Monday, March 15, 2010

Rod Dreher--Journalists should deal with religion respectfully but ask hard questions

Did you hear about the Protestant minister who said that Haiti "has been in bondage to the devil for four generations"? No, it wasn't Pat Robertson but Chavannes Jeune, a popular Evangelical pastor in Haiti who has long crusaded to cleanse his nation of what he believes is an ancestral voodoo curse. It turns out that more than a few Haitians agree with Jeune and Robertson that their nation's crushing problems are caused by, yes, voodoo.

I know this not because I read it in a newspaper or saw it on TV, but because of a blog. University of Tennessee-Knoxville cultural anthropologist Bertin M. Louis Jr., an expert on Haitian Protestantism, posted an essay exploring this viewpoint on The Immanent Frame, a social scientist group blog devoted to religion, secularism and the public sphere.

Elsewhere on The Immanent Frame, there's a fascinating piece by Wesleyan University religion professor Elizabeth McAlister touching on how the voodoo worldview affects Haiti's cultural and political economy. She writes that the widespread belief that events happen because of secret pacts with gods and spirits perpetuates "the idea that real, causal power operates in a hidden realm, and that invisible powers explain material conditions and events." Though McAlister is largely sympathetic to voodoo practitioners, she acknowledges that any effective attempt to relieve and rebuild Haiti will contend with that social reality.

Read it all.


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