Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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May 11, 2013

GLOBAL FAITHS: Rastafari faithful believe Ethiopian emperor is the Messiah


With a few possible exceptions, Rastas do not use houses of worship. They do, however, have gatherings, and these are marked by the smoking of “ganja,” marijuana, which is practically a sacrament with them.

They justify this by citing biblical texts such as Genesis 1:29, where God says, “I have given you every herb-bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth.” Or Psalm:104:14, “He [God] causeth the grass to grow for cattle, and herb for the service of man.”

As for the dreadlocks, they invoke a biblical text such as Numbers 6:5, “… There shall no razor come upon his head…. He shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow,” even though this text refers to the Nazirite vow in ancient Israel.

As for diet, Rastas avoid shellfish and pork. Some, in fact, are vegetarian because meat is associated with the death of animals. Rastas have an eloquent table prayer which I heard when hosting a Rasta for lunch in Kingston in the early 1970s.

Also characteristic of Rastas is their use of “I” instead of “me,” and “I’n I” instead of “we” or “us.” They avoid the objective case because, they say, “I’n I” are subjects, not objects.

The Rasta movement is still around in Jamaica, and followers of this movement can also be found in the United States and Canada as well as in numerous countries of Africa.

Marlin Jeschke is professor emeritus of Philosophy and Religion at Goshen College. He taught at the college for 33 years. In 1968-69, he received a fellowship in Asian Religions to study Islam and Buddhism, spending five months at the Center for the Study of Religions and Harvard Divinity School and then five months traveling in Muslim countries of the Middle East, and Buddhist countries of Southeast Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia) and Japan. He is also the author of several books.

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