Tuesday, January 19, 2010

O ye of little faith

Last week The Baltimore Sun ran an article by Tracy Wilkinson of Tribune Newspapers about relief efforts in Haiti that contained this questionable sentence:

Haiti is, officially, predominantly Catholic, with some Protestant faiths.

For officially, the reporter probably intended nominally, in name only. Officially would suggest the existence of an established state church, like the Church of England. Haiti is about 80 percent professedly Roman Catholic, though estimates are that half the population practices forms of voodoo. (This might help to explain, though not excuse, some of the Rev. Pat Robertson’s peculiar pronouncements.)

More seriously, the reference to Protestant faiths betrays an ignorance of religion. Christianity is a faith, as is Islam, as is Hinduism. The Protestant churches are branches of Christianity not separate faiths. They are denominations, or, somewhat less favorably, sects.

Here endeth the lesson.