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What Does the Bible Say About...Rastafarianism?

Is Rastafari a religion or a movement? If it is a religion, can we embrace certain aspects of the movement without getting involved in the religion?

Answer

I am no expert on Rasta. My answer will be based on research I have done, and not on any personal association with or in opposition to Rasta.

Rastas prefer to call it a movement rather than a religion. It is both a religion and a movement. But the movement is so closely related to the religion that it is almost indistinguishable. Important aspects of the religion are the smoking of marijuana, dietary restrictions similar to the Jewish dietary laws (or complete vegetarianism), and a belief that Emperor Haile Selasse was Jesus Christ returned to earth. Essential doctrines of the movement are the legalization of cannabis, black pride, and the idea that all blacks are obligated to work toward the decolonization of Africa and to consider themselves African first and foremost. Generally, though, Rasta demands that its adherents avoid any political action at all, and some even say Rastas should not even vote in elections.

There are many essential differences between the Christianity of the Bible and Rasta that cannot be resolved. A biblical Christian cannot be part of the religious beliefs of Rasta, and would find it difficult to support any non-religious aspects of the movement because even those are tied so closely to the religion. A Christian cannot accept that Haile Selasse was an incarnation of Jesus. Nor can one accept smoking marijuana in violation of local laws.

That said, I must admit that I am white, and therefore not eligible for membership in either the religion or movement of Rasta. My answer is necessarily colored by my ancestry. However, I hope I have presented Rasta fairly and without bias.

My initial research indicated that last paragraph to be true. I have since been told that there are white Rastas. Nevertheless it is accurate to say that my answer is colored by my ancestry and my understanding of the Bible. Other than the statement that being white disqualified me from being Rasta, I hope my answer has been otherwise fair.