Voodoo is a syncretistic religious system prominent in Haiti and New Orleans/South Louisiana that is based on the veneration of African tribal gods/goddesses, spirit manipulation and control, and as a means to influence life events and outcomes. It is similar to other forms of witchcraft in that it uses spiritual folkways and pathways to try and control nature, other people, and outcomes to the benefit of the one practicing the religion. It merged with Catholicism in Louisiana through a syncretistic blend where many of the spirits were attached to Catholic saints. I think that there is a lot that we can learn from how people engage in other religious practices, especially when we see some of their influence popping up in our own expressions of Christianity. I am going to start an ongoing series here where I explore what Christian Voodoo looks like and how to guard your heart against it.
Christian Voodoo occurs when someone is engaging in the Christian faith as a way to get what they want out of life or as a way to control their environment or God, Himself. We might use prayer, our works, giving money, or other forms to create a desired outcome that is beneficial to us. We do not really follow God because of who He is, but rather, we obey Him and seek to serve Him because we think that He is the means to some other end that we seek. We might want success in our business, so we think that we should obey God and pray or give. We might want a good marriage, so we think that we need to do certain things to get God to bless us. We seek after the “blessing” and are convinced that if we do not follow the formulas for successful Christian living correctly, then we miss out on what we seek. Some think that they do things correctly, and then when they do not get the blessing that they were promised, they try new methods, look for another pastor/teacher/priest, or they get disillusioned and want to give up. All of this is voodoo or witchcraft. We cannot control God or use Him as a means to some other end. He is the end that we should seek.
The Biblical approach is to understand that God is at the center. He is not a means to some other end – we are to seek first God and His Kingdom and all of the other things will be added to us (Matt. 6:33). We are not to seek the other things first and try to use God to get them. That is idolatry and it will all come crashing down eventually. God wants our hearts and our lives and we are not guaranteed success in life. But, there is great blessing in knowing The Lord – it just often looks different that what we have thought. God is our reward and He is enough. Eternal life is not a mansion on a hilltop with streets of gold. Eternal life is knowing the Father and the Son.
When we use our religion to try and control God or control others, we are engaging in Christian Voodoo. It is deadly and zaps us of our spiritual life and strength. I am going to be looking at how we do this in a variety of ways and especially as I travel to India, Haiti, and Uganda over the next few months. Exploring this concept can help us better understand how to worship and know Christ and treasure Him for who He is instead of just for what we can try to get Him to do for us. Then, we will be conformed to His image (Romans 8:28-29) instead of conforming Him to our own.