May 21, 2008

Florida Fundamentalists Export Dark Ages Ignorance to Africa

Central African RepublicThe Central African Republic is one of the poorest nations on earth. Most of its population engages in subsistence agriculture and average life expectancy is under 45 years for both genders. It has major problems with human trafficking, including trafficking children as sex slaves internationally. It has almost no educational system to speak of and diseases that have long since been conquered elsewhere in the world still claim many lives there. The place is a mess no matter how you look at it.

Fear not, for into this breach has stepped a bunch of fundamentalist missionaries from Orlando, FL. Not only have they given the suffering people of the CAR what they really need — religious diatribe and a two-hour film about Jesus — but they've managed to combat what they believe to be the Central African Republic's worst problem of all.

Some people haven't quite escaped the Dark Ages...Not, not childhood disease or AIDS or excruciating poverty. According to The Jesus Film Project, their movie has at long last defeated the forces of witchcraft.

No, you haven't switched over unknowingly to The Onion. This band of loonies from Orlando, armed with bibles and film prints, believe in witchcraft and they believe that people who watch their flick are immune to spells cast by wizards. For real. Their triumph over wizardry is reported proudly in today's Mission News Network:

JESUS film frees villages from witchcraft

Central African Republic (MNN) – A JESUS film team responded to an epidemic of witchcraft in the Central African Republic by “soaking” villages in the region of Bossangoa with the Gospel. They walked from village to village and showed the JESUS film every night. Eighteen new churches have been planted as a result.

Area witches reportedly have the power to kill and cause tremendous physical suffering, besides terrorizing the community. The government routinely imprisons accused witches, but prison walls cannot contain their power.

Witchcraft is common in the Central African Republic. According to the CIA, 25% of the population is Protestant and 25% is Roman Catholic, but the Christian population is heavily influenced by animistic religion.

When witches in the villages saw the JESUS film and heard the Gospel in their own language, many were convicted by the Holy Spirit. They joyfully repented of their sins, experienced freedom from bondage, and turned their lives over to the Lord Jesus Christ. Now the people of the area call the JESUS film “The Miracle Film.”

The region’s governor called the JESUS film team to thank them personally, saying, “I congratulate you because of the miracles that your film is doing among those witches. Now your team and you have the responsibility to preach through your miracle 'JESUS film' to all the towns and villages under my supervision.”

Praise the Lord for the power of the Gospel. Pray for the growth of these new believers. Pray also for their freedom from animism in a country the BBC calls “one of the least-developed countries in the world.”
These missionaries aren't teaching the people of the CAR about modern understanding of the world which includes the knowledge that there's no such thing as magic and that witches can't zap you by shaking some bones over a fire. Instead, they're perpetuating fear and ignorance in the hopes that it will serve their ends. This isn't liberation, it's exploitation and manipulation. Of course, it isn't if this gleeful band of Florida fundies also believe in witchcraft. Well, do they?

The JESUS Film Project also reports the story on its own website, and here's an excerpt"
In the Central African Republic, witchcraft abounds. The people have lived in the bondage of darkness for untold centuries. “JESUS” film teams working in the villages surrounding the area of Bossangoa said there was an epidemic of witches. They cast spells that had the power to kill their victims, causing a great deal of sickness, suffering and tremendous fear.

Even the government of the Central African Republic has recognized witchcraft as a great threat, and routinely imprisons accused witches. However, jail cells have proven useless in restraining their powers.

POJ 31 - Power Over Witchcraft,
The JESUS Film Project

It certainly sounds like they do believe in ooga-booga at JESUS Film Project HQ. It's certainly in keeping with the headline from their homepage:
With the World's Population Exploding and the Powers of Spiritual Darkness Spreading, can the Great Commission Ever Really be Fulfilled?
What are these people in the CAR being told, then? They're first being told that witchcraft is real; they have a reason to be afraid of purported witches, and thus are justified in imprisoning them or dragging them into the streets and beating them to death. This is all too common in many undeveloped parts of Africa; the JESUS Film Project exploits the belief for their own imagined harvest of souls and, no doubt, to keep the money flowing in (priced a flight to the Central African Republic lately?) In doing so, they insure that these killings will continue.

Jesus will protect you from OOGA-BOOGA with even better OOGA-BOOGA!Second, these missionary victims are being taught that they must turn to Jesus — who is, of course, a white and European fellow — for protection from these deadly, deadly witches. It's a classic divine protection racket that also carries significant overtones of racism and cultural imperialism, and in fact the JESUS Film Project's homepage links to other "triumphs" in overcoming other cultures; here's an example wherein the fundies gloat about finally accomplishing what even Spanish Conquistadors could not upon the Mapuche of Argentina.

Is this what America is exporting these days? Do "mainstream" Christians approve of the perpetuation of ignorance that the JESUS Film Project and their allies exemplify? Interestingly, the group's website states that their mission began in 1979. That's nearly 30 years; what has been the reaction to this group? Clearly, they're well-funded. Have enlightened Christians condemned them publicly? Have they contacted the group to voice their opposition? Here's the contact information provided by the JESUS Film Project:

The JESUS Film Project
100 Lake Hart Drive
Orlando, FL 32832
(407) 826-2300, FAX (407) 826-2375

On the other hand, the organization's site bears praises from other evangelists. Rick Warren, author of the extremely popular The Purpose Driven Life, effuses over these people. Is what these Floridian lunatics are doing a good thing?

This is 21st century America, right? It seems impossible that we still have people among us who believe in this garbage, but they're still here. Florida has enough of them that they're even an export. Perhaps this is the kind of "alternative theory" that Ronda Storms, Alan Hays and the Citrus Taliban of the First Baptist Church would like to see inserted into public schools. After all, you can't prove that there aren't witches in the Central African Republic that make people die by casting the evil eye upon them. Teach the controversy!

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