This is the last in a three-part series by Darrow Miller that focuses on how churches can respond positively in the aftermath of Haiti’s devastating earthquake. The entire article can be viewed on the Disciple Nations Alliance website.
Jesus, the Messiah, states: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) Satan wants nothing more than to destroy cultures and nations and Haiti is a perfect example. She is not cursed, as some would argue. Her people are free and responsible agents, making decisions that shape history. Christ brings life to the full. The Biblical order creates a framework for increased life, health, bounty and ability to plan for and withstand the bitter destruction of natural disasters. Let there be no mistake. This is a clash between forces of good that would see Haiti prosper and forces of evil that would see Haiti destroyed.
The church has been instituted by God to be the primary agency for the transformation of society. She is to be the instrument of kingdom culture bringing truth, beauty and goodness to societies. We have seen the church function in this capacity at times in history. Social historian Rodney Starks argues that the early church led the most profound sociological revelation of all time. In his book The Rise of Christianity he stated that the: “Central doctrines of Christianity prompted and sustained attractive, liberation, and effective social relations and organizations.” Starks continues:
I believe that it was the religion’s particular doctrines that permitted Christianity to be among the most seeping and successful revitalization movements in history. And it was the way these doctrines took on actual flesh [emphasis mine], the way they directed organizational actions and individual behavior, that led to the rise of Christianity.[i]
We have seen this kind of transformation throughout history on both a macro and micro level. On a regional and national level there are a number of models that come out of the ministry of the Disciple Nations Alliance. It was the Reformation (1517-1648) in Europe that brought about the rise of concept of universal education, the dignity of work, and the beginnings of what the world now calls “the middle class” which resulted in immense economic, social and political transformation of society.
The Methodist Revivals in England (1738-1784), under John Wesley transformed British society in a single generation and laid the moral and metaphysical foundation for the end of slavery in the British Empire and the restoration of civility in national life. The English Lecturer Donald Drew’s summary of the book England Before and After Wesley shows the transformative effect that the Wesley Revivals had on England and America:
The Great Awakening in colonial America (1730-1770) provided the moral and metaphysical foundation for the Declaration of Independence and reinforced the fundamental principle that “all men are created equal.” It established the frame work for a nation born in political and economic freedom.[ii]
This cultural transformation is needed not only in Haiti, but also in the minds of Western donors. Instead of viewing Haitians as poor and incapable of their own development, Western donors must see them as image bearers of God who have every God given ability and potential to develop their own society. Instead of thinking that Western aid is going to solve the problem, they need to see, support and encourage grassroots community transformation. Instead of seeing and treating Haitians as objects, they need to be seen for what they are: free and responsible moral agents. Instead of supporting the old corrupt leadership of the nation, donors need to recognize a new generation of grassroots leaders, come along side them, walk with them and encourage them. We must be careful not do things for them. We must honor their humanity, creativity, and vision for their nation.
Examples of how this kind of transformation is taking place globally on a micro level, may be found on the Disciple Nations Alliance website and the Harvest Foundation Website. Papers and articles that relate to the transformation of communities and national development may be found on both websites.
All this to affirm that in the short term, Haiti is currently in need of material aid to respond to the devastation of the earthquake. In the long run she needs to make the Creator God the focus of her worship, embrace a Judeo-Christian worldview leading to a transformation of culture. When this happens, Haiti will begin to reach her incredible God given potential. The church in Haiti will play a central role in this, with appropriate support from churches around the world.
– Darrow L. Miller
[i] Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996),211
[ii] Donald Drew, Engalnd Before and After Wesley, http://www.disciplenations.org/uploads/b9/3c/b93cXPZnLVxO9loQ7dbj3g/England-Before-and-After-Wesley.pdf.