Thursday, May 24, 2007

What Vodou & Pentecostalism Have in Common

One day while channel surfing, I ran across a televised pod cast on Current TV about Vodou.

Nope, not the traditional voodoo stuff I was used to seeing from Hollywood like sticking pins into dolls, putting roots into peoples shoes, or invoking spells and hexes to alter luck. Instead, the author gave a close up look at the religion that was prevalent in Haiti.

At first impact, the worship services looked way different from what I was used to seeing. However, I sensed something familiar about the way they bucked and danced around with their eyes rolling back. I felt a lump in my throat as I watched faces glaze over in a trance-like state and people falling out under the influence of other spirits – welcoming the possession of some other presence or spirit to take control of them until some miracle, divine message, or euphoric experience finally happens.

On the surface, Vudou looked really strange. But deep down inside, Vodou looked quite Pentecostal.

Seeing that similarity bothered me. Such behavior was too close to what I witnessed under Pentecostalism. Sure, I saw overt differences in the Vodou worship services, but the similarities were more frighting than the oddities.

So then, what made my experiences as a Pentecostal any different? The God I chose to invoke – is that why my experience was supposed to be genuine and all others fraudulent? The particular spirit I evoke makes all the difference?

But what if that doesn't matter? What if all those feelings and all that euphoria was self imposed? Ancient cults had tongue speaking as well . . . so not even that was a unique feature of Pentecostalism.

Are we simply psyching ourselves out with self-hypnosis?

This became my next concern when my faith first started to crumble. What was making me have all that euphoria during worship and praise? Where did the ecstatic speech really come from?

I saw an episode of Is it Real? on the National Geographic channel. In a particular scene, a Martial Arts teacher caused his students to “fall out” through the power of his qi. The response of the students looked very similar to being “slain in the Spirit” in the world of Pentecostalism. The idea is that God's presence is so heavy upon you that you just faint physically. But, mentally and emotionally, you are basking in God's presence.

That was an eye opener to see! I thought that only we Pentecostals did that!

The bad part is: for many Pentecostals, these kind of experiences serve as the all important evidence that God has accepted you as a believer and is involved in your life. To see someone call on the name of some other god or to use some other energy force to produce similar supernatural events was unnerving for me. Why? Becasue it undermined my deity. My deity was supposed to be unique.

Yeah, yeah, I remember the big showdown between Moses and Pharaoh. And, I remember Elijah and the priests of Baal. Their wicked counterparts could produce similar miracles and signs. But, the wicked only produced counterfeit signs that only the Almighty can trump.

But, I have little faith in the accounts that the Bible gives about those two "showdowns”. Especially after reading The Bible Unearthed.

All the arguments brought up by skeptics finally started to congeal into one major front against my faith. For if the Bible wasn't a true representation of history, then without question the pre-Jesus god-men are now a serious problem for my faith. Mystery Religions could very well be the true breeding grounds of Christianity. One part Mystery Religion, two parts Essene. And now with viewing the Bible as largely legend, I can't believe that the universe was created in the fashion that the Bible expressed. So, now evolution and the Big Bang theories start to sound quite reasonable.

And what about all those supernatural experiences? Now they can easily be explained away by self-hypnoses and trance like states of the mind caused by deep concentration and meditation.

But . . . what if The Bible Unearthed was wrong? What if the Bible really was infallible and inerrant? Maybe then I could recover my faith.

So, I started to take a closer look at whether the Bible was truly inerrant or infallible. If the scriptures could prove to be such, then I could trust them again. Maybe then, I could stop feeling like Vodou and Pentecostalism had more in common than I wished to admit.
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