Music: Bob Marley

July 25, 2010

Bob Marley was a Rastafarian for most of his life.   Rastafarians share much in common with Christianity. Christianity Today gave an excellent overview of the similarities and differences between Christianity and Rastafarianism a few years ago:

Like Christians, Rastafarians honor Yeshua, the Christ, as worthy of worship. In fact, most Rastas consider themselves uncorrupted Christian people. A large percentage of Rastafarians follow the lead of seminal preacher, Leonard Howell, who referred to Yeshua as “Our Lord” in his foundational book, The Promised Key.

Both movements are fiercely monotheistic. Rastas, like Christians, look to the Bible for divine counsel, keying off the Ten Commandments and Golden Rule to teach respect for God and God’s creation, preservation of life, mercy toward opponents, and moderation and holiness toward money, sex, power.

But significant differences exist.

Two significant figures in Rastafari were Christians. Marcus Garvey, an outspokenly Trinitarian Christian from a Free Methodist background, is deemed a prophet in Rastafari. In the early 1900s, Garvey led a movement to create an Africa homeland for blacks. This encouraged the strong sense of Afrocentrism in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

More significant to Rastafari is Haile Selassie I, a devout Ethiopian Orthodox monarch. Formerly named Ras Tafari Makonnen, before his coronation as the emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie was thought by early Rastafarian preachers to be the Messiah—or God himself. The Oriental Orthodox Churches have declared Haile Selassie a defender of the Christian faith. In 1997 members of one branch of Rasta, The Twelve Tribes of Israel, declared their faith in Christ alone, but still maintain a place for Haile Selassie in biblical prophecy.

So there are some clear differences that should not be whitewashed. Rastafarianism has theological problems.

One very interesting thing about Bob Marley is that he converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church on his deathbed. I have high hopes that I will be able to listen to some live Bob Marley when the dead are raised.

What I love about Bob Marley is how he was able to blend faith and beautiful music in a flawless and natural way. Most of his music is not distinctively Rastafarian and could be sung by Evangelicals with a clear conscious. Let’s look at some examples:

Jah Live is a tribute to Selassie after his death but the words could be sung about Jesus Christ just as easily. Jah is a modification of the biblical word for God, Jehovah.

Here is another one:

The bridge sings: “Holy Messiah, Holy Messiah: Jah Sitteth on Mount Zion and Rules All Creation!”

And then there is ‘Redemption Song’. Which includes this wonderful line: “My hand was made strong by the Hand of the Almighty”:

I encourage anyone that loves good music to listen to more Bob Marley.

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