams, but also his exhortation that people should vote for unionists, and no other parties.
It’s likely that a more nuanced view of voting in the upcoming elections will be discussed at a Sunday evening event at Fitzroy on 18 May, “To Vote is a privilege; to vote has dilemmas,’ with Brett Lockhart QC and Fr Tim Bartlett. Fitzroy describes it this way:
We are delighted to welcome local barrister Brett Lockhart back to Fitzroy where he grew up. Brett spoke at the recent Haas Hope event with passion, political insight and spiritual wisdom. He believes we need to transcend national identities with our identity in Christ. Our other speaker Fr Tim Bartlett is the Secretary to the Catholic Commission on Social Affairs and Secretary to the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland. He will explore principles that might guide Christians in their participation in shaping public policy including voting in elections.
It’s interesting that Gibson appealed to unionist unity in his speech, but not at all to Christian principles (unless we should assume he believes unionist unity is intertwined with Christian liberty, which may very well be the case).
Thompson and van der Linde, by way of contrast, appeal to the gospels, with Thompson saying that Jesus would have a calmer tone and a different message, and van der Linde saying that:
Like Mervyn, we’re both Presbyterians. We found it hard to hear the grace of Jesus Christ in his speech.
Thompson and van der Linde acknowledge that it is not easy to love your enemies and forgive others. They challenge us to love and forgive; first, it seems, by challenging Gibson’s provocative public discourse. But after that, it remains an open question how loving your enemies and forgiving others can be manifested at Twaddell and beyond.