Burning Crosses and Aftershocks

In a small blurb I would have missed had my wife not pointed it out, today’s paper carried a brief follow-up on the religious implications of the Haiti earthquake. The story (caption) ran: “A Christian mob circles a burning stack of items to be used for a Haitian voodoo ceremony for earthquake victims while singing church hymns in the Ti Ayiti neighborhood in Cité Soleil. The voodooists were run out of the central pavilion under a hail of rocks, and all the ceremonial items they left behind were destroyed and burned.”

My mind, at seeing burning religious symbols in the picture, turned to the infamous burning crosses used by equally intolerant “believers” in the last century in this country. Perhaps the motivation for burning the symbols is different, but the message is the same – a very narrow band of the wide continuum that is Christianity has decided that another variety of human being must be brought under control or destroyed. I don’t seem to recall reading in the Gospels, or even Paul for that matter, that throwing stones at believers in other faiths was a recommended activity. The voodou service, according to the blurb, was intended to help earthquake victims. Instead, the Christian faction forcibly drove them out and violated their religious symbols. Could they not have been spending helping victims instead?

I am not the sort to throw the first stone, knowing my own faults all too well, but the rampant supersessionism of an entitlement generation Christianity is showing its ugly side in such an instance as this. If religions are not here to improve the lives of others, then what is their purpose? To placate mythical gods to ensure one’s own blessed future, no matter who has to be hurt along the way? It seems to me that less time burning religious symbols and more time helping the needy is a platform worthy of any honest religion.

11 thoughts on “Burning Crosses and Aftershocks

  1. The logic seems clear:
    1) There are two realms: spiritual and material
    2) Spiritual is much more powerful than the material
    3) If the spiritual is angry, it will punish the material
    4) Therefore if something bad happens, it is most efficient to first try to placate the spiritual who will then help us because compared to it, all our little efforts at helping the needy come to nothing.


    • Steve Wiggins

      Impeccable logic, Sabio! You’ve got a good grasp of the superstitious mind! I think I can understand their reasoning, but I wish there were some way to counteract all this knee-jerk righteousness.


  2. Henk van der Gaast

    It’s clear to me my materialistic position corrupts all argument to the contrary.

    The temples of Theos and Logos that we worship in are, after all, our constructs.

    Fine thought Sabio!

    When it comes to viewing our selves somewhat “superior” to our forebears we are constantly reminded that we do have our shackles of primitive thought well cuffed upon us.

    What a lovely tool we have for indignant justification?

    Too little, it seems, that we face up to our biology.


    • Steve Wiggins

      Having just finished Steven Mithen’s Singing Neanderthals, I was once again reminded of precisely that point. We are the result of our biological ancestors and we carry some of their foibles to illogical conclusions. It’s a wonder we’ve lasted this long!


  3. Henk van der Gaast

    That’s easy Steve, the first scientist (the ape like creature who picked up a stick) started a process.

    This process led us to soft tissue toilet paper.

    It’s very easy to be fascinated by the memes of the past and the memes that still persist.

    The one that is called “common sense” has to go with “everybody else does it this way”.

    After all, that first scientist would not have come back to the tree with a speared rabbit and said “sweet heart, I have a use for all those rocks your father broke”!

    In the meant time, its absolutely edifying watching the masses venerate their personal sky buddies by the brutalisation of the neighbours.

    Things haven’t changed that much, we are just exposed to it a bit more efficiently.


  4. Production

    “I don’t seem to recall reading in the Gospels, or even Paul for that matter, that throwing stones at believers in other faiths was a recommended activity.”

    Surely, you have read such recommendations in the Hebrew Bible. Holding voodoo practitioners responsible for an earthquake strikes me as remarkably similar to holding Baal worshiping Israelites responsible for a drought.

    I agree that both Jesus and Paul seem to indicate that Christians should not interpret every such disaster as divine punishment, yet looking for signs from heaven and the fulfillment of prophecy seems to have a very long and rich tradition in Christianity.

    And aren’t these Haitian Christians just following the example of the magic practicing Ephesians who publicly burned their books and scrolls?


  5. Henk van der Gaast

    I’ll turn my pseudoscience to hand here (populations of humans are definitely not my specialty).

    One could claim the “Frankenstein Effect” in our nomenclature. The guys over the hill are different. When something goes bad, we’ll blame anyone else but ourselves. It’s convenient to start some sort of hostile action to the “over the hillites”.

    This behaviour is patently obvious in places like Indonesia, where rule of law is desired and implied. Tribal warfare between different sects results in brutality without bounds. It’s very strange as one lot are Islamic and the other lot are Christian, both are Indonesian with Indonesian values.

    It’s even more surprising when Christianity, Islam and Judaism all tree pay homage to spiritual purity but only the two former have some “gospel drive”. Claims are, and often made, that Islam itself could be some pale Jacobite influence in the area in its history. One doesn’t relish offending either of these modern faiths, but one has to make it clear; Each has a current range of values to the other that ranges from apathy to despite.

    Each has its own Frankenstein Effect added into the intertwining complications of economy and politics.

    The Frankenstein Effect was to run roughshod over areas of the world. Religion was its justification at times.

    You can’t ever blame religion, you can only blame those who wield it as a tool. Frankly, as religion is as enriching to us on this blog roll, it’s certainly very painful for those who wear its marks from micro to mega despots around the globe and throughout history.


    • Steve Wiggins

      Well thought out, Henk. “Us vs. them” mentality seldom results in harmonious results. I can’t dismiss religion completely, since it has been the motivation for quite a lot of humanitarian causes. Whether people would have aided those causes without formal religious leadership is anybody’s guess. Yet, at the same time in today’s world it usually doesn’t take too much digging to find religious motivation behind many of the negative events that individuals or groups undertake.


  6. Henk van der Gaast

    And frankly, relying on dribs and drabs spoken from the Pseudo Clementines by Prof Eisenman (as respected as he is in circles) only hints at a probability that Jacob spread some Judeo/Christian/Ebionite in some areas.

    Placing a “Nazirite influence” into the southern Semitic world and doing it effectively are two different things.

    My personal hunch is that the local religions of purity and dissemination of Christian “prophecy” came very naturally and the sudden change to a more acceptable codification under the Quran was very satisfactorily to the 7th century Arabic world.. No Frankenstein Effect there? Well, history has its own take on that again… Over to the master..Steve!


    • Steve Wiggins

      I am master of nothing, but an observer of much. Actually, just about all the developments you’ve cited are centuries after my “official” specialization! I very much appreciate the perspective.


  7. Henk van der Gaast

    A possible alter ego for the Frankenstein Effect I would quote as Cultic behaviours.. Memes are injected, initially slowly and then ever-more strongly establishing a common ground of “thought”.

    The us versus them behaviour runs rampant. The ideas however come from an individual or small number who want their pseudo religious utopian ideals to be spread.

    Obviously its an over simplification but I would point out that gods as we know them probably came after artistic endeavours such as poetry. Recorded gods for all to read and play back are one hell of a lot more powerful than a sprite in the Auroch or the wind.

    The Kami carried little fear in the Asian populations nor the the great sky serpent in Australian dreaming because these memes didnt evolve to hateful or loving creatures in an eternal battle thanx to literature.

    If this isn’t a wonderful weapon to tell you that you are wonderful/worthless and you should kill the guys over the hill, then the weilders of sociology and religion to drive battles, wars and injustices have had it all wrong, all along.

    The religionists continually use the events of the past century as atheist driven catastrophy. Clearly it was cultic pseudo religious behaviour based on an artform of religious hatred or posturing that went back centuries.

    Are Ghengis Khan or Alexander the great the exceptions to the norm? Is the Roman empire truly that great stoic organisation devoid of the Frankenstein Effect?


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