EMISSARY^7 (G²)

COMMISIONED by CHRIST 4 SHARING HIS LIFE/KEEPING IT REAL ADMIST THE LIES (II Cor. 5:17-21))

Reggae Righteousness: Seeing Ones that are both Messianic Jewish & Rastas for Christ?

Posted by Gabriel (G²) on November 21, 2010

Shalom!!!

For anyone interested, I was writing due to some unique experiences I’ve been able to go through……as concerning my own West-Indian cultural background, I was blessed to go on a mission trip to the homeland of Jamaica. Been there numerous times before….. but its always a blessing to visit. The last time I went was about 7 years ago.

One of the things that often happens is that one inevitably encounters those who are known as Rastafarians—-and though I knew of them/saw them before, I never go to interact much with them. When it came to going down there, I made it a point to study up on the cultural dynamics of Rastafariniasm so I’d be caught up/able to witness. When I came down, our mission trip team worked with an organization known as YWAM Jamaica“. We also did extensive work with an organization known as The Faith Lifters Ministry .. under the leadership of Pastor Peter Dawkins….and it was amazing to see how many times I was called “Rasta” —both by the believers in Christ we worked with and with the locals as well whom we were seeking to aid. I initially assumed it was due to how I’ve chosen to grow locks over the past 3 years…but as it turns out, it seems that the term “RASTA” was something used to denote one who is spiritual…wise/godly…and though I used to be oppossed the term, there are many things I’m open to now.

Studying up on Rastafarianism, it was amazing to see not only the differences—but also the commonality between Christians and the Rasta group…and hearing out those who used to be in it/where they come from was a blessing. Some Rastafari choose to classify their movement as Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, Protestant Christianity, or Judaism..and of those, the ties to the Ethiopian Church are the most widespread, although this is controversial to many Ethiopian clergy. For discussions have raged for ages on those who’re Rastafarian and Christian…as many had the Biblical Belief that Jesus was the Messiah…but many in the more “extreme” aspects of camp mistakenly held that Hali Salessi was Christ come back. I was amazed to learn that Haile Selassie, the King of Ethopia, was himself a devout believer in Christ……and one who was intimately connected with the Ethopian Orthodox Church. Whenever it came to others wondering why it was that people said was the Messiah, he’d always reply “I’m a mere man. I will be replaced by the oncoming generation and a human being should not be emulated for a deity.'”

Many who used to be Rastafarians worshipping Hali recognized that instead of worshipping him, they should’ve been worshipping who he was worshipping. And for the many who claim to be Rastafarians, and as I learned, the term “Rasta” can be used as a means of endearment since the name Rastafari is taken from Ras Tafari, the pre-regnal title of Haile Selassie I, composed of Amharic Ras (literally “Head,” an Ethiopian title equivalent to Duke), and Haile Selassie’s pre-regnal given name. Being called “Rasta” is many times a way of saying one’s spiritual like the Christian Emperor of Ethopia…where the focus is simply upon the lifestyle (i.e. maintaining locks/dreads as a spiritual symbolization like the Nazarite Vows, vegetarian lifestyles, Afrocentrism, Addressing the ways in which European Expansionism/Colonialsim and Imperialism has utilized Christianity as a means of continuning itself/suppressing others, Reggae, etc). …..as opposed to choosing to worship a man who’s not Christ.

Even more interesting is the reality of how intimately aspects of Rasta Lifestyles/views are connected with Messianic Judaism—and it has been wild to discover the intriacies of them more so over time. Many of those who are Jews of Color have noted how much it seemed that in being involved with Judaism, the Afro-Centric side of things became more clear….seeing how many in Jewish culture were Black—even though its not acknowleged by many in our own times. Other notable musicians within the Jewish world have noted the same—such as folks like Matisyahu, if anyone has ever heard of his music.

For more info, one can consider going online and looking up articles under the following names:

Something interesting to consider besides that is the role that the Orthodox church has had in shaping the dynamics of Rastararianism.  On “Orthdoxy” of Rastafarianism, ……if desiring more info, One of the best books on the subject is entitled Dread Jesus by William Spencer….

Dread Jesus

And for some more info on the book–as said best elsewhere:

“Dread Jesus”: A New View of the Rastafari Movement

William David Spencer’s Dread Jesus (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1999) is, quite simply, one of the best books by a Christian theologian about a new religious movement. Although Spencer examines primarily different views of Jesus Christ within the Rastafari community, the book is also a comprehensive history of the movement, of its sources, and of the differences between its many contemporary branches. It is also a valuable introduction to reggae music and its connections with the Rastafari community. Spencer, as many Rastafari scholars before him, traces Rastafari back to the Ethiopianist movement and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), established in 1914 in Jamaica by Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887-1940). While Zionists preached the return of Jews to Palestine, Ethiopianists suggested that African Americans should eventually return to Africa (and particularly to the historical heart of Africa, Ethiopia). Spencer reconstructs Ethiopianism as a Christian movement, although an unorthodox one. While Garvey’s image of a “black Christ” was consciously symbolic, other Ethiopianist preachers such as Robert Athyli Rogers (from the Caribbean island of Anguilla), founder of the Afro Athlican Constructive Church, regarded the “black Jesus” as one among many divine incarnations (for Rogers, the most important incarnation of God was Elijah ).

Others, like Prophet Alexander Bedward in Jamaica, claimed to be the new messiah themselves. All this changed on November 2, 1930 when Ras Tafari was crowned as Emperor of Ethiopia as H.I.M. (His Imperial Majesty) Hailé Selassié I (1892-1975). World media covered the event, and most (although not all) Ethiopianists in Jamaica believed that this successor to the line of King Solomon, bearing titles such as “King of Kings” and “Lion of Judah”, was indeed the Christ who was to return. Spencer insists on the role played on the foundation of Rastafari religion by three preachers: Leonard Howell, H. Archibald Dunkley, and Joseph Nathaniel Hibbert.

As far as Dunkley and Hibbert are concerned, he insists on their membership in the Great Ancient Brotherhood of Silence, or Ancient Mystic Order of Ethiopia, one of the “black” (or “Prince Hall”) Masonic organizations. Spencer claims that a number of features of Rastafari religion derive from this branch of Freemasonry (including the name “Jah” for “God”, coming from the Masonic form “Jah-Bul-On”). Later Rastafari leaders and authors, such as Dennis Forsythe, were in turn influenced, according to Spencer, by the Rosicrucian order AMORC. Rastafari is, thus, a syncretistic faith including elements from the Western esoteric and occult tradition, Christianity, and Jamaican and Caribbean lore (including the trademark Rastafari dreadlocks, and the use of ganja). Spencer also re-examines the well-known story of Selassié’s visit to Jamaica in 1966, his denial to be God or the return of Christ, and his attempt to lead Rastafarians into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (with only moderate success). He also examines the peculiar role of reggae singer Bob Marley (1945-1981) in the development of Rastafarian thought (an extreme fringe even believes Marley, rather than Selassié, to be the messiah). The most important part of Spencer’s book deals with Rastafari reactions to the Marxist revolution in Ethiopia, and the following imprisonment and eventual death of Selassié in 1975. While, in the immediate aftermath of these events , Selassié’s death was explained away as yet another “big lie” by the world media, gradually most Rastafarians recognized that His Imperial Majesty will not physically reappear any time soon.

What happened, according to Spencer, was the separation of elements whose coexistence within the Rastafari community had always been difficult. While only a handful of Rastafarians followed Selassié’s counsel and joined the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a significant number (whose main international organization is the Twelve Tribes of Israel) adopted a more explicitly Christian approach, recognizing Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Selassié as a mere human (if all-important) prophet. Their Christ remains a “black Christ” within the frame of contemporary black or Africanist theology. As a reaction, an anti-Christian movement, the “bun Christ” (or “burn Christ”) movement, manifested itself, particularly at certain reggae events. Rastafari has always been anti-Catholic (because it accuses the Catholic Church of having supported Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, seen as the ultimate sacrilege). Some contemporary Rastafarians are also anti-Christian, although many would qualify even the most extreme “burn Christ” statements by claiming that their quarrel is with the “white Christ” in whose name racist crimes have been perpetrated, not with a liberated “black Christ”. There is little doubt, however, that one branch of Rastafari has followed the Eastern linings of one of the “founders”, Leonard Howell, and has adopted a mystical view of Selassié’s soul as an entity quite independent from the Emperor’s physical manifestation. A portion of this divine spark or essence, eminently manifested in Selassié, is present in all Rastafari faithful, if not in all human beings, within the framework of a sort of gnostic pantheism true to the occult-esoteric connections of some of the “founders”.

Rastafari, Spencer concludes, is at a crossroad, between Selassié as God (re-interpreted after the Emperor’s death in a pantheistic and gnostic sense) and “the God of Selassié”, i.e. Jesus Christ. In the latter sense, Rastafari, or a branch of it, may eventually become a “Selassian” Christian Church, no less Christian for its veneration of Selassié as a prophet and a saint (just, Spencer notes, as there is a “Lutheran” Church, named after Martin Luther but certainly not claiming that he was the messiah). At any rate, Spencer takes seriously Rastafari as potential (and, at least in some cases, actual) “roots Christianity” of what he calls with the politically correct name of two-thirds world. While liberation theology has been too often a theoretical construct of Western intellectuals, movements such as Rastafari are a much more reliable indicator of the real feelings and spiritual needs of Caribbean and other two-thirds world spiritual seekers. In this perspective, Spencer’s book is a model of theological dialogue between traditional Christianity and a new, admittedly “bizarre”, religious tradition. Similar enterprises should probably be attempted with respect to other new religious movements as well.

I’d definately recommend the book, for anyone interested on getting a good review on the issue/seeing a balanced treatment of the Orthodoxy of Rastafarianism and how it connects to Christianity. Outside of that, For more info, one can consider going online and looking up articles under the following names:

 

As I mentioned earlier, I used to have a problem with being called “Rasta”—but when doing more research, I was at peace seeing how it can easily be something combinded into one’s Christian/Messianic Faith without compromising Christ. If you want to converse with more Rastas who have embraced Christianity and especially Orthodox Christianity, I’d highly suggest looking into this forum known as Fulfilled Rastafari House – Serving Jah & Rastafari. They may be able to offer even better takes than I can—seeing that I’ve never been fully incorporated into Rastafari.

For more info on the matter—as my information is indeed limited/I learned much elsewhere

William David Spencer is perhaps the best authority on the subject that I know of—and you’d probably be blessed by his material.

As it relates to the Jewish culture, I think the issue is especially relevant…..as it concerns how INTIMATELY the cultural aspects of Rasta and Judaism are intertwined. In example, consider how much of an issue it is within the Jewish world on examining the reality of Jew/”concept of Jew”, and who qualifies for being a “Jew”. For more info, Messianic Jewish apologist Dr. Michael Brown actually wrote something very solid on the issue in his article entitled “Who Is a Jew?” Questions of Ethnicity, Religion, and Identity”. The issue is not one that another can simply say “it doesn’t matter”—as the implications of such are being seen DAILY in our times. Why do you think there are so many battles in Israel right now over the plight of those who are Ethopian Jews/Falasha Mura and others considering them “not Jewish enough” because of their backgrounds? Or, for that matter, why do you think there’s so much battle going on over those who are Sephardi Jews (from Spain and Portugal) fighting against the European Jews for being treated as “second-class” citizens?

Likewise, with those who are in the Carribbean, its also a problem when it comes to those who are Rastas—-many of them believing themselves to be a lost tribe of Israel—and yet never considered to be “Jewish” enough. To me, that’s a bit interesting……as many often remember what occurred with the Slave Trade/shipping others off from Africa to the Americas and the Carribbean Islands…yet not many are aware of the fact that many of those same Africans were already Jews. The African Diaspora was directly connected with the Jewish Diaspora….and though not as readily acknowledged in previous times, others have come to be more aware of Jews and Judaism in the African diaspora—as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D (as well as other times the Jewish nation was conquered) caused many of the Jews to be scattered all over—with Africa being one of the main places. Many Jews did not simply venture into Africa out of persecution, of course—as many were there LONG-before….but the history of African Jews is something to consider when it comes to those in Jamaica desiring to go back to Zion…and the African Homeland

As said best by another elsewhere on the issue:

Most people would assume that all Africans in the colonies were whipped into believing in Christ generations ago after being stripped of their culture and taken to the New World. However, Jamaican slaves came primarily from Ethiopia, and if you’ve heard of Operation Moses (1984) and Operation Solomon (1991), you know that the Israeli government and many religious authorities consider the Beta Jews of Ethiopia authentic, and perhaps even related to the lost tribe of Dan. If that’s the case, then for many Jamaicans, the Black Diaspora was only a continuation of the Jewish Diaspora, and while they may read King James’s Bible, it’s King Solomon they have allegiance to.

Concerning Zion, its intriguing to see how with the Rastas, Zion is the African Homeland—specifically, the ancient country of Ethopia. And as much of the focus is upon Ethopia, its no surprise to see the intimate connections the Rastas feel with the struggle of those who are Ethiopian Jews & Falasha ..and how much oppression they’ve receieved in Israel due to their background. For if you’re aware of the situation with those who are Black Jews, many appreciate that they have a place to escape the persecution, Israel..but on the other side of that, there is alot of racism among the Ashkenazim influx who do not accept them as they should… and thus sometimes they are treated as second class citizens in Israel. It has been a situation that has angered many Jewish people….

]

For more info on the matter of those who are Black Jews:

Moving on,

As I’ve shared elsewhere, I’m actively involved in a Messianic Jewish fellowship known as “Congregation Mishkan David” , under the leadership of Rabbi Aaron Evans. ….and within that, I also attend a small-group fellowship known as Mivdad. For more info, one can go to Marietta Daily Journal – Two faiths, one roof. I’m very close friends with the rabbi there…My older brother/spiritual father in the Lord, who was raised in a Messianic Jewish family and is a former Eastern Orthodox priest and monk–and thus, very big on studying/understanding the Church Fathers, as well Church History. And when it came to discussing the issue of Black Jews as well as Rastas, it was cool to see just how open he was on the matter….and, for that matter, enthusiasticly supportative of others who seek to make clear how much of a Black Side/aspect of things has been lost within the Jewish world. It’s highly intriguing when one does the research how often those who’re either Jewish or Messianic Jewish are portrayed as “caucasian” the majority of the time in many churches….and those who’re Black are considered “Black Jews” rather than simply Messianic Jewish since anyone honestly researching will see that the stereotype of Jews predominately being “caucasian” in the Original Culture is off. .

And some of it is VERY heavy to consider—–as even in Israel, among Jewish people, there’s still the age old issue of RACIAL DIVIDE…….and lack of acceptance of an Africa/Afro-Centric view while the Euro-Centric view of scripture/history is all that’s virtually accepted.

And for a personal perspective on the matter when it comes to the concept of Black Jews, it was odd at times being a Black Hispanic learning about/loving Jewish Culture—and yet, still battling with the times I’d prefer that I’d be a bloodline Israelite….and feeling that blacks are not really connected to the Jewish faith as much as those who’re European. Going back/studying, however, I was shocked to witness how much of the Early Church Fathers were black (Augustine of Hippo, in example…one of the three early Black Popes). I was shocked when seeing some of the pictures of him—as I always assumed he was white..but then again, when considering the reality of where he was from (as he had a Berber/African mother),  its not surprising:

And outside of him, various others in Jewish Culture have black aspects within them that I never realized—from Simon of Cyrene (Luke 23:25-27 ) to Solomon and a host of others.…..many of the things that are never discussed.

Of course, for those who are RASTA, this is a big deal–and something ACTIVELY discussed in their circles. And thus, why those within are glad others are actively teaching there’s no need to be ashamed of an African Prescence in the Scriptures or backgrounds that need to be dealt with. Colonialism and Imperialism did a significant job setting the stage/making it seem as if European perspectives was the only way to filter scripture thru—using it to subjugate/enslave many in the name of “Christ”….and thus, why many have problems with Christianity today as a “white man’s religion”. But those showing the black side of the Faith are doing much to change that.

The Rasta Life is one of the many ways in which God, IMHO, is seeking to address that.
Sorry if what I said came off as rambling……but I pray it makes sense…

I believe every culture should be able to express their love for Jesus in the manner that befits them according to the authority of the scriptures we all must heed…and IMHO, I wish all of us were more aware of the wonderful and colourful mosiac of cultures and experiences that bloom across our planet.

God redeems whatever He wants. And for further example, I’m reminded of  concepts such as Hip Hop Culture, for example, and other seeking to bring in Christ within that Genere…as that’s an intimate part of the sub-culture I hail from within Black Culture. The one group I’m referring to is one known as Hazakim (Hebrew for “Strong Ones”)–as they’re a Messianic Jewish Rap Duo that has taken alot of heat within the Jewish world for being Holy Hip Hoppers..and for being one of the best defenses in the musical genere of celebrating it within the church.

Seeing the group in action within Hip Hop is intriguing—for as it relates to the OP with Rasta/ Reggaee, many are unaware of the Jamaican ROOTS behind the Hip Hop Genere. One can go no further than studying DJ Kool Herc, as he is is largely credited as the “father of hip-hop”.

When asked by hip-hop historian Davey D what hip-hop is, Herc gave the following answer:

“Hip Hop… the whole chemistry of that came from Jamaica… I was born in Jamaica and I was listening to American music in Jamaica… My favourite artist was James Brown. That’s who inspired me. A lot of the records I played was by James Brown. When I came over here I just put it in the American style and a perspective for them to dance to it… I’d find out where the break in the record was at and prolong it and people would love it… the rhyming came about because I liked playing lyrics that were saying something.”

With that said, it was amazing to see how a Messianic Jewish Rap group made a song utilizing the musical style of the Reggaee genere that was BRILLIANTLY amazing…known as Kadosh (Conclusion).

Its made by the rap duo known as Hazakim…from their latest CD entitled “Theophanies“…and on the song, if  you are unfamiliar with Hebrew, kadosh is the word for Holy, so that when Isaiah saw the glory of the LORD, he heard the seraphim say, “Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh.” When you hear rap artists do this, it shows the power of the art form to convey things to people in a way that they may not have heard it before.When the intro started, there were clips of someone speaking about the holiness of God, but when the reggae artist started speaking “Kadosh! Kadosh! Holy Holy! , I couldn’t help but go “WOW..they actually did that as Messianic Jews.”—though, it wasn’t surprising to see what they did in the style they chose since they have  Afro-Caribbean blood as well as Semitic roots. They’ve actually shared some of their thoughts before on their musical leanings/multi-cultural perspective as seen here in their article entitled A Multi-Cultural Perspective About “Race” in America And The Presidential Race in America.

To be clear, “Hazakim” is my favorite Christian Rap group…..connected with other solid Messianic Jewish believers like Dr.Michael Brown and others…and for those wishing to find out more on who they are:

If anyone has any thoughts on the issue, I’d love to hear sometime. What are your thoughts on the issue of Rastafarianism and Judaism? Do you agree or disagree that they are connected/can co-exist? Is it wrong to be considered a “Christian Rasta” or “Jewish Rasta”? Would love to hear sometime…

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