Holier than Thou: Missionaries Behaving Badly
By Bryan Schaaf on Saturday, April 14, 2007.
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If you will only ever read one of my blogs, then I hope this is the one. It is not often that I see something that makes my blood boil, but below you will find an email that turned my stomach with disgust and anger.
Let’s talk about this email. I’ve met many missionaries while in Haiti. Most flights to Haiti have at least a handful, while at other times, it seems the plane is half full with them.
Some of them I had a lot of respect for – mainly the ones who had respect for the Haitian people. I have met some who were well-integrated into their communities, were making a real difference, and were pleasant to be around.
And then there are others who are culturally insensitive racists who don’t fit into the United States so regard Haiti as a spiritual sandbox in which to frolic. Take for example the missionaries who shared my village – they were furious that I was teaching teenagers in my community about contraceptives and held prayer circles to purge the evil thinking of “family planning” from their minds. When I asked what their solution to HIV/AIDS was, they suggested everyone should come to their church instead. You can’t make this stuff up.
The man who wrote this widely circulated email works for a religious NGO (Names have been removed to protect the guilty) Note the first paragraph. He identifies Haiti as “ground zero” of spiritual warfare because Haiti has voodoo. Brazil, Cuba, and other Latin American countries have similar religions. Yet, Haiti is the only one that is poor, black, and a stone’s throw from the United States.
What does he know about Vodoun? Does he realize Haitians would not have won their independence without it? Does he realize that people who practice voodoo also believe in God? Does he realize that voodoo is a spiritual lifeline to Africa – a way of holding onto one’s roots and saying that there is a part of one’s soul that is not European, not American, but African. But no, for this reader, to be saved one must be exactly like him.
And to be like him, there will be no dancing, no drinking, no ribald jokes. In effect, to take part in his belief system a Haitian would cease to be Haitian. Wheras with voodoo, the locus of the religion is Africa, the locus of this man’s religion is America. Perhaps Nebraksa, or wherever it is that the money flows from which pays for the scholarships, the meal a day, or whatever other benefit gets one to come to the Protestant churches. Note to readers: I have no problem with Protestant religions, but it is well established that Protestants tend to offer “things” while Catholics mainly offer the comfort of being a part of the majority although that dominance is being eroded. One key difference here – a person can be Catholic and Vodouisant at the same time while a person may not be Protestant and participate in Vodoun.
You can see how he uses a slash to equate Vodoun and Satan together. To him, the two are interchangeable. Someone has been watching way too many movies. Observe how he stereotypes the practitioners of Vodou who counter-protested as “witch doctors”.
He notes that Haitian have mostly nothing. Well, from a very material perspective he is correct. Haitians have very little. My Haitian counterparts, however, have their pride, their families, their faith, and though often frustrated by events out of their control, happiness. Nothing compared to a corvette though.
He then expresses happiness at having a job that allows him the flexibility to go to places like Haiti and do God’s calling. Would that Haitians had that flexibility to come to the United States. I was always amazed at how naïve foreigners could be about Haitians religious beliefs. The assumption of some missionaries was that atheism was rife in Haiti. I remember a missionary who stopped his car to ask me what I was doing as I was hiking along a road on the Plateau. I replied that I lived there and asked him what he was doing – he said he had come to “bring the word”. The word was already there, and Haitians are a religious folk. Perhaps they would be effective missionaries for the United States?
One would be hard pressed to find a single village in Haiti without multiple churches. No clinic or library but certainly churches. My village had about six or seven. Then again, my neighborhood in Washington DC probably has about that many.
He closes by stating that Haiti is losing its bondage. When I see an email like this, I feel like this man is trying to put bonds on Haiti. In effect, he is saying that Haitians should not just be American, but think and behave like him.
Times like this I feel like an anti-missionary, I want to tell people that they are good enough – that they can believe in God while believing in their history, their culture, their music, in short, believing in themselves.
This individual may have things to give to Haiti, but not his respect. Can there be friendship without respect? Doubtful.
I’ll close by saying Haiti is a very special country. I learned a lot from my Haitian friends and family – living there has changed me for the better.
Welcome your thoughts on religion, globalization, Vodoun, or on why I am going to hell or to heaven. Thanks for reading.
Dear Haiti Prayer Warriors, here is some exciting news about revival in Haiti,
Thank you to everyone for your prayers while we were in Haiti. This weekend, as you know, I was in Haiti documenting the nation’s movement from Voodoo to Jesus. We witnessed "ground zero" of spiritual warfare and I can say with confidence that this country is changing for God.
The last four days myself, and two friends witnessed rallies in the city of Port au Prince filled with praise and worship for Jesus. Each night over 40,000 Haitian people showed up to participate in the Christian revival. Saturday night, we witnessed the Haitian people dedicate the country to Jesus Christ, deny Voodoo/Satan, and ask for forgiveness for their wicked ways of their fathers. One of the members of our team spoke at the rally Sunday night. Yesterday (Monday), we marched for miles all through the! city of Port au Prince with well over 100,000 Haitians signing praises to God, denouncing the devil and Voodoo, and preaching about the victory in Jesus. Voodoo witch doctors were demonstrating against the Christians, but they were heavily out numbered. I have never seen or heard anything like what I saw this week. Words cannot describe the joy in Jesus among the Haitian people who, by the way, have virtually nothing.
We documented these extraordinary moments with an HD camera, which will hopefully be finished in early May and I hope that everyone will get to see it. It is truly an inspiring story that has changed me and will change many people who get to hear about this little country turning from their traditional Voodoo roots to Jesus. I thank God for blessing me with this experience and with a great job that is flexible enough to allow me to go to places like Haiti in response to ! God's calling.
God is in Haiti, God is in Haiti, God is in Haiti! I can't say it enough after what we seen this weekend. The bondage of Voodoo is losing the battle over there. Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti.
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