Mutabaruka vs King James
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
The December 2011 edition of National Geographic Magazine addressed a book of worldwide significance which is commonplace in the Jamaican society - the King James Bible.
Jamaica, reputedly among the countries with the highest concentration of Christian places of worship in the world, was one of the places the magazine visited, speaking to Rastafarians Miguel Lorne, Evon Youngman and Mutabaruka, the last a well-known poet and broadcaster, on the occasion of 400 years of the King James Bible.
In the article Mutabaruka said, "The first thing that a Rasta was exposed to in this colonial country was this King James Version." He also said, "The Rastas don't believe in the sky god. Their redemption lies within the human character. When the Europeans came and say, 'Jesus in the sky,' the Rasta man reject that totally ... . The man say, 'When you see I, you see God.' There is no God in the sky. Man is God, Africa is the Promised Land."
Speaking on the Bible is nothing new to Mutabaruka, who has had spirited, televised conversations with television personality Ian Boyne on Religious Hard Talk, and last year was invited to the United Theological College of the West Indies to give 'A Rastafari Perspective on the Hebrew Bible'.
National Geographic's interest seems to have come through those previous public stances on the Bible. And Mutabaruka points out that he has not come to his viewpoints recently.
not a mainstream view
"From Rasta wi a talk these ways and these things y'know," he said. "I guess because it is not a mainstream view, a lot of people in Jamaica don't see it as something to contend with. But when yu look outside, out deh, people hear the view, people recognise it," he said, using the phrase 'I an I' as an example, where in some countries it represents a particular spirituality.
"Especially inna Jamaica, views that is not in line, or compatible with the prevailing views in Jamaica, people don't examine it to the level it should be examined, and I think that is what is needed," he said.
He points out that there are things which he used to say, especially on the Cutting Edge radio programme many years ago, which seemed strange to listeners, but which people are now able to verify through their more recent access to the Internet.
Mutabaruka is very familiar with the King James Bible, having read it through twice, initially as part of joining the Twelve Tribes of Israel Rastafarian organisation.
"One of the good things about Gad was that him say you must read the Bible, one chapter a day. So, in reading the Bible one chapter a day, from Genesis One, you will get an understanding. Now, mos' Jamaican people have a Bible, but mos' Jamaican people nuh really read it," he said.
"But them quote it every day. There is certain quotes them a quote that is not even the Bible it a come outta.
"So mos' Jamaican people have a Bible, but when you who read it say something, because them know you is not a Christian, when you quote something in the Bible whe them never read yet, them feel a true you a Rasta why you a seh dat, not knowing yu can show dem inna de Bible," he said.
But there is another issue, he said, that "If a man have a organisation, for example Twelve Tribes, and there is a thousand people in the organisation, if that man tell you fi read the Bible fi find the truth fi yusself, there is no way the thousand people can come out with the same reasoning - unless them get indoctrinated by this same man. So is not a true reflection of you reading the Bible fi fin' truth fi yourself, if 1,000 people read it an' come out with the same interpretation whe di man who tell yu yu mus' read it come out wid."
He found himself on the outside, as "I was one of them who did not come out with that interpretation. That is why I was almost booted out. How I did view it, it never correspond with the normal Twelve Tribes perspective. I get inna trouble fi dat."
So, Mutabaruka said, when he walked away from Twelve Tribes it was as a Rastaman, intent on finding truth for himself, "not the truth someone intend you should find or hope you would find in it".
The Sunday Gleaner asked Mutabaruka if reading the King James Bible is a necessary part of rejecting some of what is in it and he said yes. "Yu start to use intelligence and yu start to use historical references. So yu not just reading it, but reading it and linking it up with anthropological and archaeological findings. And you realise seh myths are things people use to define themselves in given time and spaces. And a lot of it, after examining other books, you realise is myth, but is given to us as reality," he said.
the creation story
He said that there are things that he could not accept as real, given the reality of the situation and reality of life. "Even from the beginning, I could not accept it as a literal thing," Mutabaruka said, speaking to the creation story.
"Given what I know now, given anthropological and archaeological evidence, and even the dating of a stone in its inception, I couldn't go accept seh the Earth was made in six days and then man in one day and woman, as a afterthought, was made from the ribs of a man. Then woman now become the sinister being that brought sin into the world. So we become so patriarchal now, that everything going lead to a nex' woman, which is Mary, 4,000 years after. And then this woman conceive without having sex and bring forth a person who supposedly going save the world," Mutabaruka said.
He says that all these stories from the Hebrew Bible, when one reads them, the historical context must be taken into consideration. Also, politically and culturally, the reason for writing in a particular way must be determined.
So, Mutabaruka said, in dealing with the King James Bible, "is not that we going reject it totally, is that we going seh there must be a nex' meaning other than Christian meaning to something that the Christians never write".
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