Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Bribing of Converts

by Rev. Laura Barclay

As relief pours into Haiti from a variety of religious groups and the transition to long term aid begins, fundamentalists from a variety of backgrounds are clashing over beliefs. CNN reports some Christians are throwing stones at Vodou (also called Voodoo, a syncretic religion borne out of West African religions and Catholicism) practitioners during their ceremonies and defacing their altars. It’s very disconcerting that followers of Christ would turn to violence and disrespect in the name of God. I recently heard a pastor make the statement that when Paul went to Athens and was discouraged at the presence of local religious practices, he learned Athenian wisdom and culture from the Epicureans and Stoics and then debated the issue in front of the Areopagus, as the locals would (Acts 17). Paul respected the traditions of the Athenians and learned their ways, meeting them on equal terms as a show of deference.

The CNN article alludes to the fact that those throwing stones are Christian Haitians. It would be easy to say that violence and aggression are by-products of poverty and tragedy. But when you peel back the layers of this story, a disturbing trend begins to emerge. One pastor from Miami states:

“We would give food to the needy in the short term but if they refuse to give up Voodoo, I’m not sure we would continue to support them in the long term because we wouldn’t want to perpetuate that practice. We equate it with witchcraft, which is contrary to the gospel.”

This pastor is offering food for conversion, a manipulative prospect. Instead of witnessing the boundless hospitality of Christ, converts from external missions are learning to devalue the culture out of which they came to the point that they are ready to stone their neighbors who have not become Christians. This dangle-the-carrot type of missions is abhorrent, and is leading to conflict in this already ravaged nation.

In a previous post, I highlighted the work of ABC/CBF field personnel Steve and Nancy James for their diligent work as followers of Christ, providing medical attention and needed services. They were in Haiti before this tragedy occurred, and they will be there after, providing physical and spiritual healing without a time limit or a threat to deny aid. That is the example of Jesus—working for justice and exhibiting love and healing in the name of God. Wouldn’t the best way of sharing your experience with God be to love God and your neighbor unconditionally as God loves us?

Interested in continued support for Haiti in this time of great need? Read about the James' work in Haiti, learn about volunteering, or donate.

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