Patrick, celebrated today as St. Patrick, was one of the Romanized British 1 percent. He is today the patron saint of Ireland. Historian Richard Fletcher writes that “Patrick is a famously difficult subject for the historian.”
This is apparently true for Evangelical bigots as well, as disgraced former military chaplain and current Colorado State Representative Gordon Klingenschmitt has just demonstrated in calling for a new St. Patrick to drive the gay demons out of Ireland.
“There was a time when it was said that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland,” Klingenschmitt told his flock.
Fletcher writes that, in studying Patrick, “It might be easiest to start by indicating some of the things which he did not do. He did not expel snakes from Ireland: the snakelessness of Ireland had been noted by Roman geographer Solinus in the third century.”
Patrick lived in the fifth century. So no snake herding. None.
What Patrick actually drove out of Ireland was Paganism. Patrick committed what is today known as cultural genocide. It may not have been Charlemagne’s bloody physical genocide to eradicate Paganism on the Continent, but the United Nations calls the sort of activities Patrick is famed for – the stuff that made him a saint – a crime today.
So what Gordon Klingenschmitt is calling for is some good old fashioned cultural genocide.
Klingenschmitt doesn’t believe actual snakes have returned to Ireland, of course. They are “demonic snakes”:
[A]nd now I’m concerned that the snakes have returned to Ireland. And when I say snakes, I’m not talking about physical snakes, I’m talking about the demonic spirits inside of some of the people you see parading their sin in pride around the country, rejecting not just the Catholic Church but rejecting Jesus Christ himself.
So gay people, apparently, are snakes. They’ve been called worse. But just as there were no snakes to be driven out of Ireland in the fifth century, there are no demonic snakes to be driven out today. There are, however, probably a lot of things which need to be driven out of Klingenschmitt’s head:
Jesus Christ defined marriage between one man and one woman and maybe it’s time for another St. Patrick to go back into Ireland and preach the good news that Jesus can make you free from sin and drive out the snakes once again.
Somehow, and this is as difficult for Pagans to understand today as it was in the fifth century, it became important in Ireland to care about what a Jewish guy said to a bunch of Jews five hundred years earlier.
The Irish had their own gods, of course, and their own beliefs, and were happy with them. For a time, the Church, happy to have suppressed or to be engaged in suppressing all the Pagans in the Roman Empire, did not care about the Irish or anyone else living beyond imperial borders.
Patrick changed all that. He decided everybody needed to have some Jesus shoved down their throats, whether they wanted him or not. Which, of course, the Irish having “rejected Jesus,” is what Klingenschmitt wants today.
So Klingenschmitt hauls out Jesus and Patrick like bookends and demands the Irish have no right to believe what they believe, or to vote the way they vote.
In Christianity, you don’t vote anymore about what you believe (a bunch of old white MEN did that for you back in Patrick’s day). Instead, you believe and do what you’re told or you get told you rejected Jesus by thinking you have a choice (i.e. heresy).
You might get why this old boy is a Heathen today. I get why many of you are atheists or secularists, or “nones” or whatever else you might be that has nothing to do with the Gordon Klingenschmitts of the world.
Now it is not Druids infesting Ireland, of course, that concern him, but Christian people who are just not Christian enough, or perhaps not the right kind of Christian.
You might have seen the fuss over Fox & Friends about a statue that displays Native Americans kneeling to a white missionary. Fox things objecting to this statue is a form of racism – against white people – but apparently Native Americans kneeling to a white guy isn’t racism.
But you find images of Pagan Irish kings kneeling to St. Patrick and other missionaries too – like the poor benighted King of Cashel here:
What Klingenschmitt wants is what every Church leader for nearly twenty centuries has wanted: dominion over we the people. Patrick wanted folks kneeling to him. If we take snakes as a symbol for Pagan, he drove the Pagan gods out of Ireland, and now Klingenschmitt wants to drive the gays out of Ireland.
Because he feels, like Patrick, that he has a right to this. But people claiming God told them they should or could do something sort of subverts the Democratic process. One man getting to have his way because he says God told him so, cannot be allowed to trump what everybody else wants.
Minority rights must be respected. That is central to our own Constitution. But nobody is forcing the Gordon Klingenschmitts of the world – or of Ireland – to marry another man. They still have their rights. They can still listen to their god and live their lives accordingly.
Where their rights end, ours begin. We have plenty of evidence from history – the tale of “Patrick the Genocider” included – to see what happens when the Klingenschmitts of the world get their way.
Democracy is a curative for religious tyranny. Our Founding Fathers recognized that, and ensured, or so they hoped, that America would never be afflicted with a Patrick. Unfortunately, we are afflicted with a Klingenschmitt, who now thinks its his business to tell the Irish what to believe.
Richard Fletcher. The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity. University of California Press, 1999.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.