|Church of the Second Ascension|
|Abbreviation||CSA (English) |
|Type||New religious movement|
|Region||America, West Africa|
|Headquarters||Vrÿheidt, South Tussenland|
Aisa, South Tussenland
|Separated from||Dutch Reformed Church|
Zoekerism (Amerikaens: Soeckerisme; also alternatively spelled as Zoikerism in English), also known as the Church of Second Ascension, or simply the Zoekerist Church, is a religion that developed in South Tussenland during the 1860s. It is a syncretization of Protestantism and various traditional West African religious beliefs (most notably from Akan and Fon) as a product of the African diaspora in North America brought about by the transatlantic slave trade. It is considered a branch of Christianity practiced mainly by the Afro-American community in South Tussenland, Virginia, and in transplant communities in West Africa. Zoekerist communities also exist in adjacent regions like Florida, Cuba, Saint-Domingue, and the West Indies. Adherents are known as Zoekerists.
Zoekerist thought is centered around the belief in a supreme creator, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as the pursuit for truth, freedom, and homeland. Zoekerism is heavily associated with South Tussenland's independence movement and the idea of universal emancipation.
The religion is based on the teachings of a former manumitted slave from South Tussenland, Abajomie. Abajomie was a slave of the Royal Tussenland Company, and after being manumitted, was introduced to Christianity. To spread his teachings, he infused elements from traditional African religions. His teachings were central during the South Tussenland Revolution in 1853. However, he was captured by Dutch authorities, but an ally and revolutionary leader, Tegbesoe, continued to spread his teachings and officially established the Zoekerist Church. After the revolution was successful, Tegbesoe became the leader of South Tussenland and made Zoekerism its official religion, making South Tussenland essentially a theocracy. After the 1911 republican revolution in South Tussenland overthrew the theocracy, the Church was officially separated from the state. Despite the secularization of the state, Zoekerism still remains the dominant religion in South Tussenland today.
The Three Zoekerist Principles
The foundation of Zoekerism is based on three principles:
The Supreme Creator
The first principle of Zoekerism is the belief in the supreme creator, which goes by many names, including simply God, Chukwu (from Igbo), Nyame, Nyankopon, Brekyirihunuade ("Almighty"), Odomankoma ("infinite inventor"). Additionally, Zoekerists adhere to the thought of the Supreme creator existing in the form of three coeternal and consubstantial beings: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and draws parallels to the Akan belief of Nyame, Nyankopon, and Odomankoma.
The Second Ascension
Like other Christian denominations, Zoekerism is centered around the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Zoekerists adhere to the thought that Abayomi van Tussenland, a philosopher and former slave of the Dutch West India Company, was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and had come to save South Tussenland from oppression and slavery. Zoekerists believe that the death of Abayomi van Tussenland during South Tussenland's independence revolution was part of the supreme creator god's divine plan to save the people of South Tussenland.
The Three Pursuits
Also central to Zoekerist thought is the three pursuits: the pursuit for freedom, truth, and homeland. Freedom and truth were central to Abayomi van Tussenland's teachings in the 19th century. The search for a homeland was also central to his teachings, advocating that South Tussenland was new promised land, and it was their duty to fight for its independence.
The Veneration of the Winti
Zoekerists also believe in spirits called Winti. These personified supernatural beings can take possession of a human person, switch off their consciousness, as it were, and thereby reveal things concerning the past, present and future as well as cause and/or heal illnesses of a supernatural nature. They are akin to saints, which are also venerated in Zoekerist theology. There is no single pantheon of the Winti, and the list of venerated Wintis varies by region, culture, and country. The official South Tussenland Church of the Second Ascension, the governing body of Zoekerism in South Tussenland, does not maintain a list of venerated Wintis. The Wintis are celebrated and venerated occasionally through ritualistic dance and festivals.
Abayomi van Tussenlandt, founder of Zoekerist thought
The establishment and regulation of slave manumission in Dutch Tussenland had paved the way for a unique identity and African heritage in the Southern regions of the Dutch Tussenland colony.
Zoekerist thought originated from the "father of Zoekerism," Abayomi van Tussenlandt (sometimes spelt as Abajomie). Abayomi was a former slave under the Royal Tussenland Company. He had escaped from the Royal Tussenland Company's plantations in 1816 at age 14 and was eventually met by the former slave turned baker, Karlÿn de Backer in Elegasthaven. De Backer, who had introduced Abayomi to Christianity, had housed temporarily housed him until he was found and recaptured by the authorities. Three years later, De Backer had purchased Abayomi's freedom. Since then, Abayomi has dedicated a considerable portion of his time to helping De Backer and studying the Christian faith.
In 1821, he started traveling around Tussenland, with his enlightened ideas gaining a following among the people of African heritage and the native people in Tussenland. In his philosophy, he emphasized what he called the "three pursuits": the pursuit of truth, freedom, and homeland.
In his later years, his teachings had more emphasis on religious themes. He had also incorporated many elements from the traditional Fon religion and Christianity. He also adopted some concepts brought about by other people that supported his philosophy. A central theme in his Zoekerist philosophy is universal emancipation and equality.
Role in South Tussenland's Independence Movement
Tensions between the slaves and the Dutch ruling minority were at a high in the 1840s and caused a slave-led independence movement in 1849. Zoekerist philosophy was part of the revolt's core, invoking the concept of the pursuit of a homeland. Spain, through the viceroyalty of New Spain, supported the insurrection to undermine the Dutch. However, in 1853, amid the simultaneous South Tussenland independence war and the 2nd Dutch-Spanish War, Abayomi van Tussenland was seized by the Dutch authorities and had died in captivity. This emboldened the South Tussenlanders to fight harder against the Dutch. Abayomi's death in 1843 is central to Zoekerist theology, as the Zoekerists believed that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ who similarly had given his life up and ascended to heaven. Traditional scholars heavily intertwine Zoekerism with the South Tussenland independence movement; however, more contemporary scholars such as A.L. Kneynsbergh attempt to view the South Tussenland independence from a secular viewpoint.
Foundation of the Church of the Second Ascension (Zoekerist Church)
Before 1856, there was no institution governing Zoekerism, as it was not an established religion yet. After South Tussenland's independence in 1855, revolutionary leader and new head-of-state, Tegbesoe (previously known as Jan de Bodtsappe), claimed that Abayomi van Tussenland had entrusted him with spreading his teachings. In 1856, Tegbesoe established the Church of the Second Ascension and proclaimed himself as to its leader. The leadership of the church was tied to the head-of-state and maintained that way until the republican revolution struck South Tussenland in 1911. Today, the Zoekerist Church has the largest following in South Tussenland and has a significant following in Florida and Virginia.
Modernization of the Zoekerist Church
In 1909, after Mexico fell to a republican revolution, the South Tussenland, and in essence, the Zoekerist Church, had lost their principal benefactor. During this time, South Tussenland was also facing calls for republicanism, which was also partly spurred on by the republican government of Tussenland and New Netherland in an effort to exert influence in the continent. After the South Tussenland revolution succeeded in 1911, the Church and State were officially separated and codified into the new constitution. The revolutionaries allowed Otie II, the former head of state and head of the Church, to continue leading the Zoekerist Church, but was not allowed to meddle in the politics of South Tussenland. Despite the secularization of the state, the Zoekerist Church still plays a massive role in the culture and life of South Tussenland. In the 20th century, the religion had spread to Florida and Virginia, while minor chapters sprang up in Saint-Domingue and Cuba.