If it is at all possible to be a hermit while living in the middle of one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States, I believe that is what I am becoming. Proof of that is my complete ignorance of Pat Robertson’s latest pronouncement until long after the fact. And I only knew of it then because I swung by Aunt B.’s.
It seems that he said something along the lines of blaming Haiti for their own earthquake because they practice Voodoo. Pardon me for not looking it up. Ordinarily I would, but right now I just don’t want to open another tab on my browser. That, and I suspect that parsing his words would just give me more grief than I have already.
I’m glad we have Pat Robertson around. What better cautionary tale is needed by the modern American church? We couldn’t have a better bad example if we sent away to Sears for one, frankly.
But I do think there is a point to be found in Robertson’s elderly-man ravings, and that point is an important one.
Voudoun has an element that modern Christianity can often lack, in the way we practice it here in the wealthy States. Voudoun harbours a healthy awe for the power of the world around us, a respect for the way the forces beyond our control can bring us to our knees. When you grow up poor and hungry on a bedraggled, war-torn island in the middle of a storm-tossed sea I imagine you feel more keenly the forces of this world. Your life probably has heretofore lacked the distractions of comfort and the pleasant numbness of a full belly and a contented sleep. So you learn to pay attention to the natural world; you begin to crave a way to control it.
Naturally your dialogue with the supernatural is going to include a respect for that natural world around you.
I think our Green movement here in the States is a bit of our yearning for that connection coming through. Life in well-insulated houses has inured us to the hurts of weather and the cries of the soil and sky. We want it keenly, and in our way have made a new business of the wanting.
I think we have also made it an old business to forget the bigness of God as we close ourselves off from the harder parts of Creation. I love the creature comforts that allow me to pass my hermitage (that I actually live in the suburb of Hermitage is too delicious a coincidence I think) in relative ease. But I think the practitioners of Voudoun* might be glimpsing a bit of God some of us have tried very hard to flee.
I don’t mean to sound as though I think we should turn Christianity into Voudoun or that we should–as one writer wrote earlier–eschew our creature comforts in favour of of empathising better with the plight of the Haitians. What I firmly believe is that we would make the best use of these gifts of satiety to reach broadly across the sea to those who need our help and bring them the food, water and shelter they need. And when we do so we should do it quietly and meditatively, pondering the naked man nailed to hot Judean wood, blood crusting in thick brown trails on his brow. We should think of his discomfort in the elements, hot sun and cold rain both lashing his bare flesh. We should think of his thirst, his begging for water. We should think of his feelings of forsakenness and loss. And we should also remember the time he quieted the storm and walked confidently on the sharp whitecaps of the sea.
*Calling it “voodoo” is somewhat like calling Christianity “the Jesusy junk”–it’s a mocking name that down-talks those who practice that religion. Something Jesus never did. You can disagree with a religion and dislike its practices but if you belittle someone else you reduce yourself in double-measure and profane the name of Christ.