Christianity and Rastafarianism-a Discussion of Six Similarities

August 25, 2017 Teaching

Christianity and Rastafarianism A Discussion of Six Similarities Christianity and Rastafarianism are both rooted in Judaism and draw from the Hebrew sacred scriptures. Rastafarianism evolved as a reaction to the Christianity that was imposed upon African-American slaves and their descendents. There are several other aspects in which these two religions are similar, the purpose of this paper is to explore some of those similarities. The Christian religion began around 2000 years ago in Judea, which is now Israel. Christianity began with Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples.

Jesus traveled from village to village, teaching in the synagogues, and healing those who were sick and suffering. He challenged the authorities to repent from their sin. Jesus’ teachings created instability, which the Jewish religious authorities feared. Soon, a faithful group of men began to follow Jesus and call him teacher. These men became His disciples. Jesus taught His disciples about the will of God and about the new covenant God will bring to humanity through Him. Jesus helped them to see that mankind is bound to the pain and futility of life as a result of sin.

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Because of sin, mankind lost his relationship with God. The purpose of the new covenant was to bring his followers a renewed fellowship of forgiveness and love with God. Jesus was crucified and three days later rose again. After which, the disciples continued to proclaim the gospel. And share the message of hope throughout the territories (The History of Christianity). The Rastafari movement began in the Jamaican slums in the 1920s and 30s. Marcus Garvey founded Rastafarianism, a black Jamaican who taught in the 1920s and whom some believed to be the second John the Baptist.

He taught that Africans are the true Israelites and have been exiled to Jamaica and other parts of the world as divine punishment. Garvey encouraged pride in being black and worked to reverse the mindset of inferiority that centuries of enslavement had ingrained on the minds of blacks. The reggae music of Bob Marley, brought international recognition to the Jamaican movement. Bob Marley is likely the most famous Rastafarian. The Rastafarian movement is named for Ras Tafari Makonnen, who was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia in 1930.

Followers of the movement are known as Rastafarians, Rastafaris, Rastas, or Ras Tafarians. Rastafaris dislike the term “Rastafarianism” because they reject the “isms and schisms” that characterize oppressive and corrupt white society (Rastafari). The Rastafari movement has a lot of variation and little formal organization. Most consider Rasta to be more a way of life than a religion. The belief in the divinity of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, the influence of Jamaican culture, resistance of oppression, and the great pride in their African heritage are the uniting factors of the Rastas.

Rastafaris ritually use marijuana, they avoid alcohol, wear their hair in dreadlocks, and are usually either vegetarian or Vegan. 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. (Rastafari) Even though these two religions are different in many aspects there are also several similarities. Six examples are provided below. First Similarity-The Divine Reality: Christians and Rastafarians both view their divine reality similarly, through the incarnation of God.

Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God, part of the Trinity. What this means to them is that God came to this earth in the form of a man, in order to die on a cross for all humanity. Jesus is often referred to as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world because of His death on the cross. (History of Christianity) The Rasta movement accepts Haile Selassie I, the former Emperor of Ethiopia, as Jah. This is the Rastafarian name for God incarnate, taken from a shortened form of Jehovah. Jah is part of the Holy Trinity, the messiah promised to return in the Bible.

Rastafari’s believe Tafari Makonnen, who was crowned Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia on November 2nd, 1930 is the living God incarnate, called Jah. He is the black Messiah that will lead the world’s people of African origin into the Promised Land of full emancipation and divine justice. This is partly because of his titles King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah. These titles match those of the Messiah mentioned in the book of Revelation, in the Christian New Testament (Rastafari). Second Similarity-The Creation of the World:

Just as the Christian Bible begins with, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, (Holy Bible) The Holy Piby, the Rastafarian Bible, begins with, “From the beginning there was God and he spake and all things were made that are made”. Both of these sacred texts go on to state that God made man for his glory and then made woman for man, God called the man Adam and the woman Eve. (Holy Piby) Both of the sacred texts also agree that God rested on the seventh day and said that men should also use the seventh day as a day of rest. Third Similarity-Worship Practices: Christian worship centers on meetings or services held on Sunday.

These services consist of Biblical readings, communion, and music either with or without instrumental accompaniment, prayer, a teaching from the Bible in the form of a sermon and a collection of tithes. Other forms of worship, such as individual meditation, prayer and study or small group prayer complement regular public worship (History of Christianity). Rastafarian ritual observances are largely based on the Old Testament. In their worship services Rastafarians, similar to Christian’s sermons, recite biblical passages and discuss their “reasonings” or understandings of them. The smoking of marijuana is essential to these sessions.

Marijuana is described by Rastafarians as the mystical body and blood of “Jesus. ” It enhances enlightenment and serves to bring him closer to God. In part Rastafarian religious services do not conform to the scheduled nature of religious services most Americans are used to. However Rasta religious services, including the use of ganja, (marijuana), do conform to specific rules and doctrines. The ganja pipes, for example, are considered to be holy objects (Norgren, Nanda, 142). Fourth Similarity-Rituals: Beginning in the 4th century Christians’ had their babies baptized as soon as possible after birth.

This ritual began when many believed that infants who died before being baptized would not enter heaven. For most Christians baptism has become the means by which a baby becomes a member of the church. After the baptism, the priest holds the child up and says: -‘The servant of God (giving the child its name) is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen (Keene, 90). Similar to the Christian baptism, when a child is born into the Rastafari tradition he or she is blessed by the elders in the community. This ritual usually includes a session of drumming, chanting and prayer, at which time hild is named and given over to God (Rastafari). Another similar ritual in these religions is the observance of the birthdays of each religion’s Messiah. Christian’s celebration of Christmas for Jesus’ birthday, Rastafaris’ celebrate Selassie’s birthday on July 23rd of each year. Fifth Similarity-Belief about Human Soul: Rastafarians and Christians both believe that humans have a soul that does not die but either goes to or awaits final judgement. Rastafarians believe that the human soul does not die but at the time of death the soul goes to judgement and is sent to heaven or hell (Chevannes, 28).

Christians believe that although the body dies, the soul of both the believer and the unbeliever continues to live. Believers await the consummation of their redemption with the resurrection and glorification of their bodies, while the unbelievers await the eternal judgement of God (Sproul, 134). Sixth Similarity-Leadership Structure: Rastafarian meetings, called ‘groundations’ (a compound of ‘ground’ and ‘foundations’), almost always entail the use of ganja, (marijuana), which is held to be calming and conducive to cool reasoning.

Such meetings are democratic, free debate is encouraged, and one may agree or disagree with the outcome. These meetings are one of the few times that leadership is seen in the Rastafarian movement. A ‘leading brother’-sometimes known as a ‘brother priest’-presides over them and he is assisted by a chaplain. Below the priest and chaplain are the ‘recording secretary’ and the treasurer. Sergeants at arms guard the meeting. The meetings tend to be male dominated, with little – if any – place for women, who may at most be assigned the role of ‘leader of songs’ (Chryssides, 276-77).

In Christianity we also see the same type of leadership structure with the priest, deacon, and elders who all have different parts in leading the church services. Although these two religions appear to be very different at first glance, taking a closer look, we see they are similar in several aspects including: perception of the divine reality, the creation of the world, rituals, belief about the human soul, as well as their leadership structure. Works Cited Chevannes, Barry. Rastafari: roots and ideology. New York: Syracuse UP,1994. Chryssides, George D. Exploring New Religions. New York: Continuum, 1999.

History of Christianity: fact based faith. All about religion. 02 Nov 2010. http://www. allaboutreligion. org/history-of-christianity. htm Holy Bible. Colorado Springs: International Bible Society, 1994. Holy Piby. 2006. ??? Keene, Michael. The Christian Experience. Cheltenham: Thornes, 1995. Norgren, Jill and Serina, Nanda. American Cultural: Pluralism and Law. Ed. 3 Westport: Praeger, 2006. Rastafari. Religion Facts: just the facts on religion. Ed. 02 Aug 2010. http://www. religionfacts. com/a-z-religion-index/rastafarianism. htm Sproul, R. C. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. New York: Nelson Inc, 1992.


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