Posted by: rogermitchell | January 20, 2010

Haiti and the occult

Responses to the previous post on Haiti and the nation state draw attention to the classic right wing evangelical view that Haiti’s troubles were caused by the prevalence of the occult on the island. The occult has been strong there and may have impacted the land of course. However it is important to read this correctly. The prophet Ezekiel clearly understood the connection between the occult and oppression. It breeds where “arrogance, abundant food and careless ease co-exist with the failure to help the poor and needy” as was the case with Sodom and Gomorrah (Ezek 16:49). The narrow view sees the world as independent nation states and assumes that Haiti’s problems are her own. However, the big picture makes Haiti’s occultism the response to and evidence of the context of empire. As the previous post suggests, this context is the western world empire of nation states which came into being on the back of the slaves who were the ancestors of Haiti’s oppressed people and in which Haiti continues to be located at the bottom of the pile. The mission agencies, NGO’s, UN and western government initiatives in Haiti both before and after the disaster, while providing significant help for the people of Haiti, are still doing so within an imperial worldview that sustains the global injustice of unequal states, and the dominance of the most powerful nations, peoples, families and individuals.  If we are looking for signs of judgment then the place to look is not at Haiti’s vulnerability to the occult or tragic inability to deal with natural disaster in the way that a developed super state would be able to. Instead we need to look away to the cause of Haiti’s poverty and vulnerability to the occult, and that points to the endemic injustice of the wealthy western nations which are maintained by and also maintain the world of globalised capital. These are the nations doing best out of the system of empire that is currently shaking and surely coming down. The irony is of course that right now this is the main source of Haiti’s help. But it can ultimately only save people for the next round of injustices. This is why as we work within the system, as we must, the followers of Jesus must subvert its values and its assumptions and continually, especially right now, re-imagine, pray for and inseminate a heavenly kingdom of love and justice.



  1. Well put Roger. I have been studying the sources of such injustices in my courses and much of what has been said smacks of the Victorian attitudes to the poor, a belief that they are there because it is their fault and they can work their way out of it. No understanding of the grinding problems of poverty, no comprehension of the conditions under which the poor have to work, no idea of the extra costs to being poor from the water which costs more for those living in the shanty towns than in the richer end of town to the costs of housing for nothing more than a tiny patch of ground, the costs of illness due to poor nutrition, sorry I could go on but I won’t and shouldn’t here. Basically though as long as we are part of a system that blames the poor for their poverty then we are no better than the arrogant mill owners and their families who had no idea of the oppression they were inflicting on the poor, and if this is part of the empire it does indeed need to come down.

  2. I’m intrigued by the phrase “vulnerability to the occult”, mostly because (although I know this is not your position!) it can be heard as making a distinction between the poor suggestable Haitians and the better-enlightened rest (us). I mention it because there is a further undercurrent in the way we are conditioned to view these things that the Haitians were somehow involved in the dark arts and people in the EU or US are involved in sin less worthy of whatever judgement is envisaged. If we were to develop a hierarchy of iniquity (and let’s not!), i’d sooner put generational, nationalistic proud greed exploiting the many much nearer the top.

    I read a post online somewhere in response to pat Robertson’s remarks that suggested that perhaps we (the western world) are ‘the devil’ in that context. For sure we have the capacity to be more demonstrably diabolical than the haitis of this world. To whom much is given, much is required.

  3. I agree completely Stephen. I only added the phrase afterwards in order to meet the particular point being made in connection with the overt voodooism that people have been pinpointing in connection with Haiti. But of course if we are talking about the heart of the darkness, the Old Testament indicates that this is located where “passing the children through the fire” is practiced. This appears to be at the heart of western culture in our readiness to defend ourselves by sending our sons and daughters to war and in aborting our unborn for economic convenience.

  4. I know you do 🙂 just useful to draw out the point.

  5. Excellent analysis Roger. I was thinking much the same thing after I read Pat Robertson’s statement and the reactions. I doubt that the occult is the cause of Haitian distress. It is merely an attempt by a very oppressed people to find something in their lives to give them power within their situation.
    I want to connect this all back to the environment and to make the point as I have on Martin Scott’s blog – that poverty and a degraded environment are the same issues. Much of the suffering in Haiti is connected to an environment that has been ravaged. It has been ravaged because people are poor and in need of energy/fuel and so have stripped the hillsides of trees. This in turn has led to the deadly landslides that have occured in Haiti. A movement such as the one in Africa of replanting deforested hills and mountains would greatly help the island. It would provide employment, heal watersheds, and ultimately make for healthier agriculture. In Haiti, in particular, God allows us to see that social justice and care for creation go together. c.

  6. Roger:
    I haven’t had a chance to read this but usually Amy Goodman is pretty good. I was intrigued by the title:


  7. This is are all really helpful perspectives, thanks for the discussion and responses!

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