God Will Win At the End….

God Will Win At the End….
The biggest problem with humanity in relation to God is not natural sin per se, but the control and pursue of sovereignty. God has an intended plan for everyone and humanity as a whole; therefore, he desires all individuals and all people to walk humbly before him and under his sovereign control.
On the other hand, man and woman have their own desires and plans that are somewhat autonomous and more often contrary to those of God. They want to pursue their own desires and objectives without any divine interference or external constraint. The desire for man and woman to live in isolation of God’s sovereign grace and sovereign will belittles the glory and majesty of God in the world. It is an act of dehumanization and human pride that challenges the authority of God and questions God’s loving-kindness.
The crisis between God and humanity is the passion to be (totally) autonomous and sovereign.  Human sovereignty apart from God’s tutelage is one of the gravest transgressions committed against God the Sovereign Lord and most Loving King.  While we human beings may act autonomously or long for sovereignty, which defies the pedagogy of God’s sacredness and glorious praise, God will ultimately win at the end.
When God is treasured in your heart more than your own craving desires to be mighty, you will be less resistant to act according to your own desires and less dependent on your own sovereignty and autonomy to be greater than God.
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My Commitment to Biblical Faithfulness and Care for the People of God

Progressively, I’m seeing myself rekindling my formative interest for biblical studies and Christian theology, my first academic love. Nonetheless, I can not do theology nor biblical studies the way I was taught and trained in seminary. ( I must acknowledge that I received a good liberal arts education, and a good theological and biblically-centered education at The Baptist College of Florida [B.A. Theology], The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary [Advanced Masters of Divinity in Biblical and Theological Studies], and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary [Th.M. New Testament]). Such theological discourse partially undermines the social concerns, the lived-worlds and the lived-experiences of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed communities. As a Christian minister, my commitment to biblical faithfulness, my understanding of the God of the Bible, and my deep concerns for the holistic welfare of the underrepresented families, the poor, and the disfranchised communities and their dignity have shaped both my theological method and biblical exegesis.
Theology should be used as a tool to radically transform culture, lead to social change, and the radical regeneration of the individual and the collective self. Theology should also be at the service of the marginalized groups and the masses; it should also empower the poor and marginalized communities to find their hope in God their Savior and Liberator.
True theology always leads to both doxology (the worship of the triune God) and praxis.
Christian ministry rooted in authentic biblical theology is about serving, loving, and caring for people.

Dr.Joseph and social outreach in Port-Margot, Haiti (December 2015)

 

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Dr. Joseph praying during prayer walk and door- to- door evangelism: Port-Margot, Haiti Mission Trip (March 2016)

Vodou, I Remember: My New Books on Haitian Vodou

Hello, Friends: Please allow me to share my two new books with you, which are published by Lexington Books (2016). Dr. Nixon Cleophat and I edited both volumes on Haitian Vodou:  Vodou in the Haitian Experience: A Black Atlantic Perspective , and Vodou in Haitian Memory: The Idea and Representation of Vodou in Haitian Imagination. Both texts can be ordered on the publisher’s website, amazon.com, or any online bookstore.

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Description

One glaring lacuna in studies of Haitian Vodou is the scarcity of works exploring the connection between the religion and its main roots, traditional Yoruba religion. Discussions of Vodou very often seem to present the religion in vacuo, as a sui generis phenomenon that arose in Saint-Domingue and evolved in Haiti, with no antecedents. What is sorely needed then is more comparative studies of Haitian Vodou that would examine its connections to traditional Yoruba religion and thus illuminate certain aspects of its mythology, belief system, practices, and rituals. This book seeks to bridge these gaps.

Vodou in the Haitian Experience studies comparatively the connections and relationships between Vodou and African traditional religions such as Yoruba religion and Egyptian religion. Such studies might enhance our understanding of the religion, and the connections between Africa and its Diaspora through shared religious patterns and practices. The general reader should be mindful of the transnational and transcultural perspectives of Vodou, as well as the cultural, socio-economic, and political context which gave birth to different visions and ideas of Vodou.

The chapters in this collection tell a story about the dynamics of the Vodou faith and the rich ways Vodou has molded the Haitian narrative and psyche. The contributors of this book examine this constructed narrative from a multicultural voice that engages critically the discipline of ethnomusicology, drama, performance, art, anthropology, ethnography, economics, literature, intellectual history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, religion, and theology. Vodou is also studied from multiple theoretical approaches including queer, feminist theory, critical race theory, Marxism, postcolonial criticism, postmodernism, and psychoanalysis.

Table of Contents
Introduction: Contemporary and Transnational Vodou, and the African Perspective
Celucien L. Joseph and Nixon Cleophat
Part I. Vodou, Anthropology, Art, Performance, and the Black Diaspora

  1. Roots / Routes / Rasin: Rural Vodou and the Sacred Tree as Metaphor for the Multiplicity of Styles in Folkloric Dance and Mizik Rasin

Ann E. Mazzocca

  1. Circling the Cosmogram: Vodou Aesthetics, Feminism, and Queer Art in the

Second-Generation Haitian Dyaspora
Kantara Souffrant

  1. Dancing Difference and Disruption: Vodou Liturgy and Little Haiti on the Hill in “Seven Guitars”

Barbara Lewis

  1. Decoding Dress: Vodou, Cloth and Colonial Resistance in Pre- and Postrevolutionary Haiti

Charlotte Hammond
Part II. Vodou and African Traditional Religions

  1. The African Origin of Haitian Vodou: From the Nile Valley to the Haitian Valleys

Patrick Delices

  1. New World/Old World Vodun , Creolité, and the Alter-Renaissance

Bronwyn Mills

  1. The vibratory art of Haiti: a Yoruba heritage

Patricia Marie-Emmanuelle Donatien

  1. Ethnographic Interpretations of Traditional African Religious Practices and Haitian Vodou Ceremonial Rites in Zora Neale Hurston’s (1938) Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Maya Deren’s (1983) Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti

Tammie Jenkins

  1. Oversouls and Egregores in Haitian Vodou

Patricia Scheu (Mambo Vye Zo Komande LaMenfo)

  1. Arabian Religion, Islam and Haitian Vodou:

The “Recent African Single-Origin Hypothesis” and the Comparison of World Religions
Benjamin Hebblethwaite and Michel Weber

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Description

Throughout Haitian history—from 17th century colonial Saint-Domingue to 21st century postcolonial Haiti—arguably, the Afro-Haitian religion of Vodou has been represented as an “unsettling faith” and a “cultural paradox,” as expressed in various forms and modes of Haitian thought and life including literature, history, law, politics, painting, music, and art. Competing voices and conflicting ideas of Vodou have emerged from each of these cultural symbols and intellectual expressions. The Vodouist discourse has not only pervaded every aspect of the Haitian life and experience, it has defined the Haitian cosmology and worldview. Further, the Vodou faith has had a momentous impact on the evolution of Haitian intellectual, aesthetic, and literary imagination; comparatively, Vodou has shaped Haitian social ethics, sexual and gender identity, and theological discourse such as in the intellectual works and poetic imagination of Jean Price-Mars, Dantes Bellegarde, Jacques Roumain, Jacques Stephen Alexis, etc. Similarly, Vodou has shaped the discourse on the intersections of memory, trauma, history, collective redemption, and Haitian diasporic identity in Haitian women’s writings such as in the fiction of Edwidge Danticat, Myriam Chancy, etc.

The chapters in this collection tell a story about the dynamics of the Vodou faith and the rich ways Vodou has molded the Haitian narrative and psyche. The contributors of this book examine this constructed narrative from a multicultural voice that engages critically the discipline of ethnomusicology, drama, performance, art, anthropology, ethnography, economics, literature, intellectual history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, religion, and theology. Vodou is also studied from multiple theoretical approaches including queer, feminist theory, critical race theory, Marxism, postcolonial criticism, postmodernism, and psychoanalysis.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Towards New Visions and New Approaches to the Vodou Religion
Celucien L. Joseph and Nixon Cleophat

Part I: Vodou, Modernity, Resistance, and Haitian Cultural Identity and Nationalism
Chapter One: James Theodore Holly, Fabre Geffrard, and the Construction of a “Civilized’ Haiti”
Brandon R. Byrd
Chapter Two: Oath To Our Ancestors: The Flag of Haiti is Rooted in Vodou
Patrick Delices

Part II. Vodou, Vodouphobia, and Haitian Male Intellectuals and Cultural Critics
Chapter Three: The Role of Vodou in the Religious Philosophy of Jean Price-Mars
Celucien L. Joseph
Chapter Four: Jacques Stephen Alexis, Haitian Vodou and Medicine: Between Cure and Care
Shallum Pierre

Part III. Vodou, Christian Theology, and Collective Redemption
Chapter Five: Haitian Vodou: The Ethics of Social Sin & the Praxis of Liberation
Nixon S. Cleophat
Chapter Six: Vodouphobia and Afrophobic Discourse in Haitian Thought: An Analysis of Dantès Bellegarde’s Religious Sensibility
Celucien L. Joseph
Chapter Seven: Haitian Vodou, a Politico-Realist Theology of Survival: Resistance in the Face of Colonial Violence and Social Suffering
Nixon S. Cleophat

Part IV. Vodou, Memory, Trauma, and Haitian Women Intellectuals and Cultural Critics
Chapter Eight: Vodou Symbolism and “Poto Mitan:” Women in Edwidge Danticat’s Work
Myriam Moïse
Chapter Nine: Writing from lòt bò dlo: Vodou Aesthetics and Poetics in Edwidge Danticat and Myriam Chancy
Anne Brüske and Wiebke Beushausen
Chapter Ten: The Economics of Vodou: Haitian Women, Entrepreneurship, and Empowerment
Crystal Andrea Felima

Vodou and Other Religions: Religion, Religious Affiliation, and Haitian National Identity

Vodou and Other Religions:
Religion, Religious Affiliation, and Haitian National Identity
by Celucien L. Joseph, PhD
 

In this brief post, I would like to communicate a few ideas about three important issues that are intertwined and closely related to each other: religion, religious affiliation, and the construction of self and collective national identity based on certain religious tradition or system. The emphasis of this brief reflection will be on Haitian Vodou and Haitian (national) identity. Here are my 13 propositions:

1. Religious experience could be both personal and collective.

2. Religious piety is not spirituality.

3. Religious affiliation is a choice–at least in most Western societies and nation-states. (I understand it may not be a personal choice in certain countries where religious freedom is limited or not prized!) It is also observed that some countries in the Middle East, for example, have adopted a state religion such as Islam.

4. While a person may be born into a particular religious tradition or system–such as Haitian Vodou, Christianity, Judaism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.–genuine religious affiliation, however, should be a personal choice of the individual.

As we say in Kreyol, “Yo pa achte Lwa” (“One cannot buy a Lwa/Spirit) (Nonetheless, I do understand that Vodou is also a family religion, and the religious heritage can be passed on from one generation to the next. However, that in itself does not qualify a family member to automatically become a Vodouizan, a Hougan or Mambo. Allow me to share a personal example: my grandmother from my mother’s side was a mambo (Vodou priestess), and my grandfather from my mother’s side served many lwa, even married to several of them (Spiritual marriage in Vodou). Nonetheless, my mother never practiced Vodou nor has she inherited the tradition or passed it on to her children. My father’s parents (my grandparents) were not Vodou practitioners). From this vantage point, religious affiliation is certainly not an entitlement.

5. Hence, to be born into a Haitian family does not automatically make one a Vodouizan or Vodouist.

6. Haiti is a country. Haitian is a national identity. Vodouizan is a religious affiliation. These three things are not the same and certainly not synonymous or interchangeable.

7. Haitians, both in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora, have embraced various and competing religious affiliations. Haitians are Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Catholic practitioners, Protestants, Agnostics, Atheists, Secular humanists, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, etc. As a result, Haitians are free to embrace any religious worldview or system.

8. Vodou is one among other religions practiced by Haitians both in Haiti and the Diaspora. Our ancestral faith is not monolithic; it is rather pluralistic. (In fact, Vodou itself is not a homogeneous religion.) Our African ancestors who were brought by force to the island of Saint Domingue brought with them various traditions, practices, customs, and competing religious practices and worldviews including Christianity, African Traditional religions, Islam, etc. While living on the island, they also adopted the religions of the Native Americans, and incorporated them into the religion of Vodou; they have also integrated Christian rituals and theology, and Masonic humanist morality and rituals into Vodou. While a large number of the enslaved population practiced what is now labelled as Haitian Vodou, not all of them were Vodou practitioners.

9. To embrace another religion other than Vodou should not be construed as the devalorization of the Haitian culture—since religions and cultures are human inventions and part of the process and theory we call social constructionism. In a true democratic state, the individual is granted the right of religious freedom and preference.

*The ideology in contemporary Haitian scholarship is that to be Haitian is to be a Vodouizan. Many Haitianist scholars have “essentialized Vodou” as the religion of all Haitians, just like certain individuals have “essentialized” race and culture. This tendency among scholars, both in the Anglophone and Francophone worlds, does not do justice to the reality and the lived-experiences of the Haitian people–both in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora. I would suggest that Vodou, Christianity, and Islam had played a pivotal role in the Haitian Revolution since Vodou itself is a syncretized faith which integrates Christian moral theology and ritual into its own brand of practice. Secondly, Francois Makandal, Dutty Boukman, and other important maroon leaders, and revolutionary leaders embraced Islam; they were also Vodouizan. Thirdly, the founding fathers Toussaint Louverture and Alexandre Petion were devout Roman Catholic by confession. In 1816, President Petion had invited Protestant Christianity in Haiti–what is now called today “Evangelical Christianity—only 12 yrs after the founding of the new nation of Haiti ( I do understand there is a great divide between Evangelical Christianity of the 19th century and that of the 21st century, as to their political affiliation and theological confessions). Fourthly, a large number of the enslaved Africans practiced Vodou as a religion; on the other hand, the enslaved Congolese who were brought to Saint-Domingue at the end of the 18th century were equally Catholic Christians as Catholicism became the state religion of Congo in early 15th century– even before Christopher Columbus visited the Americas. A large number of the enslaved Senegalese who were brought to the island were Muslims–an important point Jean Price-Mars affirms in Chapter 3 (L’Afrique, ses races et sa civilisation”) in “Ainsi parla l’Oncle.”

In summary, in Haiti’s contemporary society, there are three major religious practices: Vodou, Protestant/Evangelical Christianity, Vodou, Roman Catholicism. (Islam is growing rapidly in Protestant Christianity is practiced by 45% of the Haitian population. It is probably more in 2016–giving the wide spread of Evangelical Christianity in post-earthquake Haitian society.). While Vodou is among the most practiced religions by Haitians in Haiti, Haiti doe not have “one single religious tradition.” Our ancestral faith is also Vodou, Christianity, and Islam.

10. To be a Haitian Muslim or Christian does not make one an inferior Haitian Patriot.

11. In the same line of thought, the Vodouizan is not a superior Haitian than the Haitian atheist or agnostic.

12. Freedom of religion means the opportunity one has to choose or reject a certain faith among others. Religious freedom means a person who is affiliated with a certain religious tradition is free to share his or faith with another individual of a different religious persuasion or to someone who has no religious affiliation.

13. Since religion like culture is a social construction or human invention, no religion or culture has the monopoly.

Dr. Joseph Talks about his new book on Soyinka’s “Radical Humanism and Generous Tolerance” (2016)

Dr. Celucien L. Joseph, Assistant Professor of English at  Indian River State College‬, talks about his new book on the Nigerian public intellectual, social critic, and esteemed playright Wole Soyinka, Radical Humanism and Generous Tolerance: Soyinka on Religion and Human Solidarity (Hope Outreach Productions, 2016).

Ten Theological Truths about God in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Briefly, here are 10 theological truths that all three Abrahamaic religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) confess about God:

1. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe in the unity (oneness) of God and that there is only one God (both Jewish and Christian theologians call that the doctrine of monotheism or “tawhid” in Islamic theology).

2. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God is transcendent and uncreated (that is, God has always existed; he has no beginning and no end. Theologians use the theoretical concept “aseity” to describe this phenomenon about God)

3. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe God is Creator of everything and Sovereign Lord of the universe.

4. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God’s knowledge of the present, past, and future is comprehensive and exhaustive.

5. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God created the first human beings: Adam and Eve.

6. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God created human beings to serve, worship, and honor Him.

7. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God is love, just, and compassionate.

8. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God cannot be known by human beings; rather, God himself has revealed Himself to humanity—through chosen individuals known as prophets.

9. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God has also revealed Himself through a Book; Jews call this sacred text the Hebrew Bible/Scriptures (Old Testament); Christians call it the Bible—which includes both the Old Testament and New Testament—and Muslims call their book the Qur’an.

10. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God has reserved a judgement day in which he will judge all people, punish all evildoers, and rewards everyone according to his/her deeds.

* There are also great theological divides and differences between Jews, Christians, and Muslims about the same God they confess. For example, Christians believe God exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Christian theologians call this special aspect about God the trinity. Both Muslims and (orthodox) Jews reject the doctrine of the trinity. Orthodox Jews are still waiting for God to send the Jewish Messiah; Christians believe that Jesus is/was the Jewish Messiah promised by God in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament); and Muslims do not believe that Jesus is/was the Jewish Messiah. Further, Christians confess the full deity and humanity of Jesus; that is Jesus is God, and that God incarnated in the historical person named Jesus. Christians also believe that Jesus is the final revelation of God and that no one can come through God except through Jesus (that is Jesus is the only way to God). Both orthodox Jews and Muslims reject the finality and supremacy of Jesus. Muslims believe Mohammed, not Jesus, is the final revelation of God.

Happy New Year!