BELIZE CITY, Tues. Mar. 22, 2016–The video entitled “Scott Stirm insults the Garifuna and admits his real agenda!” has raked up almost 2,500 views on YouTube since it was posted on Friday, March 18. The video, posted by an account named Belize Freedom, is 6 minutes and 14 seconds in length.
Belize Freedom’s edited version of the original “Holy Covenant” video shared on the XP Ministries website 8 months ago has gone viral because of the disturbing claims made by Stirm against the Black nation of Haiti and a reference to a Garinagu spiritual leader as a “witch-lady,” at a gathering in Arizona by XP Ministries, whose president is Patricia King.
In the description section of the YouTube video the video editor Belize Freedom makes the statement: “You can watch the full video from XP Ministries to see that NOTHING was edited or taken out of context. Stirm starts at about 40 minutes,” and the original video link is shared.
Truthfully, the video has been edited; background music is added at times, large sections are cut out (Pastor Stirm speaks for a full 30 minutes in the original) and the editor adds written commentary between clips.
However, the statements made by Stirm that have alarmed many are virtually untouched from the original. These are the generalizations made about Belizeans, the perpetuation of white supremacist claims about Haiti’s revolution for independence (1791-1804) and the racist mis-characterizations of Garifuna spiritual practices.
At the gathering, King describes going to Belize in 1983 where Stirm was “on the mission field”. King, who has been a controversial figure in televangelism, has returned to Belize on different occasions since.
In 2007, a number of theological leaders made a statement distancing themselves from her: “In light of our findings, we regretfully find it necessary to state that at present we will not be able to endorse Patricia King’s ministry until such a time that she chooses to make appropriate corrections.” It is unclear if the signatories of the statement are still openly critical of King’s practices. In the original XP Ministries video, King describes meeting Stirm in 1983 whom she describes as “a friend of our Ministry for many years.” King also goes on to say that Stirm and his wife have taken Belize “from a really dark, oppressed nation into a nation that is flourishing in God.” Later, Stirm clarifies that the so-called darkness and oppression is not the years of land theft, slavery and British imperialism that had gripped Belize before Independence was gained just two years prior, but family arrangements that he considers immoral.
In the video Stirm jokingly shares a story about when he returned to the United States and was approached by the father of a high school student who did not believe that he was truly in a ministry. Stirm says that the father said, “Now tell me what’s really going on. I need to know, is it CIA, FBI, what’s going on?”
In the video Stirm says that he then responded, “I told him, ‘This is classified’. ‘Please don’t tell this to anybody,’ I said, ‘but I am part of the plotting of the overthrow of power in the Central American nation.” When Stirm then repeats the statement the audience proceeds to laugh and, in the edited version, the screen shifts to black and white text, and the word “WHAT?” in bold letters appears on the screen, and then, with loud, dramatic music in the background, Stirm’s statement is replayed for the YouTube viewer.
The audience laughs and it is clear why many might be offended. During the 1980’s Central America was overrun with CIA and other counterinsurgency agencies that sought to overthrow democratically elected governments and squash grassroots democratic movements. Throughout the Americas, including in the USA where missionary boarding schools for Native Americas were part of genocidal strategy, missionaries were often fronts for evangelizing Indigenous communities and then pushing them off of their lands.
While Stirm might simply have been engaging in the hyperbolic, ironic language that televangelists often use, and was not speaking literally of overthrowing any Central American government, certainly the topics which Stirm addresses in his talk in front of a presumably majority white audience have nothing to do with the self-determination and well-being of, specifically Black people. After explaining that the “lifespan of a missionary” in Belize was less than two years, Stirm paints a picture of a country that is, as King had briefly mentioned, “dark and oppressed”. He rails that: “80% of the children born in the Caribbean are born outside of marriage and half of that figure will never know who their father is. And 80% is the average, okay? In Jamaica it is 90% of the kids that are born outside of marriage…” The age-old railing against and pathologizing of Black people and Black family structure as the cause of inequality and poverty, instead of addressing centuries of displacement, enslavement, colonialism, discrimination and low minimum wages, has been a subject of worthy criticism from before the Moynihan Report. Stirm did not say “Black people” but referring to Belize, Jamaica and Haiti, it could be understood as a commentary on “dark,” “oppressed” African populations.
In the edited video, Stirm continues: “In Haiti, that was given over to the Devil 200 years ago—” and the Belize Freedom YouTube video stops and returns to the black screen on which the words “Excuse me?” in white capital letters appear. The playing of the clip resumes, followed by the following statement on the screen, “White racists have long accused Haitians of making a deal with Satan in order to obtain independence from their French colonial masters.”
Then Belize Freedom writes, “Racists blame all of Haiti’s problems, including the 2010 earthquake, with this deal with the devil.” Belize Freedom’s comments are not unfounded. After gaining independence as the first nation in the hemisphere to abolish slavery and, therefore, be founded on truly democratic ideals, the Haitian state has for the entirety of its existence been the subject of white-supremacist tirades. Despite Haiti’s sending a wealth of coffee to Greece to show support for their independence movement, and troops to Simon Bolivar in the efforts to liberate Latin America from Spanish colonial rule, Haiti as a decidedly Black and free country, has been attacked by religious televangelist zealots such as Pat Anderson who on television shared his unsolicited thoughts on Haiti’s history: “[The Haitians] were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever… And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’ True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal’…You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.” Anyone unfamiliar with Anderson’s anti-Black and anti-Indigenous and illogical rants can also refer to his comments when during his broadcast he warned someone planning to go to Kenya: “You might get AIDS in Kenya… the towels can have AIDS.”
Wade Davis, the author of The Serpent and the Rainbow and Passage of Darkness clarified Anderson’s comments: “He doesn’t even know what he’s talking about….All he’s saying by that comment is that all African religion is devil worship, and he’s revealing not only his ignorance about what voodoo really is, but also his bias that any religion not his own is devil worship.”
The video of Stirm has similarly touched a nerve. He goes on to say, “We still have a reasonable, a pretty good amount of witchcraft which takes place in Belize.” He then goes on to talk about the Garinagu nation, referring to them as “a people group in Belize called the Garifuna”. He claims that he has a friend in the southern Belize whose family member “was an extremely, extremely powerful witch and also a multimillionaire off of her witchcraft.”
He continues that his friend “was invited to come to a family reunion. She said ‘When I got there I realized that it was not a family reunion. I realized that it is what was called a Dugu, which is the ancestors are upset, this witch-lady says, ‘With you, you and you’. When they started beating the drums all these people fell down on the ground, except for this lady.” Stirm then continues to describe “going through crazy warfare” in prayer, presumably “saving” his friend. He then says, “The end punchline in this story is that that witch-lady wound up giving her heart to Jesus. Burned all of her books on witchcraft, renounced all of that. And better yet, stood up at one of the conferences for the Garifuna and said ‘Folks, these are not spirits of our Ancestors, these are demonic spirits.”
Blanket statements that attribute millennia of ancestral practice of African and indigenous people to “devil-worship” are nothing new. In the Americas this dangerous ideology harkens back to first the days of colonialism. These provided the grounds upon which Europeans could legally commit genocide, land theft and embark on centuries of slavery.
Stirm refrained from comment to Amandala, but said that his Facebook comments detail the truth of the matter. There, he writes, “Sorry to let the wind out of the idle minds’ sails, but the ‘overthrow of power’ I was referring to is the powers of darkness in our beloved Belize, with one of the highest murder rates in the world and where 70-80% of the children are born outside of marriage and HALF that figure won’t know who their father is!
“I guess the chopped up, salaciously edited video tries to vilify me as racist and against Garifuna — ehem… We raised two Garifuna boys as our own from a family with 9 kids from 7 men. The mom has now given her heart to Jesus and changed!! Praise God. We have poured our lives into many, many other Garifuna as well, and yes, they have needed demonic strongholds broken off their lives from witchcraft and fear, etc. And Jesus set them free!”