In the midst of all of the conservative dancing in the streets about Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, the tragedy unfolding in Haïti continues to require both prayer and assistance. It isn’t without controversy either; we’re still batting about Pat Robertson’s remarks about a pact with the Devil and its consequences.
There’s no doubt that’s what he was referring to, which took place in 1791. So let’s take a look at it, from here:
Traditionally in Haiti the following prayer has been attributed to Boukman (one of the leaders of the revolt) at the vodou ceremony:
“The god who created the earth; who created the sun that gives us light. The god who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds; who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man’s god asks him to commit crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs. It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It’s He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that speaks in all our hearts.”
There are two things that should be noted about this:
- It’s a voodoo ceremony.
- Boukman makes a clear distinction between the god he worships and the one the white people do. Since the white people he’d be facing were the French, and they were (up to that point, at least) overwhelmingly Catholic, that distinction makes the identity of the two deities in question fairly clear.
Since Boukman invoked the god of voodoo, that brings up the issue of the curse. Boukman Dutty did ask for the aid of the god of voodoo, and that god (I think there’s more than one) has been followed ever since in Haïti.
I’m one of these people who think that curses are made to be broken. I believe the Jesus Christ is powerful enough to break any curse. But we have to ask. And sticking with the voodoo potentates isn’t the way to break any curse. To make progress, voodoo needs to meet its Waterloo, and that hasn’t happened in the two centuries since Bois Caïman.
Waterloo brings up the next two points about Boukman’s prayer:
- He and his Haïtian contemporaries were probably unaware of this, but back in France the very white French were in the process of abandoning the “white man’s God” in the course of the French Revolution, which was sliding into the Reign of Terror and the enthronement of the “goddess of Reason” at Nôtre-Dame. So the contrast he draws wasn’t as meaningful then as he thought it was.
- It certainly isn’t true now. The emergence of the Global South and the shifting of the centre of Christianity to the Third World has effectively reversed any racial significance as to whose God he is. (He is beyond race, in reality.)
No one knows that last point better than Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. In a sense, she’s fighting Boukman Dutty’s war in reverse against the Africans who have brought their jurisdictions (and facilitated the formation of the ACNA) to these shores.
Perhaps she and her eminence-grise, David Booth Beers, will find themselves praying their own version of the Bois Caïman prayer:
“The god(s) who evolved the earth; who evolved the sun that gives us light. The god(s) who holds up the judicial system; who makes the lawsuits roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden; who watch us from where you are. You see all that the black has made us suffer. The black man’s god asks him to commit intolerant crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, he/she orders us to revenge our wrongs. It’s he/she who will direct our attorneys and bring us the victory in court. It’s he/she who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the black men’s god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for litigation that speaks in all our hearts.”
What kind of result will they get? Just ask the Haïtians. Few places on earth have won the battle and lost the war quite like Haïti has.
HT to StandFirm for some of the source material.