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Paved with good intentions

1 February 2010

While I’m more than slightly dubious about the motives of Idaho-based “Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission” led by personalshopper.com CEO Laura Silsby, I don’t think the group, from the Central Valley Baptist Church of Meridian, Idaho, had any peculiarly perverse plans in mind.

This Church, is traditionalist and ultra-conservative — as far as I can tell, it is part of the Southern Baptist Convention and lists the usual “Faith and Purpose” beliefs you’d expect to find — wives must submit to the husbands, life begins at conception, homosexuality is a sin and “academic freedom” doesn’t preclude Biblical inerrancy.

At first, I thought this might be a Christian Dominionist Church — a Protestant version of Taliban.  If anything, the Church’s  Faith and Purpose statement strongly supports separation of Church and State:

The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work…

Nor do I see simple racial supremacist thinking at work here, something we also often associate with Idaho.  In the same place where homosexuality is condemned as a sin, so is racism.  War is considered “unChristian” (“It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war.”

In short, the missionaries sound like fairly ordinary people from “the heartland” — which is, in some ways, more troubling than if they were baby-stealers secretly worshipping Baal.

Not to defame Baal — or Tlaloc for that matter — but human sacrifice is no longer an option for parents with too many children to feed, nor — as the Romans and Greeks did — is leaving newborns in the city dump when times are hard exactly in keeping with human values.  Poor Haitians, and the poor everywhere, have popped their kids into orphanages, or sold them, or given them away when it is the only best of several bad options for family survival.

But, that said, what’s bothersome is that the conditions that make a sort of kinder, gentler human sacrifice seem necessary to families in places like Haiti are not questioned.  There is plenty to be said (and has been said) about that elsewhere.   From what I can tell, the Church was already planning to build an orphanage in the Dominican Republic, part of hits Evangelical mission.  That alone is enough to strike some as interference and arrogant.  Max Beauvoir, head of Haiti’s Voodoo Priest’s Association is quoted in the Idaho Statesman as saying:

There are many who come [to Haiti] with religious ideas that belong more in the time of the inquisition. These types of people believe they need to save our souls and our bodies from ourselves. We need compassion, not proselytizing now, and we need aid – not just aid going to people of the Christian faith.

The overwhelming majority of Haitians are Roman Catholics (who also resent this “soul snatching”), which has its theological differences with the Southern Baptists to be sure, but perhaps none of the Church’s spokespeople were available. Or — subconsciously or by design — quoting the Voodoo priest is less troubling than suggesting the Baptists were poaching their fellow Christians.

And, it’s the need for aid and compassion, not “saving our souls from ourselves” that is missing.  What the Idaho Baptists did was no different from what the U.S. government has done.  It attempted to take advantage of a natural disaster in order to shock others into acquiescence with control by powerful outsiders with their own preconceived notions of how the world works.  And to harness the poor for their own ends.

Basically, what the Idahovians did was decide they’re rich, they have the power, and they can… therefore, they should be masters of others.  They are, in the end, no different from an oil company or cruise line or the arrogant tourist who presumes their “right” to do what they want rests on their economic power and that others exist to preserve their dominance.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 2 February 2010 8:09 am

    Phew…for a minute there, I thought this was gonna be another of those “lay off the well-intentioned but misguided Baptists” pieces. The news has been sickeningly full of benefit-of-the-doubt about them lately. I have trouble believing this was all just some “mistake”, as they’re now insisting it was.

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