In a New York Times article about Pope Francis “touring” around Africa, the Catholic Church is certainly focused on spreading its word and gaining more followers. Perhaps it’s the way the Catholic Church is developed, or maybe it’s “tradition” to try to convert and spread your gospel among non-believers, but it’s very apparent that the old school style of traveling from place to place preaching gospel is still very much in action.
This article is titled: In Africa, Pope Francis Comes Face to Face With the Future of the Church. The article is credible in that it is a non-opinion piece from New York Times, a valid and notable news source, written by the notable political journalist, Jason Horowitz. The article is about Pope Francis, who is currently visiting Africa, meeting with African youth across the continent, and preaching the tenants of Catholicism. The people he visits are very supportive of him, with even one Catholic youth stating that “The pope being here will help the church to grow.” The interviewees in the article are adamant that Pope Francis is doing the right thing; by visiting Africa, he is helping grow Catholicism, since “Africa is the most rapidly growing part of the Church,” as Sean Callahan, the president of the Catholic Relief Services, states. While some believe that Africa is more receptive to Catholicism as a whole because of “government corruption,” critics of Pope Francis believe that the clergy has been “bewitched by politics” and that we should let the many African peoples “flourish in their culture” rather than be converted into a European religion.
This article directly connects to our conversations about the conversion and missionary work of religious Europeans of all kinds, wanting to spread their religion and make theirs the conquering faith during the fight for the New World. Even back on the mainland, religious leaders were passionately fighting to make their sect of religion the most followed. A good example are the Spanish missionaries, who, after enslaving and converting the Hopi people, incited the Pueblo Revolt. According to the Hopi account of the event by Edmund Nequatewa, the Spanish missionaries told the Hopi that they had “much more power than all their chiefs and a whole lot more power than the witches” (Nequatewa 260). This made the Hopi so scared that “they could do nothing but allow themselves to be made slaves” (Nequatewa 260). The Spanish specifically told the Hopi that their religion and culture was inferior, and that they had to choice but to submit. Additionally, once the mission was built on Hopi land in New Mexico, the people “had to come there to worship, and those that did not come were punished severely” (Nequatewa 261). In this way, the Spanish destroyed the Hopi culture: “their own religion was altogether wiped out, because they were not allowed to worship in their own way” (Nequatewa 260). The Spanish missionaries arrived with their plan of cultural and religious domination, set it forth, and as a result, provoked a deadly revolt, as the Hopi tried to take back their land, people, and dignity.
What we’re seeing in Africa today by Pope Francis is nothing more than an aftershock of the colonization put forth by European colonizers. While their methods and results are more peaceful, it still solicits the purposeful destruction of the innate culture of the African cultures visited by Pope Francis. The only motive here is greed. A want for more followers, perhaps even more tithes, but essentially more popularity in Africa, a continent already ravaged by colonizers and missionaries since the 17thcentury. The Catholic Church is still, to this day, sending missionaries out to foreign countries, hoping to spread Catholicism, as if World’s Most Famous Religion is a popularity contest to be won. This has happened countless times in the past, and still, religious leaders are hoping to promote their religion only for the good of their religion. As the line between native, indigenous cultures and conversion cultures becomes more blurred, I think it’s important that we remember the past of missionary work and conversion by European religious leaders.
Horowitz, Jason. “In Africa, Pope Francis Comes Face to Face With the Future of the Church.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 5 Sept. 2019,
Nequatewa, Edmund. “The Coming of the Spanish and the Pueblo Revolt (Hopi).” The Heath Anthology of American Literature, edited by Paul Lauter, Richard Yarborough, John Alberti, Mary Pat Brady, Kirk Curnutt, Daniel Heath Justice, James Kyung-Jin Lee, Wendy Martin, D. Quentin Miller, Bethany Schneider, Ivy Schweitzer, and Sandra A. Zagarell, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2014, 2010, 2006, pp. 259-263.
Current Event Connection Two
In a New York Times news article written by Mariel Padilla, I recently learned about a man in Arizona who was charged with murder after he drowned his son in an attempt to exorcise him. This heartbreaking news story provides an upsetting, yet interesting parallel to the Salem Witch Trials, which, under the guise of religion, many people were murdered. This is an important view into the minds of those who have radical religious views, even in modern day America.
The New York Times has, and continues to be, a very reliable news source, not only for its worldwide coverage of multiple different news topics, but for its respect in the journalism community and its proper sourcing and word selection. This article, by Mariel Padilla at the Express desk in New York, is not an Op-Ed piece, and gives unbiased news without embellishment or opinion.
According to the father of the child, Pablo Martinez, when he was giving his two children a bath, his son started to have “an unnatural fit of rage.” Martinez then said he saw “something evil” and proceeded to try to exorcise his son by “holding his son’s head under the bathtub faucet” for five to ten minutes. With burning hot water pouring into his mouth, the boy fell limp and did not appear to be breathing when the authorities arrived, and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Martinez later stated to police that he believed a “demon” was inside of his son.
The sudden change of someone’s personality or other noticeable “strange” behavior was definitely something that was taken note of by Puritans who would “prosecute” and kill witches or other people suspected to be demonic or savage. This sudden anger that provoked Martinez to murder his son would have been a marker of someone who is “savage” or “barbaric,” two words that would have summarized their view of a heathen. “Normal” people, according to the Puritans, are “peaceable souls” (Bradford 400), who are “godly and judicious” (Bradford 399). Heathens, meanwhile, are “savage barbarians” (Bradford 401) who are “infected and infested with demons” (Mather 556). The Puritans believed that people can be inhabited demons by the work of Satan, and they need to be destroyed in order to “revert to their ancient purity and recover their primitive order, liberty, and beauty” (Bradford 399).
This Puritan attitude of someone being “inhabited by a demon” is something that, as we can see from Martinez’s actions, still exists in a religious subtext to this day. In the Trial of Martha Carrier, several townspeople testify to noticing strange activity by Martha that they presume is “demonic.” For example, Benjamin Abbot testifies that Carrier “was very angry with him” about a land disagreement and proceeded to curse him (Mather 558). Allin Toothaker testified that Martha’s son got into a fight with him. John Rogger testified that Carrier was “malicious” and said “threatening words” to him (Mather 559). Each of these testimonies and more note strange behavior on Martha and her family’s part, particularly dealing with a lack of peace and a presence of anger or threatening behavior.
Cotton Mather and the townspeople of Salem truly believed that demons had inhabited Martha Carrier and other so-called witches, and they burned them at the stake for it. Pablo Martinez believed that a demon inhabited his son, and he harmed and drowned his child because of it. These actions are the same. It is an execution without a proper trial, simply based on the opinion of someone who experienced a coincidence or change in behavior and who immediately jumped to the verdict of Satan.
Martinez’s son was almost undoubtedly upset in his bath, going through a fit of childlike anger, as most children are prone to get. The act of keeping his son’s head under burning hot water as an act of cleansing was a complete and total fallacy, initiated by the terrible practices of the Puritan people in order to justify the severe punishment of people who act outside of their norms. This unfortunate death was caused not by a demon, but by a truly demonic group of so-called “godly” people: the Puritans, who were willing to kill to spread their faith.
Padilla, Mariel. “Arizona Man Accused of Killing 6-Year-Old Son During Attempted Exorcism.” The New York Times, 1 Oct. 2019,
Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation. Book 1. Chapter 1. The Separatist Interpretation of Reformation in England. The Heath Anthology of American Literature, edited by Paul Lauter, Richard Yarborough, John Alberti, Mary Pat Brady, Kirk Curnutt, Daniel Heath Justice, James Kyung-Jin Lee, Wendy Martin, D. Quentin Miller, Bethany Schneider, Ivy Schweitzer, and Sandra A. Zagarell, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2014, 2010, 2006, pp. 399-406.
Mather, Cotton. The Wonders of the Invisible World: The Devil Attacks the People of God. The Heath Anthology of American Literature, edited by Paul Lauter, Richard Yarborough, John Alberti, Mary Pat Brady, Kirk Curnutt, Daniel Heath Justice, James Kyung-Jin Lee, Wendy Martin, D. Quentin Miller, Bethany Schneider, Ivy Schweitzer, and Sandra A. Zagarell, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2014, 2010, 2006, pp. 555-560
Current Event Connection Three
Three days ago, the Washington Post published an article detailing the sexist, homophobic, and racist views and actions of a professor at Indiana University, Eric Rasmusen. The Washington Post is a very reliable news source, covering multiple topics from across the world. It is highly respected in the journalism community because of its unbiased news, proper sourcing, and correct grammar and style. This article was written by Michael Brice-Saddler and Diana Paul.
The article describes how Rasmusen has been accused of several sexist, homophobic, and racist comments on social media and at the University. After he apparently shared a sexist article on twitter called “Are Women Destroying academia? Probably,” and tweeted that he agreed with the article, even going so far as to argue with an alumna of Indiana University about how “intellectual” the article was, he received serious backlash. Additionally, the Provost of the University commented in a statement that Rasmusen had constantly used slurs to describe women, said homophobic remarks about gay men–apparently he stated that “they are promiscuous and unable to avoid abusing students” (Brice-Saddler, Paul), and that Rasmusen has before stated that he thought “black students are unqualified for attendance at elite institutions” (Brice-Saddler, Paul). Even with all of this evidence of bigotry, Indiana University has stated that they would not fire Rasmusen because “the First Amendment of the United States Constitution forbids [them] to do so” (Brice-Saddler, Paul).
This is not the first time an organization has backed up a white male in a position of authority, and even with the backlash, we can see that the most minimal actions are taken to silence this man: the University made a policy that stated that a student could opt out of a class taken by Rasmusen. This means the University acknowledged that Rasmusen’s actions could make students uncomfortable, but purposefully and under the guise of the Constitution are refusing to punish him. From this very recent and very real example, we can see that organizations in the United States can constantly cite the Constitution as protection for white, bigoted men.
As we have read in class, a major inspiration when writing major United States founding documents such as the Constitution, and especially the Declaration of Independence, was the work of John Locke. John Locke wrote that in Nature, all men are naturally in “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions” (Locke 1511), and that man is in a “state also of equality,” in which “no one [has] more than another,” and that we are all “equal amongst another, without subordination or subjection” (Locke 1151). Locke also states that man was born having “a title to perfect freedom and an uncontrolled enjoyment” (Locke 1152). In the Constitution, we took from these values (“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” comes to mind), but does this mean that man really has the power to do as he wants freely, as long as it provides “perfect freedom and an uncontrolled enjoyment?
As we can see with the outcome of Rasmusen’s eye-opening bigotry, large organizations such as protective universities would have you think so, however, I argue otherwise. Citing the Constitution and any Founding document that created the United States as a defense for “free speech,” especially when that free speech is hateful, only degrades the ideas of freedom that our country has attempted to build. The United States has a terrible history of inflicting injustices on others. We have committed mass removals and genocides of Native peoples. We have enslaved other humans, set laws against the rights of humans, and made so many unjust laws and norms that contribute, to this day, to the demeaning of underprivileged people, people of color, and everyone who doesn’t identify as a cisgender, heterosexual, white, wealthy man. To cite the documents that started the United States to defend further bigotry is to pull back into our terrible history, and rewrite it. Rasmusen, by spreading bigotry and evading punishment for offending so many, and by keeping his status as tenured professor, is calling back to a truly primitive time when we did not see all of humanity as equal.
Brice-Saddler, Michael, and Deanna Paul. “University Says a Professor’s Views Are Racist, Sexist and Homophobic – but It Can’t Fire Him.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 Nov. 2019, http://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/11/20/university-says-professors-views-are-racist-sexist-homophobic-they-cant-fire-him/.
Locke, John. Concerning Civil Government, Second Essay. The Heath Anthology of American Literature, edited by Paul Lauter, Richard Yarborough, John Alberti, Mary Pat Brady, Kirk Curnutt, Daniel Heath Justice, James Kyung-Jin Lee, Wendy Martin, D. Quentin Miller, Bethany Schneider, Ivy Schweitzer, and Sandra A. Zagarell, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2014, 2010, 2006, pp. 1151 -1152.