Friday, January 15, 2010

Religion in Haiti

Pat Robertson's distorted and dangerous message about Haiti, one that essentially blames the victims for their situation, not only gets the history wrong, but the present as well.

The reality is that Haiti is a mystery to most of us.  It is a very poor nation, one that has been the victim not only of nature but also of bad government, including dictatorships.  The land is denuded of its forests and thus storms and other natural disasters are compounded by the dangers of erosion.  Unlike some of the other Caribbean nations it doesn't benefit as much from tourism -- and I'm sure that the reasons are complicated.  At the same time, this was one of the earliest nations in the Western Hemisphere to gain its independence from colonial powers (French in this case) -- and the people who threw off the yoke of bondage were enslaved Africans -- long before that was true in the US. 

When it comes to religion, we can again be unsure of the truth.  I think many of us assume that Haiti is dominated by voodoo, which is the basis of Robertson's outrageous statements.   But the reality is much more complicated.  As Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado of the University of Miami writes in a Religion Dispatch essay, while a majority are probably Roman Catholic (and the Catholic Archbishop is among the dead), probably 30% are Protestant and most of these are part of a growing indigenous Pentecostal movement.  Pat thinks that this disaster will lead to revival.  Well, if Maldonado is correct, he might not be totally off base, but the reality is that this revival is already underway -- with little North American help -- and if an earlier Guatemalan Pentecostal revival is instructive, we might see a tremendous upsurge in Pentecostalism in the island nation.  They may see this in apocalyptic ways, even as a sign of divine judgment, but that's not because of some curse that stems from a slave revolt against the French.   And, a note to Pat, as Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado points out, Haitians aren't predominantly voodoo practitioners, they are overwhelmingly Christian.

Let us continue to pray for the people of Haiti.  And as our hearts and our resources reach out to them, may we come to know them as people in ways we've never done before.

1 comment:

LA said...

Very interesting. I was as shocked by Mr Robertson's comments as anyone.
Living in S FL, where there is a large Haitian community, I have been heart broken by this most recent disaster as well as the history of tragedies that Haiti has suffered. When speaking with a dear friend who is also a Bishop of a small Christian Church (I am not sure if it is Pentecostal or not), he mentioned the same thing: that Haiti was cursed. I was shocked! I asked him repeatedly why he thought this and have yet to receive an answer. When I asked hin what we, the world and Haiti could do to "fix" the problem. He said that Haiti needs to "return to God". I am still anxiously awaiting his reply. It seems, like is has been in the past that it is not just a matter of addressing the damage with money and supplies, we need to find a way to repair the "soul" of Haiti.
My personal journey has recently re-enforced my belief in God and Miracles. Spiritually, it follows that there must be evil as well.The world revolves on balance. I would like to know more about the cause and the possible ways I/we can help do this.I thank you for your time and appreciate any info you could provide.