“Haiti, God, and Tradition”

“Haiti, God, and Tradition”

Haiti has a long humanist tradition, whose origin can be traced to the first half of the nineteenth century. This particular Haitian humanist tradition affirms both theism and agnosticism; while the former dominates Haitian intellectual production at that period, evidence for the latter is best observed in the various ways Haitian writers and thinkers discuss the Haitian predicament, what many have called “la crise haitienne,” in Haitian literature and sociology. We see the continuity of this way of thinking about human life in general and theism in specific in the works of young Haitian intellectuals of the American occupation, and Jacques Stephen Alexis reinforces the Haitian humanist tradition in his writing.

However, the Vodouist tradition in Haiti as an intellectual tradition began to blossom in the second half of the twentieth-century. While the intellectuals of the American occupation reimagined the importance of Haitian Vodou in the Haitian experience, they did not lay the foundation for the Vodouist tradition.

Interestingly, the robust Marxist tradition that began in the first half of the twentieth century in Haiti is not against theism or anti-religion, but it challenges vodouphobic discourse and anti-Haitianism.

Finally, Haiti does not have a strong theological tradition (“written texts”) that looks at big theological concerns of modern times from a Haitian perspective. However, Haiti has a rich religious tradition that takes into account the Haitianization of religious practices and Christianity in the Haitian context. Yet the rich folkloric (especially folktales, songs, orature) tradition (“non-written texts”) haitianize theology and the big questions of theology, including God and the problem of evil in the world, the problem of sin in the world, the presence of God in the world, God and the kingdom of darkness, the nature of human beings, the church as the people of God, eschatology, etc. As a practice,  it’s good to note in passing that those who “theologize in Haitian” are not professional theologians with academic degrees in the discipline of theology or Biblical Studies. Haitian novelists, poets, and anthropologists represent a distinctive voice in theological discourse through the creative domain and ethnological reports.


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