Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
Haiti is facing a spiritual as well as a physical crisis with the collapse of many of its most potent religious symbols in the earthquake, according to a leading Labour peer and Methodist minister.Actually, that kind of sounds like judgment to me, but then I think those churches deserve to be judged.
Even those who have retained their faith in the face of the overwhelming crisis will struggle to find somewhere to worship on Sunday, with so many churches including both the Catholic and Anglican cathedrals destroyed, and many others severely damaged.
Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, superintendent minister of Wesley’s chapel in the City of London, who was ordained in Haiti and wrote a biography of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the country’s first democratically-elected President, said he feared the fatalism inspired by the voodoo religion would militate against recovery.That's interesting. Attitude does make a big difference. One thing about the effect of faith in Christ in a person is that it inspires doing things to improve situations.
The death of the Catholic archbishop along with the destruction of the cathedrals will be seen as potent symbols of the failure of those religions to withstand an act of God, he warned.Well, that's not a bad thing. Those religions don't bring people to a saving faith in the living Jesus Christ and He is the refuge they need.
Voodoo is fundamentally a home-based cult where each family has their own collection of household gods, many of them Catholic saints. In many households, it sits comfortably alongside a family’s Catholic observance.No surprise there since Catholic prayers to Mary and saints and other superstitions are the same kind of pagan religion.
The Catholic church officially backs the right of families to practise voodoo.Sure, what do they care HOW they go to hell, whether it's through their own rituals and superstitions or voodoo's.
Protestant missionaries have been less sympathetic, classifying family spirits as demons.May their tribe increase and their faith and spiritual power spring up in the wake of this disaster to save many souls.
More than eight in ten Haitians are officially Catholic, with about one in ten Protestants. But an unknown number also practise some voodoo rituals as well.Easy to see how that could happen.
The dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier exploited voodoo as a method of social control, using sorcery and superstition as covers for his corrupt destruction of the nation.
Lord Griffiths, who wrote a history of Protestantism in Haiti and has had a 40-year love affair with the country, including living and working there for ten years and setting up the Haiti support group in the UK, said: “The interesting thing for sociologists and anthropologists is the considerable overlap between voodoo and Catholicism.”Not hard to grasp if you understand what's really at the core of Catholicism, which came out in Vatican II.
Voodoo grew out of the animist religions brought to the country by slaves, and was then overlaid by the Catholicism of the plantation owners. This led in many places to syncretism, or fusing, of the two belief systems.Not hard between two such similar paganisms.
Lord Griffiths told The Times: “I would say that 90 per cent of the time, the voodoo is non-malign. It is not just sticking pins into dolls, although there is a bit of that.”It may be non-malign in a worldly sense but it takes people to hell so it's pretty malign in a spiritual sense.
The tragic religious “fault line” which could now impact recovery from the earthquake was the “fatalism” of the voodoo belief system.But this can't happen UNLESS they are made into Christians and come to understand the malignity of their false religion.
Lord Griffiths said: “The Haiti people have had so many batterings that when something terrible happens, they just say, “Bon dieu bon", or “God is good”, whatever happens. In other words, it is God’s will, we must accept it, there is nothing we can do about it.
“The task for Christian evangelism is not to make voodoo worshippers into Christians but to help deal with the fatalism that does not allow voodoo worshippers to see themselves as agents of their own improvement.
"The problem is the competition between these two mindsets, the fatalism that says they can do nothing and the right perception that they can do a lot. That is the spiritual struggle.”Ah gee, optimism that flies in the face of reality is SO inspiring.
He said the Catholic Archbishop’s death would confirm in the minds of many Haitians that the Church could not withstand the raw force of nature and the loss of the Catholic cathedral was an even more potent symbol of the same thing.Well, the Protestants, if there are any with a real grasp of the situation, should be pointing out that God was judging those superstitious religions and that they need to come to know the living God in Christ and give up their superstitions.
“It will certainly feed into the minds of some. But it is the cathedral that is the thing. It is knocked down, that great high place of religion.Nothing could be better if there's hope for their recovery than to fully grasp that the state-approved religion was a big part of their calamity and that God has judged it. May God raise up preachers who know how to teach them the truth.
"If an Archbishop goes under a pile of rubble, you can regret it. But if you see the ruin of the cathedral where all the Archbishops since 1860 have officiated, it is a more powerful image.
"They will see this every day for years to come. Haitians will say, this is the state-approved religion and look what has happened to it.”
Tyler Cowen, a commentator in the US, said in his blog Marginal Revolution that religion might explain why Haiti is so poor. He cited the philosopher Hegel who argued that “voodoo, with its intransitive power relations among the gods, was prone to producing political intransitivity as well.”Sounds likely.
Albert Mohler, a baptist in the US, wrote: “In truth, it is hard not to describe the earthquake as a disaster of biblical proportions. It certainly looks as if the wrath of God has fallen upon the Caribbean nation.
"Add to this the fact that Haiti is well known for its history of religious syncretism — mixing elements of various faiths, including occult practices. The nation is known for voodoo, sorcery, and a Catholic tradition that has been greatly influenced by the occult.”
Mr Mohler refuted the suggestion from Pat Robertson, the American preacher, that Haiti was cursed by the devil.
“Why did no earthquake shake Nazi Germany? Why did no tsunami swallow up the killing fields of Cambodia? Why did Hurricane Katrina destroy far more evangelical churches than casinos? Why do so many murderous dictators live to old age while many missionaries die young?”
I was strongly disappointed in what Dr. Mohler said as I usually very much appreciate his point of view. God couldn't have stopped the earthquake? God is that weak? Or God is that preoccupied He doesn't even pay attention to such things? What picture of God is being conveyed when people deny that He had anything to do with a disaster such as Haiti is suffering?I'd answer the "whys" being asked above: There is such a thing as the "fullness of time" for God's wrath. Nazi Germany only existed for a few decades. Haiti has been around for centuries practicing its voodoo all that time. Perhaps the killing fields too have not ripened for judgment yet. As for churches, "judgment begins at the house of God" comes to mind, but we just don't have any information about those churches. It's more reasonable to focus on the larger New Orleans as the target rather than specific individuals and institutions, unless we happened to know something about them, and we don't. New Orleans as a whole has a reputation for sin that's hard to ignore though. Mardi Gras, voodoo etc. It's also an old city, not anywhere near as old as Haiti but still, much ripened toward the "fullness of time" when Katrina came along.
Amos 3:6 ... shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?And besides, Nazi Germany certainly was ultimately punished after the war.
There are different ways God's wrath comes upon nations, there's not one method that applies to all. Political insanity is one method, for instance; it's not all tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes.
There is probably more truth to Pat Robertson's claim than is being acknowledged. Voodoo is certainly a satanic religion and apparently some sort of pact was once made, but its practice by a majority of the population is enough of a reason for God's judgment on the nation.
But this article is interesting in its pointing to a fatalistic attitude in voodoo as a source of the Haitian problems too.