Anse-à-Foleur, Voodou, and rambling thoughts

So, Anse-à-Foleur is commonly billed as the “Voodou capital” of Haiti.  Opinions on this matter vary (ref. Curtis Rogers’ post from this spring) and I, knowing little about Voodou and less about the town, do not have an opinion. Here’s what I do know (very little) and what I believe (just a little more.)

The monument – formerly a Catholic cross, struck by lightning and widely believed to have been destroyed by Satan to “reclaim” the town for Voodou – is a moderately strenuous climb up a beautiful mountain. The area approaching and surrounding the monument is strewn with the remains of sacrifices.

The temple – a large complex near the center of town – is filled with people whose sincerity and devout worship cannot be doubted. Many are utterly desperate for answers to their prayers. If we (the American Christian Church body) prayed with that much fervent trust and confidence in the Lord, I cannot imagine what miracles would ensue. People travel long distances to pray to and petition St. Anne, Bondye (the God of Abraham, the “good God”), Jezi (Jesus), and other gods/spirits/lwa for healing, jobs, food – and they pray absolutely trusting that if they appeal to and appease their pantheon correctly, their prayers will be answered.

So, much like other pantheistic/animistic traditions, this is a logical offshoot of a population living on the edge for hundreds of years with little control over their own destiny because of poverty, lack of education, and poor health. It is not at all hard to understand why we can’t just come in and wave our magic gospel wands and have people give up centuries of a tradition that appears to offer their only hope. But the more interesting matter in my mind is this one. How do we – U.S. Christians as a group – compare this “primitive, animistic” religion to our “pure faith?”

Do we not generally believe in the very depths of our being that our happiness and success depends on pleasing and appeasing things that are not God – bosses, stockholders, board members, church elders, spouses, neighbors, parents, sometimes even children?

Don’t we depend on the tax sacrifices we make to our government, and the premium sacrifices we make to our insurance companies, to keep us safe and healthy?

When something happens that we don’t understand, don’t we look for explanations that fit our experiences to make it all make sense?

Isn’t idolatry idolatry, no matter if we are counting on St. Anne or on State Farm to meet our needs when the unexpected strikes?

One woman’s opinion – no theology, no anthropolology, just me and my little brain thinking thoughts.

And then of course we get to the part about “so, what do we do?” I only really understand education, so that is all I can speak to. People who know more than me must address the health care, the sustainable agriculture, the job creation, et. al. But the  best approach that I can think of to address idolatry (animistic, materialistic, whatever) is through a clear understanding of who God is and what He has done. Getting our minds around the meaning of words like eternal, holiness, and reconciliation takes (I think, for me anyways) a little bit more than a walk down the Romans road and a few minutes on our knees praying a Sinner’s prayer. The Holy Spirit takes over from there, of course. But we are clearly directed to do our own due diligence in seeking out answers in Scripture for the Spirit to illuminate in our minds (ex. Psalm 119:11-12; Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 3:15).

Which leads me back to the Foundations curriculum that I love to teach. Yes indeed, my logic is just as circular as anyone’s.

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