Thursday, June 30, 2011

Haiti Journal Entry: Voodoo

After my class last semester, I was excited to learn more about voodoo in the community of Thomazeau and throughout Haiti. There were a variety of opportunities to learn about this fascinating religion.  Some of these opportunities included talking with local pastors about their experiences with those who practice voodoo as well as those who were members of the church, in the past. Those currently practicing were not as willing to communicate with us.  This may have been because of the language barrier and the fact that the man that took my friend and I around to look at these temples was not that confident in his English.  he could read and speak wonderfully but asking questions was difficult because he didn't understand as much as he could speak.

We were able to see one of the main temples as well as a voodoo altar. It was fascinating to see in more detail much of what I had learned from my class last semester.  At times this alter (above) would have images on the back wall and the cloth bags would be filled with offerings and taken to the temple.  The temple is the room with the pole in the center (left).  There are two rooms on each side of this building (right).  The rooms are where some specific ceremonies take place.  I will need to reread about what ceremonies would take place in those rooms, though I think they might be used for isolation.  This part of the conversation did not translate from English to Creole and back very well.
Voodoo Dolls and binging ceremonies

Later in the week we went to visit the natural springs which were full of evidence of voodoo ritual and practice. The springs consisted of voodoo dolls and remnants of other Voodoo ceremonies. The majority of the voodoo dolls we saw were used to bind people, either to the country or to someone else. The man telling us about this tree where individuals were bound, met his wife because she had bound him to her. Though his words needed to be translated, his facial expressions and intensity of his experience did not.

I am not sure what this was but was told it was "voodoo"
As we were leaving Haiti we met a man, named Juan, in the airport. He grew up in Haiti, but currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He talked to us about some of his experiences growing up in a voodoo home. He had been bound to the ceremonies and his family who practice voodoo. He remembered running and hiding in friend’s house but still being scared of the spirits. When he was finally old enough to make his own decisions he had accepted Jesus and was a Christian. When he told some of his family members, they tried to bind him to Haiti but he was able to escape because, as he said, “Jesus could now protect him, and Jesus was stronger than the demons,” that were being used to bind him.

This trip was an interesting contrast to the much more academic approach I had experienced in my class on the religions of the African Diaspora.  My class was excellent and gave me a deep understanding of what those who practice Voodoo believe and the history of the religion and Haiti, but the class did not allow me to fully understand the power of the Vooddo spirits from a Christian perspective.  The trip certainly did help me to gain this understanding.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Haiti Journal Entry: My Class and Backgrond on Voodoo

Voodoo Alter on the back of a house
I took a couple African American and Religious Studies courses last semester that related directly to my time spent in Haiti.  The one class focused on religions such as Voodoo, Santeria, Candomble, Revival Zion, and the Black Church in America.  We began the class by looking at Yoruba tradition.  Then spent one week looking at the history of a given area that Africans were moved to, through the slave trade.  Then we transitioned into how the spirituality of those from Africa morphed into what it is today through both the mixing of religions and cultures (typically European Catholic and African Yoruba).  Haiti was the first place that we focused on and voodoo was a religion that we spent an extra week studying. 
The class gave me a basic academic understanding of the religions, ceremonies and the importance of spirituality to those who dispersed because of the African Diaspora.  My time in Haiti helped to solidify the information from the class and see some of the details I read about.  My trip to Haiti took the religion of voodoo from the realm of the academic world to the realm of the very real spiritual world.  The trip also helped me to understand spiritual warfare (from a  Christian perspective) in a much deeper way.  Some of the conversations with those who used to be in the voodoo church and with those who work closely with its members helped me to see that there is an extreme power associated with Voodoo that is completely real.  I will post more about these conversations in future posts...
Voodoo Temple
Here is a past post on Candomble.  Candomble (in Brazil) is not the same as Voodoo but there are some similarities especially when it comes to the use of dance and the importance of the spirit.
If you are interested in learning more, our main book for the class was Working the Spirit: Ceremonies of the African Diaspora.  This book does not look at the history of the countries or the slave trade as close as we did in the class.  This book covers the details of the ceremonies, the view on community, and the way that the spirit interacts with the individual. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Is Your Religon Worse than Useless?

Critical Thought Tuesday

“If your religion doesn't teach you the difference between good and evil, your religion is worse than useless.”

~Dennis Prager quotes

Is this true? Can a belief be religious if it does not include the difference between good and evil?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Metal Jesus

Tim from As I Lay Dying gets a portrait of Jesus with a metal guitar.

Starting at about 11 minutes Hannah talks about spirituality and Tim and her talk about religion. 

Link to just Tim and the tattoo. I liked Hannah's stuff too. It is always nice to hear non Christians not bashing Christians : )

What do you guys think about Christian Metal?  Do you think Jesus had any tattoos?  What stood out to you the most from the video?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Art Lesson Ideas for Haiti

Haiti Journal Entry #2

1. Nature Art – Use Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration
2. Hemp bracelets and jewelry - I know up to a 12 stand knot pattern and as simple as a braid
3. Faith Journey Bracelets using paper beads. This could be incorporated into a Bible study of some sort.  I have used it for Bible studies before as an ice breaker.  A story of Jesus bead could also be included.
4.  Friendship bracelets using colored string
Image from ScienceBuzz.o
5. Still life drawing – set up whatever is around and draw
6. Draw a picture from the imagination
7. Art Journaling – How many kids will there be? What supplies will I need to take? This could be incorporated into a Bible study of some sort.
8. Homemade Watercolor paints – Could be incredibly simple
9. Design posters – Maybe make a poster (or even a card) for you family or best friend
10. Write a poem – no rules just write what you think or feel
11. Collage – use magazine pages or dried leaves.  Maybe introduce the idea of journaling being a form of prayer.
12. Origami – Use old magazine pages
13. Pet rocks – I would need to take googly eyes

This is just my brainstorm list.  I am not sure that all of these will be culturally or age appropriate.  We will be having a meeting about the trip soon, so I can ask which ones would be plausible.  Do you guys have any more project ideas that are versatile and have a small supply list?  Or any project ideas that could be used as a part of a Bible study?  

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Haiti Journal Entry 2 Scripture Memory

Isaiah 58:10-12
10 Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.
Isaiah 58:10-12

This is the theme verse for the week in Haiti.  I think I will start trying to memorize it today.  I am not sure that I will have it perfect, but that's not the end of the world.

I do have some tricks to share about memorizing a bible verse.

1. Read the Verse Out Loud
Read the reference at the beginning and end.  It is typically the hardest part to memorize so you say it much more often.

2. Learn the Verse 1 Word at a Time
Read the refernce, then the first word, then the reference, then the first and second word.  This continues through the whole verese.

3. Be Picky
You do want to learn the verse word-for-word.  Don't beat yourself up over a wrong word but keep in mind that our long term memory will remember the verse better if we say the same way in a month or a year.  Another reason for this is best summed up with the quote "the best lie is disguised as truth." It is easy to not be completely confident in what scripture says when you a shaky on your memorization.  If you know what it says then you wont have to question and others will be more likely to believe you.

4. Use the Same Traslation
This one is difficult for me because I have switched translations over the years.  This being said it has shown me exactly why it is important to stick with one version (for memorization).  It is easier to recognize a verse you have memorized and therefore you will be reviewing it simply from reading your Bible.  When I switch Bible I have read right over verses I know and not even recognized them.  Memorizing is difficult for many, myself included, and switching versions just makes the process more difficult.  There is nothing wrong with switching Bibles.  I might even suggest it if you use a less common translation, though I think my next Bible will be NIV and I will be memorizing a variety of versions.  Its a pain but like I said, I learned this the hard way.

5. Note Cards
Make note cards and store them in a file.  You can keep one or two in you pocket everyday.  I think that it is easier to focus on one verse at a time.  When you have several down you can review several at a time.   One technique could be to memorize one verse every day Monday through Friday and review all five on Saturdays and Sundays.  Then take every 4 weeks and work on all 15 verses all week.  This is just one strategy and most people will need to return to the verses more than just at the end of the month.

6. Quiz Time
It is great to have a friend quiz you. 

7. Goals
A friend can also help encourage you to memorize.  Memorizing together is much more fun.  You could practice and go out for coffee.

8. Every-Other-Word
You recite the verse by saying every other word with a friend.  This helps A LOT.  If you mess up one word both of you will be lost.  This is a great and fun exercise to practice.  Take turns starting with the references.

9. Read the Passage
Reading the passage, chapter or book will help you remember the context for the verese.

10. Translation
Read the verse in a variety of translations.  This will help you gain a deeper meaning of the verse.

11. Journal
Journal about what each word means to you any what the significance of the verse is.

12. Use Topics
The Topical Memory System (TMS) is a great way to memorize.  This is a great list of verses to start with.  The TMS Kit is also a wonderful purchase.  It comes with a work book that includes illustrations for sharing the gospel with others, based on these important verses.  The pack also comes with four (I think) versions for each verse.

13. Review Review Review
This is another one that I have learned the hard way.  If you stop reviewing your old cards you will forget the verses.  You may recognize them, but not be able to site or find or recite them.  If you can keep scripture in you head all the time you can better recognize truth.

I hope these tips help.  I am off to completing these verses, but first, does anyone out there have any good strategies for scripture memory or memorization in general?