Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rasta Jesus

I am not sure why I took notice of this sect.  I think I got interested in the timeline similarities to early Christianity.

I find the Rastafari movement and or religious belief system quite fascinating. 

No doubt the references to Ethiopia in the old testament gives it great credentials as an established African political entity.  As such the country has history that predates most European countries.  Ethiopia as a metaphor for the promised land in Africa, were black men have a proper and historic place in the scheme of things, is a metaphor mixed in with a kind self-love in the Rastafari philosophy.

Centuries of colonization in Africa and America along with various forms of exploitation and slavery is a starting point to understanding why a basic belief in the superiority of black men over white men is a means to try and negate centuries of negative self image and self worth.  

From historic roots and one of the longest surviving Orthodox branches of the Christian tree we find the person of the late Emperor Haile Selassie as a convenient metaphoric symbol. 

He (Selassie) was, some would say still is, descendant of that claimed Solomon/Queen of Sheba bloodline.  From a need arising in late nineteenth and early twentieth century for some central global African identity comes the Rastafarian belief that Ras Tafari (Lord Tafari), the birth name of Selassie, was, is the incarnation of Jesus and or a human manifestation of God on earth.

Selassie and his kingdom became a logical symbol of respect that an African and or Black Pride movement was looking for in the 1920s and 1930s.  Selassie was considered legitimate old royalty by all the monarchs of Europe at the time.

There is a lot of metaphor, cross condensed religious beliefs coming out of the basically African culture coming out of Jamaica.  Out of poverty and out of a “Pan Africanism” spirit of native Jamaican Marcus Garvey came a religion home grown and hand spun in Jamaica.  It is classified as monotheistic in the Trinitarian sense of monotheistic Christianity but itself is more a form of cultural Christianity than anything officially so.

Reading the background on this localized native belief with worldwide chapters or mansions, I get the sense of the early Christian church and how it all came together over time.

The traditional founding date of the Rastafarians is 1930 with the crowning of Haile Selassie.  Some native Jamaican preachers started preaching this mix of politics and religious metaphor as a grass roots reaction to British colonialism and the negative self image of people of African ancestry.

The movement has had its ups and downs but it preaches a be as simple as you can be philosophy with an eye to ignore the Babylon of modern beliefs and life style.  It also believes that God is within and not with out. 

You also have three main branches or mansions.  One I would say is orthodox in believing that Haile Selassie is Christ all the way to one mansion where you don’t have to believe that at all. 

I can picture a similar belief system in its eightieth year around the year 110 A.D. that was not a religion yet.  It was still a belief system.  It had the far right and the far left in beliefs and those beliefs had not yet been written down to begin the long dry descent into useless, meaningless dogma.  I am thinking of the Jesus movement, a social people movement that had not yet made a pagan god out of a simple country preacher from Galilee.

And while the Rastas don’t preach the end of the world stuff like the early Christians believed, they preach the here and now mixed with a little sacramental ganja. They live the simple life of poverty; watch their diets and dream of a heaven and a place called Ethiopia after the freedom of all peoples in Jamaica has been achieved.  Big talk. 

I was also attracted to the way of looking at the modern world as one big evil Babylon.  There is much talk these days in many secular and religious quarters of a return to a real Sabbath and withdraw from the media and electronics of the world one day a week to keep one’s sanity and balance.
Babylon” is often equated with Western Civilization and is also understood as an artificial affluent society of self-absorbed individuals who worship idols and live decadent lifestyles at the expense of the poor. -  Prof David Smith 
Interesting thought.


Rastafari movement
The Rastafari movement is a "messianic religio-political movement" that began in the Jamaican slums in the 1920s and 30s. The most famous Rastafari is Bob Marley, whose reggae music gained the Jamaican movement international recognition. 
There is significant variation within the Rastafari movement and no formal organization. Some Rastafarians see Rasta more as a way of life than a religion. But uniting the diverse movement is belief in the divinity and/or messiahship of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, the influence of Jamaican culture, resistance of oppression, and pride in African heritage. 
The Rastafarian lifestyle usually includes ritual use of marijuana, avoidance of alcohol, the wearing of one's hair in dreadlocks, and vegetarianism… 
Followers of the Rastafari movement are known as Rastafarians, Rastafaris, Rastas, or Ras Tafarians. The movement is named for Ras Tafari Makonnen, who was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia in 1930. 
Rastafaris dislike the term "Rastafarianism" because they reject the "isms and schisms" that characterize oppressive and corrupt white society. The movement is referred to as "the Rastafari movement," "Rasta," or "Rastafari."…Rastafari developed in the slums of Kingston, Jamaica, in the 1920s and 30s. In an environment of great poverty, depression, racism and class discrimination, the Rasta message of black pride, freedom from oppression, and the hope of return to the African homeland was gratefully received.
I quote from the first link because I think it is a better thought out and written piece.  It differs with the second link in Wikipedia which disputes the direct Marcus Garvey connection with Rastafarian(ism) as its founder.  Though some of his writings and ideas worked their way into this movement.
So eighty years into its founding, this sect of Christianity has no formal written dogma.  I guess if some rich Park Ave billionaire widow comes along to document this sect and starts to throw some money around, the various factions would no doubt start to write down who the founder was and what the founder said etc.

And the mysterious death and disappearance of Selassie, and or murder by the Russians, follows the Christian myth of a leader who has not died and disappeared or is waiting to come back and reveal himself to the true believers.

Various ideas and themes would emerge that do not match up what has already been written in the sources used above.

What will Rastafari look like in a century?  It might be as different from first century Christianity as that sect was with second century Christianity.  A work in process.

Worth a read to get and see another slice of life in the worldwide eternal growth of the Christian mythology leading always back to the potential divinity of mankind found in the teachings of Jesus.