Ogou's Iron or Jesus' Irony: Who's Zooming Who in Diasporic Possession
by Jim Perkinson / Ecumenical Theological Seminary and Marygrove College
Sometime in the past twenty years, a videotape of a black North American
Pentecostal preacher was shown to a number of Candombles in Bahia, Brazil.
(I am unable to recall the exact place I heard or read of this occurrence,
and it will thus have to remain part of 'that anonymous production
of history that is the real thickness of popular culture creativity in the
ongoing project of' human habituation.) The Bahians watched the video
with mute interest until the preacher moved from "warm-up" to "takeoff"
in his delivery shifting from simple communication to searing incantation,
from quietude to incandescence. Suddenly, they lurched into agitated
outburst, "Xango! Xango! Xango!" They did not speak English, nor
did they know anything of' Pentecostal worship. 'They simply knew the
arrival gestures of this orixa in the flesh of human "being," and the body
language was all the eloquence they needed.
The forum may have been Christian, but the rhythm was Afro-Bahian.
A preaching of Jesus yielded a message of Xango, speaking war and thunder,
blood and bloodlines. Without asking doctrinal permission or ecclesial
affirmation. One wonders what said preacher would say if he was
shown a video of those watching the video of his preaching. He had given
more than presumably he intended, more than perhaps he would have
wished, indeed, something entirely different than his doctrine would
have permitted. What here was hallowed and what bedeviled, and where
the line between? Who was zooming who? The structure of Christian relations
with creolized traditions historically has clearly been that of the
"missionary position," but who was on top in this situation?
2001 Journal of Religion.