My Madrina posted this article to her FB recently. It is written for Christian evangelical missionaries, discussing not only Orisha based traditions, but specifically the conversion of Orisha devotees to Christianity, and demonising of one of the most powerful energies we honour and venerate.
I read this article a few years ago, I may have posted it to my old blog or not, but I still felt the need to add a comment. When I was reposting it to my FB feed, my attached comment grew and grew, until it exhausted the character limit, and herein contained in this blog post.
I am excerpting a small part of the article, from the portion discussing conversion of devotees and hoping to inspire more personal fervour in missionaries to fuel a more convincing approach to converting us ‘poor misguided savages’.
Except, as I read their argument, it seemed to prove why they’re failing to stem the bleeding away of young, African descendants in the ‘New World’, and in fact the attraction of non-African peoples to Orisha devotion, one of multiple African Tradition Religions in the West that is growing and thriving.
Strategies and methods may vary from country to country, and even within countries, but the gospel must never be compromised. Perhaps it is an indictment on today’s preaching and the witness of Christians that Santería is now flourishing in the United States. It has already been observed that centers of Santería are abundant in Miami, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The excuse given is the large influx of immigrants from Latin America. However, in 1970 Santería also came to where it could not previously take root. The Oyotungi Village on the South Carolina coast near Charleston was established for the worship of the African orishas. It seems obvious that Murphy’s observation on the power of Protestant preaching that demanded conversion is a good one. Could it be that Santería is now on the move across Latin America and in the United States because our strategies for reaching the unsaved have failed to give priority to God’s ordained way to reach the lost?
Hmmm… it’s interesting my tradition doesn’t convert, but include and encompass… flows around the hard edges of politics and history, to create a way for itself in the face of persecution.
And when they tell you about the ‘Gospel’, you need to ask yourself about the Council of Nicea, (don’t mind Christian propaganda, this is world History) and WHICH Gospel are they talking about? The excoriated portions not in support of European-based phalli-centric world domination, or the four severely-doctored-for-political-purposes ones that finally made the cut of the Council, at the expense and excommunication of the Cardnials and Bishops supporting the former and not the latter. You know it’s the King James Bible they are bringing you, a further mistranslation of this ‘acceptable-to-Constantine’ Bible.
Yet, for these missionaries, the writer of the piece, and those already guilty of some of the worst kinds of colonisation and culturally divisive ‘evangelism’ and oppression in the not so recent past (someone PLEASE say Rwandan genocide AND ‘there is no ETHNIC difference between the Hutus and the Tutsis until the Catholic missionaries went to Leopold’s ‘garden”), in our day and age, still don’t seem to understand one basic principle, “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you”. Which is why I ever charge this sort of thing with hypocrisy at its root.
It’s like Taran said in his post recently, about why religion is often like genetalia; that so many religious people feeling the need to mentally hump their religions in your face.
I could never convert anyone to my tradition… it’s not something someone can be converted to. You’re either called or not. That’s it. But for these people, and so many other people I have met of this persuasion, they feel it’s either their right, or their life’s purpose to convince me their choice is the right one, and hence it is the ONLY choice for me or for you. As though my choice for my life is wrong or somehow less valid than theirs. As soon as they start talking, I hear “Lay down G.I. lay down G.I.” or Gimli the Dwarf saying, “In the language of Orthanc, help means ruin.”
Frankly, this is a kind of narrow myopia that continues to plague our enterprise here on planet Earth. It’s not the message you bring (because who can refuse ‘God is Love’, it’s your delivery mechanism… instead of literal the knife-point, whip and lynching-rope, it’s now an intellectual knife or a battle in the minds of the INHERITORS of MY tradition in particular. And why? For reasons they weakly attempt to explain, or outright refuse to acknowledge, or for more nefarious reasons of LOSS of CONTROL, and FEAR of the MENTAL EMANCIPATION of so many young people in our post-colonial world, who are being CALLED back to their traditional religious roots.
So many of us are actively seeking to close one of the most hideous of gaps created by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade; the divorce of the Africans brought here from their spiritual expression and the language they used to talk to and interact with GOD. That is our COSMIC right. For all the BOOK learning of so many, they do remain enslaved in thought and deed to a spiritual system that fails us as a PEOPLE because it’s motivation is not really the empowerment of it’s adherents, but the empowerment of the SYSTEM of religion, and their OBEDIENCE to ‘leaders’ under the guise of submission to God. God isn’t the focus, but the trappings of the system and it’s own power, and the empty ritual associated with it. If this is something that works for you, then I say, keep doing it. But you have to be honest about it if and when it stops working for you.
It is almost as though, they [the missionaries writing this piece I quote and the fervent born-agains] are DESPERATE to prove to you that their message or religious thought is the only acceptable one, and I refute that.
I also keep to the forefront several STAND OUT comments. One made by my father, that: Modern Christianity is European culture deified.
The others, made by John Henrik Clarke, remain ever part and parcel of why I went the opposite way and abandoned Catholicism at age 16, after reading some of his writings. I kept walking until I found a spiritual path that spoke to me as a woman, and a woman of African descent, and that is my right under Cosmic law. So no one will be teefing my head. I include them here for your perusal:
“My main point here is that if you are the child of God and God is a part of you, then in your imagination God is supposed to look like you. And when you accept a picture of the deity assigned to you by another people, you become the spiritual prisoners of that other people.”
“Powerful people cannot afford to educate the people that they oppress, because once you are truly educated, you will not ask for power. You will take it.”
“Religion is the organization of spirituality into something that became the hand maiden of conquerors. Nearly all religions were brought to people and imposed on people by conquerors, and used as the framework to control their minds.”
John Henrik Clarke
(I got these from here, but I’ve read the pieces they belong to.)