Haiti’s Curse: Yes, Pat Robertson was Right-From His Perspective.
Although I encourage comments on this blog, I have not received many that give me a general perspective on who my readers are and what they actually think about the content. Most of the comments I have received have been from people stirred to argue with my post on Avatar, and most were liberals essentially trying to cut down the conservative opinion that it sucks. So, I would encourage those who want to send me comments about the general impression they get from my blog to do so in the comments section of this post. Thanks, I’ll get a huge benefit from it.
Essentially, the more I write this blog, the better I understand what it should be about. I have been thinking about this a lot lately because I am really starting to enjoy it and want to expand the fora through which I communicate the ideas contained here. I believe that even though my blog is an expressly political one, that it does serve a useful function in that it provides a unique perspective on policy and current events and is not afraid to delve into subjects declared anathema by the media or political elites. It also tries to put some philosophical and historical meat on the bones of conservative ideas, which all too often are reduced to sloganeering by conservative media or become attenuated straw man bugbears of the Left.
I felt, when I started this blog on Thanksgiving 2009, that I needed to begin to express the fruits of a lifetime of political, historical, philosophical education and to make rational arguments for conservatism. I also thought that it would be possible to use this blog to analyze current events from a conservative, but not necessarily, ideological perspective. I think the best of my contributions thus far has been my two-part series on the crisis in Honduras, which took some time to research, but is as honest and source-filled as I could make it. It is conservative in perspective because it is anti-left but, it is a much more truthful recounting of events than you’ll get in the media and especially the left-wing advocacy punditry. So, it is much more than “conservative” as I believe, in the end, you can take what I wrote about Honduras to the bank.
Although this blog started as a personal way for me to vent, I believe that a higher standard is owed to those who read it and are looking for substantive information about government policy, current events, and other “trends” of interest. The internet and media have evolved to the point now where there is so much information available that there is no excuse to allow bias, misinformation, and under-reporting to go unchecked. Yes, it takes work to be accurate and, frankly, to write well, but I believe that because the information I convey is so important, the work involved is worth it. So, even though many may be tempted to dismiss what is contained on this blog as mere ideology or political agitation, I’d like to think it is much more than that. Anyway, I will continue to strive to make it more than a partisan blog regardless.
With that in mind let’s get to the topic at hand. I guess this blog is kind of iconoclastic in the sense that it likes to look at (leftist) popular ideas and apply a little learning and (conservative) perspective to them, just to show how diaphanous left-wing sentiments really are. I know that many believe that the Left in general is much more politically sophisticated than the Right, but this is mainly a self-conceit that does not really pan out.
I think that this is true even concerning a recent event that many people believe there is a consensus on: the comments by Pat Robertson, the TV Evangelist and founder of the 700 Club, concerning Haiti and the history of the Boi Caiman ceremony. Although the Left and the liberal advocacy media (LAME) seem pretty sure that his comments provide them with a made-to-order opportunity to vilify social conservatism with faux outrage and an irrefutable knee-jerk moral indignation, I believe that a critical analysis and a little history dampens that bright line a bit.
As with most of the presumed moral superiority of the Left, the actual probity and intellectual logos of their position is questionable. In fact, a closer examination of what was actually said and the responses to it, reveals not only an overwrought and unfair mis-characterization Robertson’s words, but either an intentional dishonesty or precipitous misunderstanding about his intent. Further, despite repeatedly denying it, the critics of Robertson immediately politicized what he said, and by extension, the earthquake that struck unfortunate Haiti. Thus, Robertson’s critics have ironically and maladroitly revealed themselves to be more concerned with attacking social conservatives in the United States, than about learning anything at all about Haiti, its history, its people, its culture, and its problems.
So, what did Pat Robertson actually say that elicited reactions like the one below?
Here is the offensive statement:
And you know Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, uh you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said we will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French. True Story. And so the Devil said “OK, it’s a deal.” And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor.
In this quote there is no reference to the earthquake, nor is there any blame placed on the so-called “pact with the devil” for natural disasters or a belief that Haiti’s earthquake was a punishment from God. This is a mis-characterization and, perhaps, a willful mis-representation of what he said. In fact, Robertson signified a transition in the segment when he went from talking about the earthquake to the devil when he said, “something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it.” It was not done skillfully, but at the time he probably didn’t think people would misrepresent what he said so wildly. But, it remains clear to me that Robertson was speaking theologically and was referring to his view of Haiti’s “history of salvation” and the place of the Bois Caiman ceremony-the principle national creation myth of Haiti- in that history.
Haiti’s Bois Caiman ceremony is not a bit of patent nonsense, like many of Robertson’s critics on the internet propose. The Bois Caiman ceremony was a Vodou ritual, performed by Boukman Dutty and Cecile Fadiman in 1791. It is considered the beginning of Haiti’s revolution against the French and thus is an important cultural reference for Haitians.
For a good perspective on it, this video does the trick:
Now, as you can see from the video, experts on the subject acknowledge that the Bois Caiman ceremony was anti-Christian, Vodou, and thus, pagan. Now, whether you agree with the Christian perspective on these things or not, you have to admit that Robertson wouldn’t be worth his salt as one of the leading evangelists in the United States and perhaps the world, if he did not think a country that still practices Vodou (and Roman Catholicism) en masse is in dire need of the Protestant verison of salvation.
As a matter of fact, it would most likely be malpractice if Robertson did not describe Haiti’s “history of salvation” the way he did.
And by no means is Robertson alone in this belief. There are many churches in Haiti who actively seek to sanctify their country away from the practice of Vodou. One of the largest is the Haitian Pentecostalists.
In a book written in 2000, Immigration and Religion in America: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, the Pentecostalist campiagn against Vodouism is recounted.
The Pentecostalist Church demands active rejection of…Afro-Creole traditions and regards them as satanic practice. Sermons and literature about Haiti urges missions to “pull down the strongholds” and aim efforts at destroying Vodou temples in various ways. In group rituals of prayer and fasting, the Pentecostals marched through public space performing exorcisms at spots considered sacred in Vodou and recast as satanic for Pentecostsals…Pastors taught that by undoing the contract with Satan, the Haitian nation could now enter millenial temporality and its citizens could join other Evangelicals in preparation for the end times…Advancing the notion of a new “converted Haiti,” evangelicals hoped to chart a new, Christian future.
This view about Haiti’s “history of salvation” is also prevalent amongst one of the largest African-American churches in the United States: the Pentecostalist Assemblies of the World. The Church has an extensive international ministry and is headed by Presiding Bishop Horace E. Smith, who has anM.D. from the University of Illinois. Here is an except from a letter by Bishop Gregory Wells of the O’Fallon Apostolic Assembly of Illinois, affiliated with P.A.W., on his mission work in Haiti (it is quite powerful, perceptive, and compassionate):
At one time, Haiti was the jewel of the Caribbean. Surrounded by beautiful azure waters and scenic mountains, it became known as the “Island Country”. It occupies the island called Hispanola and is shared with the country of the Dominican Republic. It was known for plenteous sea life as well as it’s fertile fields for sugar, and rice as their primary produce. All this was lost, ironically, I believe, when Haiti achieved it’s independence from France. It was then that the Founding Fathers of Haiti, swore under blood to regard the gods of voodoo in exchange for victory and freedom. Haiti became the first black nation to achieve it’s freedom from a European power.
It seems that they achieved natural freedom but it cost them spiritual freedom in the process.
It is now this union with darkness that I believe keeps Haiti in these oppressive conditions to this day. The economic depression, the medical jeopardy and social stigma that follows the Haitian people are, I believe, the result of this pact. It is a common saying among the Haitians that, “ninety percent of the people believe Catholicism but one-hundred percent believe in voodoo”. This hybrid worship of African gods of nature and elements of Christianity is at the very heart of the Haitian culture. It figures prominently in virtually every artistic expression. Like a leech, voodooism drains the very life’s blood from the people of Haiti. It distracts and detracts them from the power that is in the blood of Jesus Christ. It saps the power and vigor that should be part of the Haitian way of life. Whether it is perceived as valid or not I believe that the power of things spiritual is not to be underestimated.
And lest any leftists reading this believe that Bishop Wells is some white guy who resents the revolutionary tradtion of Toussant Loverture, and lives in dire fear of a black planet, and folk ritual, and whatever blah, blah, blah; here is Bishop Wells.
Seems like a nice guy to me.
The history of salvation may not be real for many but is is real for Christians. The attempts by the Haitian Pentecostalists to convert their country may be seen, even by those who have taken the time to understand it, as a stupid joke that ultimately strips people of their culture in the name of Western ideas and American imperialism or whatever. But, no matter how many people spew their venom against Robertson on you tube, or laugh at the demon-possessed Vodou practitioners, it does not make their faith any less real for them.
It is not they who are stupid because they believe in Afro-Creole traditions, the Pope, and Jesus Christ. They all live out their faith and have the courage to take it to their hearts and act on their convictions.
When the U.S. military leaves Haiti, and the politicians take their bows, and the media and people on you tube debate the “political” effects of helping the victims of the earthquakes, it will be the Churches who remain there. And it will be them, with their oh-so-hilarious belief systems, who will do the thankless and solemn work of helping the people there. It will be they who will look after the forgotten children; it will be they who volunteer ungodly hours to care for the injured; and, yes, it will be they who will pray with and console those who have lost everything and have nowhere to go.
Real funny. Ha. Ha. Ha.