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#2715: Painting With A Broad Brush : Ruckle replies to Bellegarde-Smith

From: James R. Ruckle <jruckle@citynet.net>

<blockquote TYPE=CITE>From: P D Bellegarde-Smith &lt;pbs@csd.uwm.edu>
<p>Why didn't slaveowners convert to the religion of their slaves?</blockquote>
Because they didn't believe it was true, and because they needed a divine
"justification" to treat human beings as property. People are more likely
to believe doctrines which gain them status, which they equate with divine
favor. I suspect that some slave owners DID convert to the religion of
their slaves, but secretly. Christians who base their faith on miracles
are more likely to be drawn to syncretic faiths that deliver them.
<blockquote TYPE=CITE>&nbsp;Why was such a premium attached to converting
enslaved Africans?</blockquote>
There wasn't. Conversion was used as a justification for the enslavement
of indigenous Americans (Incas and Aztecs) as well. Also, Christian caucasians
try to convert one another all the time, and have since at least the 19th
century. When I was in Haiti as a lay volunteer, people at my mission had
a much higher opinion of Haitians than we did of many of our fellow missionaries,
notably the large Baptist Mission near Petion-ville, which seemed intent
on teaching their "flock" not to be joyful. The Episcopalians, on the other
hand, were widely respected, because they were supportive rather than arrogant.
My own faith is Eastern Orthodox.
<blockquote TYPE=CITE>In cultures and civilizations where "the collective"
primes over the individual, what does conversion to a "non-tribal" religion
imply to the convertee? To the converter? Aren't all religions "tribal?"</blockquote>
That is hard to say, Since I am a "tribal" Christian from a decidedly individualistic
culture, my experience is the exact opposite of the one you describe. Some
versions of Christianity are more fractious than others, which is why the
"_____ Church of Michigan in Ohio" had a mission in Haiti. (I can't remember
the first word.)
<blockquote TYPE=CITE>What are the intimate connections between political
economy and religion? Why?</blockquote>
Any world view impacts the way people govern themselves and do business.
A unified set of beliefs is the ultimate source of legitimacy for any political
or economic system. In the United States, we have a "civil religion" to
replace the state religion our Constitution outlaws. We treat our soldiers
as saints, our flag and documents are holy objects, we have national "holy
days", and we equate "freedom" both with salvation and with whatever our
national interest happens to be. One reason that the U.S. is decomposing
is that events in the 1960s destroyed our faith in our country and in each
<blockquote TYPE=CITE>Why do Haitians hold on so tenaciously to their national
religion? To their national language?</blockquote>
Why not? The Orthodox Church has long taught that the purpose of the Great
Commission is to transform and sanctify cultures, not to destroy or homogenize
them. I came back to the U.S. with a strong conviction that my country
should emulate Haiti, not the reverse. Haitians are surrounded by suffering,
death, and joy; I find their strength of character inspiring. They deserve
better than a faith that intimidates them.
<blockquote TYPE=CITE>What is the meaning of "civilized" and "primitive?"
And who defines? How and why?</blockquote>
I define "civilized" as "based on trust and legitimacy rather than physical
force". The United States is somewhat civilized internally, less civilized
internationally. The people of Haiti strike me as highly civilized, the
government as "primitive". Vodou appears to be a civilizing force in some
respects, a terrorizing one in others. I suspect that, like Christianity,
it is sometimes abused by the unscrupulous.
<blockquote TYPE=CITE>So many questions most people have never entertained
(and never will want to think about beyond this post)! Why do some of you
feel anger reading these lines?</blockquote>
I don't. Let's keep up the dialogue.
<br>James R. Ruckle
<br><a href="http://members.citynet.net/ruckle/">http://members.citynet.net/ruckle/</a>
<br>"Defeat the enmity, not the enemy."