• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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The Man With the Power

With Jean-Bertrand Aristide in exile from Haiti, the Christian Religious Right are rejoicing. Aristide, of course, was a proponent of liberation theology and had given state recognition to voodoo – an attempt “to rededicate Haiti to Satan”, according to Jim Uttley, a former second-generation missionary to the republic. Reports from ASSIST Ministries describe a corrupt tyrant, and contrast the evil dictator with the good old days of Paul Magloire.

Uttley describes Aristide’s nefarious cunning: “He used his position as a priest to gain power and then used that power as president to sway the hearts and minds of his citizens as well as foreign powers, to do his bidding.” What a shocker! Thank God for people like Uttley who can see past the façade and know better than the Haitians what’s good for them. Meanwhile, Joanne Derstine of Gospel Crusade tells of “pro-Aristide” thugs attacking a boys’ home (Derstine is the daughter of Dr. Gerald Derstine, who set up Christian Zionist groups in central America back in the 1980s.)

Now, Aristide was far from perfect, but there is another side to the story, as described by Peter Hallward yesterday (although Hallward is critiqued by Christian Aid today). I also fail to see why Aristide was worse than Uttley’s hero Magloire, who modernised the country, but who also, according to his Guardian obit in 2001:

scored a time-honoured 99% of the poll when the new system [of elections] was first used soon after his 1950 coup. But corruption, growing repression, the destruction wrought by Hurricane Hazel in 1954, and the theft of subsequent relief funds turned the tide against Magloire.

The difference, of course, was that Magloire was a strict ant-Communist, and in such cases (as with Chiang Kai-Shek or Rios Montt), politically-minded conservative Christians are generally rather more indulgent of corruption and repression.

As for the voodoo, The Revealer weblog currently has a good analysis of how the media are failing to say anything sensible about this religious tradition.

UPDATE (8 March 2004): Turns out that the voodoo priests themsleves are claiming credit for Aristide’s flight to the Central African Republic:

Mr Aristide…adopted as his symbol the cockerel, a voodoo icon. Mr Aristide…was guilty of the voodoo equivalent of hubris and then struck down by its version of nemesis, several voodo priests said this week…

3 Responses

  1. I wish I understood better what’s going on in Haiti. Is the coup really about voodoo? What else is at stake? What is there to fight over, over there? Is there oil there or something? I’ll follow your links, but I don’t have much brainpower left for this. Thanks for trying to clue us in.

  2. Later… Now I see, I think. Another democratically elected upstart leader who tried to buck the worldwide fascist system and help his own poor citizens. Like Chavez.

  3. […] decried by American missionaries as an attempt “to rededicate Haiti to Satan”, and, as I blogged in 2004, there was rejoicing when he was forced to flee the […]

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