Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haitians, God and Faith: Maybe Americans Can Learn Something Here

I'm glad to read this: but not terribly surprised.
"Many Haitians' religious faith unshaken by earthquake"
CNN (January 18, 2010)

"The steeple clock at Port-au-Prince's St. Pierre Catholic Church is stopped at 4:53, the hour at which a devastating earthquake struck Haiti nearly one week ago.

"The church gates were closed Sunday. The doors shuttered. But it seems Tuesday's quake has only strengthened the religious fervor many Haitians carry in their souls.

"'A lot of people who never prayed or believed -- now they believe,' said Cristina Bailey, a 24-year-old clerk...."

"...Most Haitians don't feel abandoned, Bailey said.

" 'People don't blame Jesus for all these things,' she said. 'They have faith. They believe that Jesus saved them and are thankful for that.'

"Perhaps few personified that deep belief better than 11-year-old Anaika Saint Louis, who was pulled from the rubble Thursday night and later died. Her leg had been crushed, and doctors thought they might have to amputate her feet. She said she didn't care.

" 'Thank you, God, because he saved my life,' she said. 'If I lose my feet, I always had my life.'..."
Sure, I could be conventionally dreary and worldly-wise cynical about Anaika Saint Louis and how she died anyway. You've heard it before: the futility of it all, the false hope of those deluded and/or self-righteous religious people over there. Standard-issue college coffee shop stuff.

Or, I could look at Anaika Saint Louis's words for more of a big-picture perspective: and realize that I have a shot at meeting her in God's kingdom. Foolish? Maybe. But, I'll risk it.

Haitians: They're 'Natives,' Right?

Give CNN credit: they identify this as one man's opinion:
"...'In Haiti, you have Protestants and Catholics, and you have your percentage of each,' said J.B. Diederich, a native-born Haitian who now lives in Miami, Florida, but returned to the Caribbean for several days after the earthquake. 'But everybody is 100 percent voodoo.'..."
I assume that Mr. Diederich believes what he says. On the other hand, I've read and heard so many whack opinions about America - and China and Japan and quite a few other countries - that I take his "100% voodoo" statement about as seriously as I do Pat Robertson's view of Haiti. (January 16, 2010) There's been a tendency for immigrants to America to over-do the 'I'm a regular American' assimilation. Which is another topic.

Haiti is All About Voodoo, Right?

As anybody who's seen "Live and Let Die" (1973) knows, black people in the Caribbean practice voodoo something fierce. And if you don't believe that venerable Bond film, check out "Voodoo Island" (1957) and "Zombies on Broadway" (1945).

Or, do what I did. Use an established reference, that's constantly updated by an organization with a reputation to lose if they publish tripe. It seems that about 80% of Haitians are Catholic. And, roughly half the Haitian population practices voodoo. ("World Factbook," Haiti, CIA)1

I don't think there's much doubt that voodoo is an issue in Haiti. But, as I wrote before, "Haiti is not voodoo."

Life Happens: You Learn to Deal With It

Long before I converted to Catholicism, I realized that life wasn't one big bowl of cherries. I'd read Job. Besides, growing up with what amounted to an arthritic hip, having someone very dear to me kill herself, and a few assorted other little inconveniences encouraged me to consider what could - and could not - reasonably be expected.

Maybe it's my Norse ancestry, but that "Curse God and die" sort of advice never did have much of an appeal. I'm a stubborn - well, I'm stubborn: and long ago decided that I could out-endure problems.

I don't know how many Americans bought into the "health and prosperity gospel," a few years back. But I'm getting off-topic again.

Nobody Said Life Would Be Easy

Actually, I've had a pretty good life. Particularly the last few decades. I'm married to a wonderful woman, four of our six children haven't died - not yet, anyway - and my wife didn't die with the last one. Compared to what many people go through: that's a bowl of cherries.

How Can Haitians Have Faith? Look How Poor They Are!

Grinding poverty can be hard on a person's faith. So can abundant wealth. I'm pretty sure that there are temptations involved with a nice, 'normal' middle-class American level of wealth, too.

I do not equate poverty with virtue: but I think that people who aren't rolling in money have opportunities to see what's important, and what's not.

Related posts:
1 For people who don't feel that the CIA blew up New York City's World Trade Center. I think that the "World Factbook" is a straightforward reference. For what it's worth, Reuters India gave the same percentage ("Pope activates world Catholic charities for Haiti," Reuters India (January 13, 2010))

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.