Hey Pat Robertson, Voodoo is part Christian too
It might come as a shock to Pat Robertson and other conservative Christian nuts who have recently blamed the quake in Haiti that killed over 100,000 on devil worship, but Voodoo is a blend of French Catholicism and African religions. It has also been recognized as a part of Christianity by Pope John Paul II.
It has been said that Haiti is 90% Catholic and 100% Voodoo. Indeed, it is a religion that has a long history and is legitimate in it’s own right. According to Tyler’s definitions, a religion is a belief in spiritual beings based on speculation about death and dreams. Clifford Geertz defined it simply as a “cultural system”.
According to Wikipedia, “A religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a supernatural agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. Aspects of religion include narrative, symbolism, beliefs, and practices that are supposed to give meaning to the practitioner’s experiences of life. Whether the meaning centers on a deity or deities, or an ultimate truth, religion is commonly identified by the practitioner’s prayer, ritual, meditation, music and art, among other things, and is often interwoven with society and politics. It may focus on specific supernatural, metaphysical, and moral claims about reality (the cosmos and human nature) which may yield a set of religious laws, ethics, and a particular lifestyle. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and religious experience.”
Regardless which definition one choses, Voodoo is a religion. It is recognized as such around the world, despite heavy prejudice based on its practices. The US Supreme Court even recognized it, although not until the 1960s. Voodoo is a syncretic religion, where Catholic saints and African gods joined and have become powerful spirits called Lwa.
What is relevant to ignorant conservative Christians like Pat Robertson however is this: Voodoo has been recognized as a legitimate Christian offshoot by the Vatican. During a trip to Benin on 10 February 1993, the late Pope John Paul II said it contained the “Seeds of the Word”.
According to one account: Pope John Paul II on his 10th African tour in 2/93, told about 75 “colorfully garbed voodoo worshippers [in Benin] that they would NOT have to forsake all of their culture [nor their voodoo faith] in order to convert” to Catholicism (2/13/93, World). The conciliatory pope noted that even as Africans look to their ancestors as objects of worship, Catholics also revere “ancestors in the faith, from the Apostles to the missionaries.” “I have never seen God, but today when I have seen the pope, I recognize that I have seen the good God, who prays for all the voduns,” said Sossa Guedehoungue, head of Benin’s vodun community. Voodoo leader Senou Zannou gave a formal speech in which he announced his son was becoming a Roman Catholic priest. But he also offered a defense of his faith: “God knows that the vodun has nothing to do with the devil or Satan.”
The full transcript is as follows (translated from French):
I am pleased to have this occasion to meet you, and I very cordially greet you. As you know, I came to Benin principally to visit with the Catholic community, to encourage it and confirm it in the faith. However, I have always thought that contact with persons who belong to other religious traditions is an important part of my ministry.
Indeed, the Catholic Church is favorable to dialogue: dialogue with Christians of other churches and ecclesial communities, dialogue with believers of other spiritual families, and dialogue even with those who do not profess any religion. The Church establishes positive and constructive relations with persons and human groups of other creeds for a reciprocal enrichment.
Vatican Council II …. recognized that there are truth and good, seeds of the Word, in the various religious traditions ….
These provide the foundations for a fruitful dialogue, as the Apostle Paul said to the first Christians: “Everything that is true, noble, just, pure, amiable, honorable, whatever is virtuous and deserves praise, let all these things be the object of your thinking.” From this comes our approach of respect [toward you]: respect for true values wherever they are, and overall respect for the man who looks to live these values that help him set aside fear.
You are strongly attached to the traditions which your ancestors transmitted to you. It is legitimate to recognize the ancestors who transmitted to you the sense of the sacral, faith in a one and good god, your tastes for celebrations, and consideration for moral life and harmony in society.
-La libertà religiosa è un diritto inalienabile, L’Osservatore Romano, 06 February 1993