Shango Baptist

Technically there are no Shango Baptist.  That name is a misnomer.  The term “Shango Baptist” is actually a derogative term.  It’s like saying fake Christian or witch doctor.  When referring to Shango Baptist, there is no knowledge of the fact that there are two different entities that exist within that religious structure in the Carribbean.  Because people are ignorant of that culture, things get lumped all together.  There is Shango, and then there is Spiritual Baptist.

The Spiritual Baptist church predates the Shango church.  The Spiritual Baptist were an offshoot of the Southern Baptist of America.  This is also related to the War of 1812.  In the War of 1812, you had American slaves who had  liberated themselves who were given offers to fight for the British to win their freedom.  So many of them ended up in the Carribbean due to this arrangement.  The genesis of this tradition started in Trinidad and Tobago. Many of the enslaved Africans were already Southern Baptist.  Because they already had a Southern Baptist ideology which included the “Fire Baptized” church service, they were called “Shouters”.

So you have three different forms of this tradition.  You have Shout Baptist, Spiritual Baptist, and then Shango.  Those are three different traditions.  They are not the same.  People have incorrectly lumped them together and gave them the name of Shango Baptist.

There was a group of soldiers there on the island called Mercans or sometimes called the Mericans, which was probably short for American.  They were the enslaved Africans who came from the war who ended up staying there.  They were practicing Baptist religion.  However, it had the infusion of the excited form of Baptist Christianity that was practiced in the Southern states of America.  The island also had an approximate 4 % population of Yoruba descendants who practiced the Orisha tradition, that they called “Ife”.  Remember that Ile Ife is the spiritual capital of the Orisha tradition.  The rituals of the Mercans resembled the Yoruba rituals and there was also the rituals of the Shouters all existing at the same time.  Because the assimilation between the Shouters and those practicing Ife happened so quickly, Shouters were outlawed.  Around 1914, there was legislation passed to outlaw the practices of the Shouters.  In order to do this inconspicuously, they passed laws that would outlaw bells.  Tinkling of bells was outlawed.  They equated the rhythm of the tinkling of the bells that the Shouters did with demonic summoning.  The shouting was too reminiscent of African rituals, which they also associated with being demonic.  People were even arrested because of these laws.  Practicing these traditions was not allowed until 1951.

Around that time of 1951, you also had people who were a part of the Spiritual Baptist movement whose leading doctrine is the King James Bible.  Even though there is an acknowledgement of the African roots through dancing, drumming, and singing, they are adherents of Biblical doctrine.  The Spiritual Baptists started to notice the similarities between their ceremonies and those who practiced Ife and started to teeter between the two traditions.  So, there was a group born out of this mingling who acknowledged Jehovah as the God of Man, but also acknowledge the Orisha as the Gods of Nature.  This is how the term Shango Baptist was born.  But the proper term of the people who were of this dual ideology is Shango or Orisha, not Shango Baptist.