On one of the radio talk-shows this week (don't know which one as I didn't put the radio on and am not even sure at which point in the week I heard it) one of the callers, who was a participant in the current "flag-protests" (although we all know that it's not just about a flag) claimed that he and his fellow protesters were more faithful to the 1912 Ulster Covenant than those Unionist leaders in Stormont sitting in government with the "enemies of Britain."
There could be some truth in that. Take a look again at the words and context of the 1912 Covenant.
BEING CONVINCED in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious freedom, destructive of our citizenship, and perilous to the unity of the Empire, we, whose names are underwritten, men of Ulster, loyal subjects of His Gracious Majesty King George V, humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn Covenant, throughout this our time of threatened calamity, to stand by one another in defending, for ourselves and our children, our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom, and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. And in the event of such a Parliament being forced upon us, we further solemnly and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognize its authority. In sure confidence that God will defend the right, we hereto subscribe our names.And further, we individually declare that we have not already signed this Covenant.
"Loyal subjects" pledging themselves to use "all means which may be found necessary" to thwart the undermining of "equal citizenship in the United Kingdom" even if that involves physical resistance to the forces of the crown. Tell me that doesn't sound familiar.
At the time of the centenary of the Ulster Covenant, the Belfast District Synod of the Methodist Church got into hot water over a statement which they released which raised questions concerning the link between the "all means which may be found necessary" statement, and the use of violence for political ends. I also helped draft an alternative "Contemporary Covenant" which was based on the traditional Methodist Covenant. This morning we renewed our covenant with God as we traditionally do on the first Sunday in January within Methodism. For those unfamiliar with the words of the Covenant Service, here is the Act of Covenant that lies at the heart of it all:
Beloved in Christ, let us again claim for ourselves this covenant which God has made with his people,
and take upon us the yoke of Christ. This means that we are content that he appoint us our place and work,
and that he himself be our reward. Christ has many services to be done: some are easy, others are difficult;
some bring honour, others bring reproach;
some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests, others are contrary to both;
in some we may please Christ and please ourselves;
in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves. Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us. Therefore let us make this covenant of God our own.
Let us give ourselves to him, trusting in his promises and relying on his grace.
Lord God, holy Father,
since you have called us through Christ
to share in this gracious covenant,
we take upon ourselves with joy the yoke of obedience and, for love of you,
engage ourselves to seek and do your perfect will. We are no longer our own but yours.
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
A very different covenant altogether...