I tell myself I am not superstitious, but sometimes in the half-dark I seem to glimpse a figure at the edge of my vision and a chill runs down my spine. My intellect is aware of the tricks that reflected light can play and I know there’s no such thing as a ghost.
But a duppy is different.
Where I grew up in the Jamaican mountains, duppies were as much a part of the local community as the Obeah man deep in the woods and the healing lady down the road. We would gather in the kitchen on a moonless night – Cookie, her teen-age daughter Louise, Austin the “yard boy,” and us children – and tell stories of ghostly encounters.
I still vividly remember one of Austin’s adventures.
“I smell stew potato, an’ a know duppy did deh,” he began.
To non-Jamaicans who might be reading this blog, that meant he could smell the aroma of sweet potatoes cooking, and that was a sure sign duppies were about.
Anyway, the duppies chased Austin and he said, as we Jamaicans say at times like this, “foot, come!”
And as he ran and ran and ran, he could “hear rock stone a drop” behind him.
Did I believe the story then? Of course. Do I believe it now. Of course not.
And yet I believe – to quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet – there are more things in Heaven and earth than men dream of in their philosophy. I believe in prayer, for example. I can’t explain my belief, but I know prayer works. Of course, I don’t get everything I pray for, but I believe God hears me and answers my prayers according to His will.
I know, I know… I know that it’s sacrilegious to write about Austin’s duppy stories and the power of prayer in the same blog. And I hope to be forgiven. I am trying to make a point about the trivialization of religion that I see in so many churches today.
To me, it’s insulting to God to play rock-and-roll music and resort to childish theatrics in order to attract “youth.” And I see this trend in church services everywhere these days.
That’s why I was especially interested in a news story this morning reporting that a 62-foot-tall statue of Jesus was struck by lightning last night and burned to the ground.
It was built on the grounds of the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio,outside of Cincinnati, six years ago. It cost about $250,000.
The statue may have been erected with the best of intentions. Lawrence Bishop, the Solid Rock Church’s founder, said it was intended as a “beacon of hope and salvation.”
But it made Jesus look like a football player. It was even nicknamed “Touchdown Jesus.”
As I said, I am not superstitious, but I like to think Jesus was offended by the statue, and responded with Godlike indignation. Perhaps the bolt of lightning was His way of saying, “Enough of the cheap theatrics and diverting mumbo-jumbo. Let’s concentrate on the message.”
God knows we need to hear the message more than ever today.