While I recognize that change, I also know that no one back in my Jersey City youth could have imagined someone named Kevin McCarthy as either a Baptist or an ally of anti-immigrant activists like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, a woman who once said that Satan controlled the Catholic Church. Yet today few are surprised that the speaker, the great-grandson of an Irish Catholic immigrant from County Cork and the first Republican in his family, reportedly attends Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif.
At the same time, Mr. McConnell’s membership in Louisville Southeast Christian Church, an evangelical megachurch, follows logically from his family’s Presbyterian, Scots-Irish roots. Although his family also came from Ireland’s southernmost county, Cork, they joined the first great immigration from Ulster or Northern Ireland to the original 13 American colonies. While a few adapted to the Anglo-Germanic-Quaker culture of Middle Colonies like Pennsylvania, most moved to Appalachia and the South.
Their greatest influence was in Arkansas and in Appalachian states like Tennessee and Kentucky, which Senator McConnell now represents. As they settled in the mountainous regions of Appalachia and the Ozarks, they often named at least one of their sons after their hero, King William III of England, who defeated the largely Catholic army of the deposed King James II. Members of Ulster’s Orange Order continue to celebrate King Billy’s victory in their own parade each July 12, donning bowler hats, white gloves and orange sashes each to demonstrate their loyalty to the United Kingdom.