Advertisements
Opinion

The Crisis and Failure of the Haitian-American Church

Photo by Igor Rodrigues on Unsplash

By Celucien L. Joseph

Unfortunately, since Haiti became a republic on January 1, 1804,  most Haitian institutions and organizations, both in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora, have failed to embrace the rich anti-colonial thought and decolonial legacy of the Haitian revolution.

They have also failed to actualize in practical terms as narrated in the poetic lines of Haiti’s National anthem: “We shall always be as brothers, Oh God of the valiant!/Take our rights and our life Our past cries out to us: Have a disciplined soul!” 

One of the major Haitian institutions in the Diaspora that has miserably failed the Haitian people  to live up to Haiti’s revolutionary ideals and transcend nationalistic values is the Haitian-American church.

Unlike the writings of the Hebrew Prophets and the liberative teachings of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and founder of Christianity, Haitian churches and ministers are disengaged with American culture and society.

The Haitian-American church in the 21st century American culture is still a “colonized institution” that is unintentionally pursuing the decolonization process in the footsteps of its brave ancestors, the protagonists of God-given human liberty, and the antagonists of human oppression and suffering in colonial Saint-Domingue.

Even contemporary Christian churches in Haiti are still trapped in a colonial mindset and neocolonial habits. These Christian congregations of various denominational expressions—such as Baptist, Methodist, Church of God in Christ, Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist, among many others —inherited a foreign theology that undermines the dignity and worth of the Haitian people, and an alien theological language that encourages the suffering and resignation of Haiti’s Christian communities.

This imported theological narrative does not engage the messy lives of the Haitian poor and the predicament of the general masses in Haiti. It is a theology without passion and zeal for the Haitian people; it is an uncharitable and soulless theology.

Similarly, Haitian Christians inherited the neocolonial God of American and Western capitalism and globalization. This God is a bourgeois deity wrapped in the rainbow of American and Western NGOs coupled with the sustaining support and grace of imperial Christianity. This particular Haitian theology of God promotes a troubling narrative of economic dependence, human isolation, an abhorrence for anything Haitian and African, and the white-Savior ideology. Interestingly, the Haitian diasporic church in the United States is the very product and continuity of such destructive theologies and ecclesiastical praxis.

In order for the Haitian-American church to develop a prophetic vision of  Christian life, communicated through rigorous theological confessions, social outreach and caring programs,  and social justice ministries, Haitian ministers and churches need to reject unconstructive foreign theology. It needs to embrace a more biblical theology of human life and pastoral care for the poor, the weak, and the needy in their city.

They need to challenge current theological discourses and habits that preach only spiritual salvation, but neglect the existential dire needs and abject poverty of the people in the city.

The Haitian clergy needs to reject neocolonial traditions in Haitian-American churches and religious habitus that hinder the freedom of the conscience, progressive thinking, and the freedom of action.

In order to promote greater Christian piety and spiritual growth, there needs to be a development of decolonial theological thinking and ecclesiastical practices that will serve as powerful weapons, while simultaneously creating an institution that fosters the conscientization of Haitian American Christians.

The Haitian-American church must reclaim the tradition of the Bible that has radically shaped the ethics and teachings of Jesus, and the preaching  and missionary endeavors of Apostle Paul.

Celucien L. Joseph (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas; PhD, University of Pretoria) is Professor of English at Indian River State College. His recent book, Between Two Worlds: Jean Price-Mars, Haiti, and Africa (2018), was published by Lexington Books.

Haitian Times

Haitian Times

The Haitian Times was founded in 1999 as a weekly English language newspaper based in Brooklyn, NY.The newspaper is widely regarded as the most authoritative voice for Haitian Diaspora.
Haitian Times
Advertisements
Dec. 06, 2018

6 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “The Crisis and Failure of the Haitian-American Church”

  1. tim says:

    My god could you have squeezed in the word “colonial” in that article one more time? If we are talking about history its been over 200 years since Haiti was a colony . I am NOT defending colonialism it was wrong especially in Haiti but an awful lot of water has flowed under that bridge in 200 years. I will be going back to haiti in a few weeks I lave Haiti and the Haitian people but if you are looking for what ails Haiti today you have to start with corruption . If what they say is true about the oil funds its outrageous . Haiti needs honest politicians and rule of law with equal justice

  2. Joseph says:

    First I would like to congratulate you for this article, man if you do not know what is truth,there is .This article summarizes everything I have been talking to friends and family for a while , I always asking myself why our so called pastors always preached in the same line of order as the western nations, maybe because we were colonized by them as results we have no choice but follow what they taught our ancestors. They taught us about a white supremacy God, when you a white person;you see a savior ,because they taught you the messiah is white,our kids always prefer white dolls,our young men always prefer a white woman ,our young women want to whiten their skin in research of appreciation .You would think church leaders as last place with some moral values that could ,at least try to put an end to this spiritual conspiracy, nahh,they are too busy asking for money every Sunday. That is why they used to tell me do not read the old testament ,it is not for the Haitian, really, I used to believe those spiritual blind.if you are not one the blind go read Deuteronomy 28,start from verse 15-69 if you still blind and ignorant ,before you go to your bed,ask the God of Abraham, Isaac,and Jacob to open your spiritual eyes,give you wisdom and understanding ,and wait you will see,and remember we are at ten fingers of the statute in the Daniel dream,wake up!!!!!

    • Thanks for your insights and kind words! It is time for Haitian ministers and pastors to shift the narrative and embrace and then teach a theology that responds to the existential needs and challenges of the that Haitian people, both in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora. Also, the ecclesiastical practices in Haitian congregations are too eurocentric and foreign to the Haitian experience and life. We need to construct a Haitian Christianity that takes in consideration our culture and way of life while remaining true and faithful to biblical christianity and the teachings of Jesus.

  3. Jude says:

    It’s worth noting that the term Christianity also stems from colonization as a method to wipe out the identity of the slaves who were subjected to colonization. Christianity was, and is still a powerful form of brainwashing, Hence the white Jesus. If Haitians are to go back to the origins of the Bible, not only do they need to move away from church but Christianity as well, otherwise known as churchianity. Neither one of these words exist in the original Bible which was written in Hebrew. It would be a great awakening to see Haitians come out of their graves as the prophet Ezekiel states in Ezekiel 37 – The valley of the dry bones!

  4. Sandra says:

    I thought he was gonna talk about lack of organization/ leadership in the Haitian churches but that, I don’t know…

    « inherited a foreign theology that undermines the dignity and worth of the Haitian people, and an alien theological language that encourages the suffering and resignation of Haiti’s Christian communities. »

    « It is a theology without passion and zeal for the Haitian people; it is an uncharitable and soulless theology. »

    « This God is a bourgeois deity wrapped in the rainbow of American and Western NGOs coupled with the sustaining support and grace of imperial Christianity. This particular Haitian theology of God promotes a troubling narrative of economic dependence, human isolation, an abhorrence for anything Haitian and African, and the white-Savior ideology »

    I don’t know if I agree with this professor’s thinking. I feel it’s from someone that has been in a Haitian-american church probably when he was younger, but was never saved and never had a connection , was able to move on to other churches who probably preach the « freedom » he’s talking about, and he thinks he’s entitled to bring judgement now to Haitian-american Churches.

    Yes we have issues with leadership but attacking the very Christianity, calling it uncharitable, without passion, and zeal for the Haitian community, promoting human isolation, financial dependence ?? Really ? I think that’s extreme.
    Let me ask you, how much experience have you had in the Haitian church before you went on to college and got your PhD ? Were you saved? Did you get baptized? Did you make it through youth choir? Did you participate in any weekly prayer services? Any revival? Did you get to sit down with your brothers and sisters to eat after Sunday services? Did you get to visit the sick? Did you get to volunteer to help the little kids in the church or did you put together a healing ministry and gave up your free time to check people blood pressure and teach about health issues and promote health?
    Then how are you gonna attack our beliefs? And you are Haitian yourself.

    I’ve seen stories like yours many times.
    Little boy of Haitian descent, your parents were probably very active in the church, and you were probably «  forced » to go to church in your teenage years, little boy went away to college, got himself some titles, made mommy and daddy proud but being exposed to all kind of ideologies and thinking, he’s now questioning his faith, goes to American Churches, and now turns his back against the faith he was brought in.
    My issue is that when we start going up the ranks and have titles behind our names, we think we’ve made it and that we’re ‘it’ and turn our backs against our own communities. There’s nothing wrong with making progress, it’s only wrong when we cannot use it for our people.

  5. Churches for the most part are nowadays businesses that focus on making as big a profit as possible. They could not care less about the people, their souls or whatever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!