Faith in Haiti
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.”” (1 Corinthians 15:25–27 NIV)
Every time a natural disaster happens, the topic of religion and worldviews eventually becomes the focal point of conversation in the weeks and months afterwards. The earthquake in Haiti has proven to be no exception to this rule. One example of this is found in the words that Pat Robertson said a few days ago. I love how people that never listen to a word Pat Robertson says, myself included, are all of the sudden are up in arms about comments he makes concerning this natural disaster. I am not sure, but I would be willing to bet that his statement he made about Haiti is not the most controversial thing he said in the last year. But religion and different worldviews takes center stage when such massive calamity happens, and I would say this is because everyone feels a sense of insecurity and is searching for answers. And this forces Christians to defend our faith and correct poor theology, as James did so well in his last blog.
But CNN has recently joined the conversation by posting an article written by Arthur Brice that is not necessarily their normal cup of tea. The article discusses how many people have turned to God in Haiti since the earthquake. One of the most startling stories in this article is about a young girl named Anaika Saint Louis. This is how Brice tells her story of faith: “Perhaps few personified that deep belief better than 11-year-old Anaika Saint Louis, who was pulled from the rubble Thursday night and later died. Her leg had been crushed, and doctors thought they might have to amputate her feet. She said she didn’t care. “Thank you, God, because he saved my life,” she said. “If I lose my feet, I always had my life.””
Now, if you read the comments below the article on CNN.com, it can get pretty hilarious and disturbing all at the same time. There are groups of people, both Christians and non-religious alike, that flock to articles such as these so they can use them as a proving ground of why their worldview is in fact correct. But what both sides miss when debating their worldview is Anaika’s personal story. I don’t think she really cared in the last few moments of her life what either side had to say. I think she had hope that Christ has in fact conquered the last enemy, which is death. And this is something we all must square with. Death is, and will always be, the great equalizer. This is a fact we try to ignore in the developed world because we don’t like having a sense that we are not in control. We watch SportsCenter rather than images from Haiti; we put the elderly in nursing homes so we don’t have to see how our life might end; we work furiously without taking Sabbath so that we might somehow be remembered after we are long gone. All of this is driven by a fear of how life ends here on earth for you and I.
This is something we regularly talk about at Harris Creek, and is something we call “functional gods.” A functional god is when you tend to put more faith in insurance plans, governments, doctors and medical advancement than you do in the Creator of all things. And I believe that many people in the West have ultimately placed faith in the functional gods of humanity and science to save us from death. I also believe this is why we have seen such a sharp rise in the non-religious worldview over the last 100 years in the world. Did you know that in 1900, only 3.2 million people claimed a non-religious worldview, but in the year 2000, that number had increased to 918 million people and has grown to be the third largest “faith” behind Christianity and Islam? It’s not that humans have ceased to worship over the last 100 years; it’s just that we worship things that are more “practical and functional.”
But in the aftermath in Haiti, “practical and functional” take on a whole new meaning. The CNN article I referenced earlier has an interesting take on why this might be the case. It says, “Many observers have a simple explanation for what makes Haitians so devout. “Because in all poor countries, you have to believe in something,” said Agnes Pierre-Louis, the Haitian-born manager of her family-owned hotel. “If they don’t have that, they don’t have anything.” Added Diederich: “They leave everything in the hands of God. When you have so little, what else can you turn to?”” This is not too dissimilar to what I have said for many years now: Either Jesus is who he says he is, or our world is in a lot of trouble.
Perhaps this is why Jesus said in Luke, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20 NIV) I believe the reason so many Haitians are turning to Christ in these moments of crisis is because they find solidarity with him. He was poor and he experienced a time in his life where he felt forsaken by God. And yet, the story does not end there; he also conquered the last enemy, which was death, and rose victoriously from the grave. And he promises the same kind of life for those who turn to him.
Here is what I know to be true: one day I, like young Anaika Saint Louis, will face my end of life on earth. This is an inescapable fact of life. And I will hopefully utter a simple prayer like Anaika saying, “Thank you, God, because he saved my life.”