Confession #35: Where There is Darkness, I Will be the Light
“Haiti is 80% Catholic, 20% Protestant, and 100% Voodoo.”
This was the unofficial religion statistic I heard before moving to Haiti. You won’t find it on Wikipedia or on the World Bank, but ask someone who knows something about Haiti and jokingly (or not) this is what they will tell you.
I didn’t quite believe this this until I moved to Haiti. And it isn’t so much that 100% of the people I know practice Voodoo, but almost 100% of them believe in it. Fear and superstition grip them. Everyone is constantly looking over ones own shoulder, always watching their own back, never trusting anyone fully.
When bad things happen, they blame it on Voodoo. Someone must have cursed them. When they do bad things, they blame it on Voodoo. Again, someone must have cursed them and made them do this bad thing. Personal accountability for ones own sins is hard to come by here in Haiti.
I realize that perhaps I am overgeneralizing here. Saying that 100% of a country’s population believes in something is rather presumptuous of me. But overall, this country is highly animistic. What do I mean by that? “Animism is defined as the belief that personal spiritual beings and impersonal spiritual forces have powers over human affairs and, consequently, that human beings must discover what beings and forces are influencing them in order to determine future actions and, frequently, to manipulate their power,” Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts by Gailyn Van Gheenen.
Taking that definition into account, that is what I mean when I say everyone in Haiti is constantly living in fear. When the thought that their every move could be manipulated by an evil spirit if they make their neighbor angry, they dare make their neighbor angry. If they see someone doing wrong, many won’t stand for the truth for fear of being cursed by the wrongdoer. If someone they loves does something wrong, instead of admitting the sin of their loved one, they will blame it on the curse of an enemy, and claim their loved one to be innocent no matter how serious the crime. Even more so, if they are the one in the wrong, the curse of the enemy most assuredly is on them.
I’ve been dealing a lot with these Voodoo things lately. Curses and fake zombies (I kid you not) and the Adversary himself- lurking around creating pride, telling people they are sinless, creating division, making the weak weaker, the poor poorer, and the powerful more powerful. And it is hurting my soul.
Mark I. Bubeck says in his book The Adversary, “Ignorance of Satan’s devices leaves gaping holes in our defenses through which the enemy is only too willing to move against us.” I agree. And I believe that is one of the hugest problems here in Haiti. Satan’s device here is Voodoo and the fact that too many Haitians don’t realize that Satan is the grand schemer behind their superstitious beliefs doesn’t help. He plants the fear, he plants the lies, he plants the illusions, and he plants the hate. And what do we get? In a country full of uneducated people, Satan has done a work through Voodoo. It has captured people in ways I can’t even explain, because I will never truly understand myself.
“Sometimes I look around and wonder if there are any true Christians in this country. I even look at myself sometimes and wonder if I am a true Christian. I look at all the bad things we do here and think, ‘Wow, there are so many other gods here in Haiti,’” a good friend recently said to me after talking about our recent dealings with friends and Voodoo.
I know my friend was discouraged, but I am certain Haiti is full of amazing Christians, Christians with faiths so beautiful and inspiring. I know this to be true because I am blessed to know many of them. But his comment made me think. Voodoo is Haiti’s other god, whether they realize it or not. It is a god that they fear, a god that they run from, a god that they avoid, a god that they turn to when they need help, and a god that they worship when fortune befalls them.
I am often told Voodoo can’t touch me because I am a blan (a white person). What this really means is that people can’t curse me because I am an American and Americans typically don’t believe in Voodoo. And if you don’t believe, it can’t hurt you.
I used to think this made me a better Christian- that I didn’t believe in Voodoo. Lately, however, God has been breaking down my pride and opening my eyes to a new truth: We all have other gods. Yes, Haiti has Voodoo, but what does America have? Wealth. Power. Fame. We all have other gods too. And just like Bubeck says, if we act ignorant of Satan’s devices, the enemy will become stronger to attack us too.
So these days, I am trying to do away with ignorance, because I can’t afford to lose the battle between good and evil. I know in the end the battle has already been won. But the spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:12) I am left here to fight every day, especially the ones I am facing here in Haiti, I refuse to surrender. How? I love how Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 10: 3-6: “For though we live in the world we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.”
I will fight my battles, I will wage my wars, I will stand against all other gods, and I will defeat Satan using weapons not of this world- not weapons of Voodoo, of curses, of evil spirits, of trickery, and of power- NO- I have divine power to demolish strongholds and I will be ready to punish every act of disobedience once my obedience is complete.
Haiti may be 100% Voodoo, but God is also 100% present here. And no matter how much darkness Satan brings to this country, God’s light will bring forth even stronger. For that I am certain. And as long as I am here, I promise to be a daily witness to the Emmaus Youth, my Haitian friends, and the fellow Christians around me that God is more powerful than Voodoo and all the lies the Adversary tries to convince them of.
I may only be one light, but I promise to shine bright.