What is Rastafarianism?
is much more than an African Hippie movement. It is a religion that has
roots that go back to Jamaica and the 1930s.
Rastafarians believe the Messiah is Haile Selassie (hay´ -lee s« -lah´ -see), the last emperor of Ethiopia. As emperor, Selassie
was actually called "Ras Tafari." One of the outgrowths of Rastafarianism is its
heavy influence in Raggae music, which was made popular and gained worldwide recognition
through the late Bob Marley. According to 1995 statistics, Rastafarianism had some 180,000
adherents worldwide.1 A documentary I saw a year or two
ago showed how Rastafarianism was rapidly growing among people of all cultural and
Early Rastafarians considered Selassie the living God who fulfilled a
prophecy of Marcus Garvey. In the early 1900s, Garvey was an American black nationalist
who tried to form a "back to Africa movement." He hoped this would culminate in
the establishment of an independent African country made up of Americans who have African
ancestry. Garveys prophecy reportedly said, "Look to Africa, where a black king
shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is near."2
Those who heeded Garveys words and looked to Selassieor
rather "Ras Tafari"withdrew from mainline Jamaican society. They also
deemed traditional Christianity to be "white religion"and rejected it as
such. They also rejected Western culture because they considered it to be the modern
"Babylon." Some Rastafarians also adopted ganja (i.e., marijuana)
as their sacred "herb." Some Rasta extremists also turned to acts of violence to
further their goals.3
My personal investigation has revealed that Rastafarians consider
smoking the "Holy Herb" to being filled with the Holy Spirit. The ancient Greeks
and Romans held to similar concepts. They sought alcoholic intoxication at the
Bacchanalian Festivals in order to become possessed by Bacchus (Roman) or Dionysius
(Greek)the god of wine, revelry, orgies, and ecstasy. Likewise, American Indians
took peyote or mescaline while Timothy Leery took LSD to reach "spiritual
highs." However, Paul stressed being "filled with the Holy Spirit" in
contrast to the contemporary and ungodly religious practices of his day by saying;
18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess (
literally "unsavedness"); but be filled with the Spirit; 19Speaking
to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your
heart to the Lord; (Ephesians 5:1819)
Rastafarians regard AfricaEthiopia in particularas the
"Promised Land" of Moses.4 They also view
themselves as the true descendants of David and children of God as defined by the Old
Testament. This may be partially due to the traditional belief, that in the 10th century
B.C., the kingdom of Ethiopia was supposedly founded by Menelik I. Accordingly, Menelik
was Solomons first son who was conceived by the Queen of Sheba.5 This supposedly occurred when his mother visited Solomon
in Israel. Before she left Israel, 1 Kings 10:13 reports how, ". . . king Solomon
gave unto the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that
which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned and went to her own country, she
and her servants." Some have suggested by interpolation that her "desire"
was also to conceive a son by Solomon, the wisest man in the world.
This tradition has some respected acceptance as demonstrated by the
1984 and 1991 airlifts of thousands of Ethiopian "Falashas" to Israel. Upon
arrival they were given full citizenship and privileges. This is usually granted only to
those who can prove their Jewish ancestry.
Many rigorous adherents of Rastafarianism seek to follow the law of
Moses and are strict vegetarians who actually shun alcoholthe leavened fruit of the
vine. They have also adopted the "Star of David" and the "Lion of
Judah" as key religious symbols of identity.
Rastafarians usually focus on the following for biblical authority:
4I will make mention of Rahab
and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man
was born there. 5And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born
in her: and the highest himself shall establish her. 6The LORD shall count,
when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. (Psalm
87:46) [emphasis mine]
Rastafarians argue that Psalm 87:4 is a prophetic reference to Haile
Selassie being born in Ethiopia as the Messiah. Yet, they have ignored the basic
grammatical structure of the overall passage.
Psalm 87 speaks of the love the Lord has for Zion (Jerusalem) and its
inhabitants. However, the Lord also inspired David to write about a day in which all people
would know the Lord and acknowledge Him as such. The Lord then directs His attention to
Rahab (Egypt) and Babylon (modern Iraq). He then says He will also speak of them as being
among those who will also know the Lord.
The Lord then refers to another group who would one day also know Him.
This one consisted of Philistia (southwest Palestine), Tyre (ancient Phoenicia, which is
modern Syria and Lebanon), and Ethiopia. Ethiopia is not singled out, but actually
included in the group. It is to this group that He will also acknowledge some
singled out from those regions as knowing Him. Verse 4 indicates this by literally saying,
". . . this one he was born there."(The is the actual Hebrew rendering.)
The prophecy then focuses on Zion and acknowledges that many there will
also know the Lord. This is so indicated by His stating, "This and that man was born
in her . . ." Thus, the Psalmist was not pointing to any one particular individual as
the coming Messiah. That interpretation would indicate there would be a Messiah from each
region mentioned in the Psalm as a whole!
The Psalm was actually referring to a day in which people from every
nation and all families would gather in Jerusalem and acknowledge Yahweh (Jehovah) as
their Lord. That is why verse six adds, "The LORD shall count, when he writeth up the
people, that this man was born there." Bearing in mind that italicized
words were added by the translators to hopefully clarify the passage, this verse could
actually read, "The LORD shall count, when he writeth up the people, this [each one
singled out] was born there."
The Rastafarians have not only misinterpreted Psalm 87, they have also
overlooked the other Scriptural references to the bodily return of the Messiah. (This
is referring to the Lords coming at Armageddonnot the "catching
away" to take place at least seven years earlier.) These passages indicate the
Messiah will return to Earth at the Mount of Olivesnot Ethiopia! One such
passage is found in Zechariah:
1Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy
spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2For I will gather all nations
against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the
women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the
people shall not be cut off from the city. 3Then shall the LORD go forth, and
fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4And
his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before
Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof
toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and
half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
(Zechariah 14:14) [Emphasis mine. Also see Acts 1:912]
Not only does the Bible indicate the Messiah will bodily return to the
Mount of Olives, it also indicates He will be recognized by the visible stigmata (i.e.,
the visible marks) of His crucifixion;
10And I will pour upon the house of David, and
upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they
shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one
mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that
is in bitterness for his firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10) [Emphasis mine. Also see
Lastly, the distinctive Rastafarian hairstyle that incorporates long
dreadlocks often give the "Rastaman" an unscrupulous and ferocious appearance.
As a result, many remain leery and respond negatively toward them even though many are
honest, hardworking, family oriented, and charitable. I have also discovered that some of
them are not racists as many of those were in the early stages of the movement.
Unfortunately, many Rastafarians are violently antagonistic toward
the Gospel! In June of 1992, my family and I personally discovered this when we
preached in the Village of Windward for the first time. There were two Rastafarians
present who immediately made their hatred for our message known. If there was ever a
time I experienced fear for the cause of Christ, that was it! However, God is faithful
and we now have a good relationship with these same menand also many other Roman
Catholics in the village as well. PTL! Please pray for us as we continue to reach out
to Rastafarians with the Gospel.
Walter Robinson II
Webmaster of LCM
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