ARE JAMAICAN RASTAS DIFFERENT?
‘All religions have been given to mankind by the Recording Angels, who know the spiritual requirements of each class, nation, and race, and have the intelligence to give each a form of worship perfectly suited to its particular need.’ This message perfectly describes the origin of I&I Rastafari faith.
Reading the messages on this Board often shows me a huge difference between Rastafari as practiced in Jamaica and the Rastafari practiced by American-based Rastas. The main difference between the two varieties of Rastafari is that Black Americans on the Board are preoccupied with several issues that do not concern Jamaican Rastas.
First and foremost is the matter of race, or racism. Black American Rastas on this Board are continually discussing racial issues, especially cussing non-Black Rastafari. Indeed, most Black American Rastas on this Board are violently opposed to the fact that the Rastafari philosophy has been embraced by people of non-Black races. I assume this arises from the fact that Black Americans live daily among racism that causes them to have an aggressive attitude to non-Black people.
Jamaican Rastafari have no such problem. The vestiges of white Racism that remain in Jamaica do not affect our daily lives in a similar manner. In fact, leaving aside the rapidly disappearing ‘renta-dread’ phenomenon, Jamaican Rastafari and non-Blacks have an excellent relationship. Rastafari culture is the magnet that draws most people to Jamaica and most visitors of all races and nations seek out encounters with Rastafari as a major objective of their visit. Equally, these encounters are welcomed by Rastafari with dignity and pride because I&I are confident of who we are and what our culture and faith represents to others.
In Jamaica we have Rastas of all races, mixed and pure. There are Jamaican Rastas who are Chinese/African, Euro/African, Indo/African, Arab/African, as well as those Rastas who are near-white AND white. Twelve Tribes was originally the Jamaican mansion for ‘uptown brownings’. In Jamaica, Rasta is about PEACE AND LOVE especially. Whites drawn to Rastafari because of the LOVE are welcomed by the Jamaican Rasta community on the basis of the strength of their faith and the Love in their hearts. Look at Bob and Cindy! Look at their son, Damion Jr. Gong!
Another difference between Jamaican Rastas and Black American Rastas is that our self-knowledge as Africans does not require us to be experts on Egyptian history or the cultural practices of African tribes. In fact, most Jamaican Rastas would be both surprised and ignorant of most of the Afrocentric information posted on this Board. In Jamaica, Africa is discussed as modern political history and current affairs, not only a Repatriation objective.
In Jamaica, Rastafari is practiced as a pathway to God and a higher order of CHRIST-ianity. Unlike Rastas in the USA, Jamaicans become Rasta from being in and around Rastafari expressions in all aspects of daily life. Jamaican Rastafari –from the youngest ghetto youth just sprouting his dreads, to the older Rases gathered around a Kutchie – are mostly to be found discussing the spiritual pathway to Higher Heights, aspects of the Bible, the true Godhood of Selassie I or the righteous lyrics of the latest reggae psalm. Rastafari in Jamaica is practiced as a RELIGION for those seeking Eternal Life.
Rastafari in Jamaica are expected to act as religious people, holy people, people with a divine mission founded in CHRIST-ian principles. Most Jamaicans have had a strictly Christian upbringing in a country which is said to have the most churches per capita, making it easier for I&I to live Rasta as a personal effort to be as Christ-like as Selassie I, I&I example. As the Emperor has said: "Spirituality is not theology or ideology. It is simple a way of life, pure and original as was given by the most high."
From the messages on this Board, I get the idea that most Black American Rastas have developed their Black consciousness in other AfroCentric faiths such as Black Muslims, Five Percenters, Pan Africanists, etc., and therefore bring to Rasta new ideas of Black expression that they feel should be included in Rastafari philosophy and practice because they are ‘Black’ or ‘African’. However, if some of the topics discussed on this Board were to be presented to Jamaican Rastas, such as acceptance of polygamy, there would be a howl of protest because being Rasta in Jamaica is about being CHRISTly, not merely African.
For most Jamaican Rastas, the possibility of emigrating to Africa is remote, especially without the concept of moving in a large group to establish an effective community. For all its problems, Jamaica is still the best place on earth, so the reggae artists who regularly tour Africa still head ‘home’ to Jamaica when their tour is over, rather than using the opportunity to settle in Africa. For Jamaicans, while Repatriation is I&I physical objective, spiritual Repatriation to I&I Heavenly Home is the overmastering desire that motivates I&I daily.
These basic differences between Black American and Jamaican Rastas make it difficult for me to overstand a lot of what goes on in this Message Board. I'd expect to see more discussion about the fundamental reason I&I are Rastas, namely the desire to live the New Christ Life revealed to I&I by Emperor Haile Selassie I. This revelation was emphasized by the Emperor’s gift to the West of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith as a new overstanding of the Christ Life and a new way of worshipping. Blended with the Nyabinghi Tabernacle devotions, this is RASTAFARI as Jamaicans overstand it.
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