I Was a Rastafarian
MY HAIR was long and my eyes had a dirty reddish color from smoking marijuana. I had no use for such things as a hair comb, paper plates or cups, not even for the name given me by my parents! ‘But why reject such practical and useful things,’ you ask? Because I was a Rastafarian. Rastafarianism is a religious movement native to the island of Jamaica. Let me explain how I became a Rastafarian and what they believe.
It all started one day when I was sitting under a tree reading my Bible and smoking a ganja (marijuana) cigar. A Rastafarian approached and joined me in smoking. As we engaged in conversation, he stressed that there was a way for man to keep on living without dying. I wanted to hear more. So he shared basic Rastafarian beliefs with me.
Later I learned that there are different groups of Rastafarians, each with its own ideas. But basically they all agree on one thing—that the late emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, that he was the King of kings and Lord of lords and the conquering “Lion that is of the tribe of Judah.”—Revelation 5:5.
My tutor associated with the Rastafarian group that called itself Creation Heights, so I began to associate with that group too. We viewed ourselves as part of creation—just as the animals and plants are. Lightning, thunder, and other natural phenomena were viewed by us with reverence and awe—as though God were speaking.
We refused to eat meat, fish, or anything of that sort, the idea being that these things die and rot, and so would those who eat them. On the other hand, vegetables, such as spinach, keep growing after their stalks are cut. So those who feed on such things have the potential for everlasting life, we thought. Only if a person committed some grievous sin would he experience death.
My group saw the white man as part of creation but inferior to the black man, who is ‘lord of creation.’ However, some Rastafarian groups deeply hate the white man due to the evils of the slave trade and the murder, rape, and ill-treatment of black slaves by whites. Such Rastafarians believe that the enslaving of blacks must be avenged by revolution and bloodshed, and eventually all black people must return to their homeland in Africa, from which they were taken without their consent.
The philosophy that I embraced was to me a simple one. There is no leader except the “divine” Haile Selassie, whose precoronation name was Ras Tafari (hence the name Rastafarian). My goal in life was to have the correct view of creation and the knowledge that I am God’s son. It was to use to the maximum only what God had created and to the minimum what man has produced. That is why I had no use for a hair comb—it was made by man. So I allowed my hair to grow just as the trees grow leaves.
By the same reasoning, I did not use plates or cups—cleaned-out gourds replaced them. Things made of paper were also disposed of, and this included the Bible. I believed that the things made by God were mine and were free, regardless of who possessed or controlled them. Thus, the crops of others really belonged to me, I thought. Those who claimed possession and placed a price on them had no right to do so.
A Language Barrier
My new way of life created a language barrier with non-Rastafarians. As far as we were concerned, even the names given us by our parents should be rejected as products of the industrialized world. Thus the personal pronoun “I” took on special meaning. God was the first “I” and each Rastafarian was also “I.” To differentiate one person from another, adjectives describing size, height, and so forth, were attached to “I.” Thus, because I was small in body size, I was called “small I.” Even the names of food items were changed by substituting the letter “i.” So “banana” became “ianana.”
The English language was changed by us in other ways too. For example, from our point of view one cannot “come back,” meaning return, as it is impossible to backtrack time. So “coming back” became “coming forward.” Words also were changed to conform to our thinking. “Oppressor” became “down-pressor,” because “up,” the sound of the first syllable, implies something good, elevating, whereas “down” would conform to the meaning of oppressor. Eventually, with this type of indoctrination, I could hardly speak even the simplest sentence in standard English, even though I had spent five years at Cornwall College in the town of Montego Bay!
This new philosophy put me at odds with my parents because I became disrespectful and cursed them in the foulest of language. My appearance and conduct were bringing reproach on the family. Finally, my father told me I had to leave home. So I packed a few belongings and left to pursue the way of life I felt sure would truly satisfy me.
Gathering the ‘Fruits of Creation’
Thereafter, I became a heavy smoker of marijuana. Under its influence I dismissed the cares of life. I would sit and meditate until I felt as if I were merged with the natural surroundings, becoming a part of creation. The desire to sit and meditate led to laziness. I gave up my job as a musician so as to spend more time in the hills to commune with God; there I shared a hut with two other Rastafarians.
As time passed, money began to run low. So we began to collect some of our “Father’s creation” from the people who, according to our beliefs, had improperly claimed and put a price on it. Thus at night we raided nearby farms. These raids were reported to the police, and we and the police became sworn enemies. We saw them as foes who wanted to chase us off “creation.” In the daytime they would surround our hut, shoot at us, beat us, and warn us to get out of town. But at night it was different—we took the offensive to gather the ‘fruits of creation.’
On one occasion I was arrested and charged with kidnapping but was later freed. This emboldened me and made me more confident that I was a ‘son of God.’ However, I was arrested a second time on five different charges—robbery with aggravation, common assault, possessing stolen goods, possession of ganja, and driving a defective vehicle.
This time it seemed that God had forgotten me, for I was severely beaten by the police and was put in jail for three months without bail. In time I was brought to trial. But many influential people who knew me pleaded for leniency on my behalf, and that saved me from prison. However, a couple of close Rastafarian companions were less fortunate. One was sentenced to four years at hard labor, and another was placed under restriction to remain in his home district at all times. Later, two other fellow Rastafarians were found dead, tied up in crocus bags; apparently they had got involved with foreign drug traffickers.
Questioning My Beliefs
These troubles caused me to wonder whether my beliefs were right. Added to this, some of my fellow Rastafarians came up with a new idea—they were no longer sons of God, but each was God himself. I refused to accept that. This and other disagreements bred strife among us. So finally I decided to return home—but I was still a Rastafarian in my thinking. I kept in touch, on and off, with fellow Rastafarians.
Now I desired to talk to someone, but non-Rastafarians could not understand my language. I recalled the comfort I once got from reading the Bible, so I began reading it again. As I read, I came across scriptures that set me to thinking. For example, in Psalm 1:1, I read: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.” (King James Version) I saw my Rastafarian companions as “ungodly” because of their new claim to godship. Also, in 1 Corinthians 11:14, I read: “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” But I had long hair.
Gradually I began to question my beliefs still more. A desire began to grow in me to worship the true God, in the right way. I became convinced that Rastafarianism had failed to satisfy my needs: my need for a clear understanding of who the Creator is, my need for a sure basis for everlasting life, my need for a genuine brotherhood based on love and understanding, and my need to understand the reason for the inequities of the world’s social system.
Finding Satisfying Answers
However, I did not know where to turn for real satisfaction. Sometimes I would sit and cry for help, begging the Creator, whoever he was, to come to my assistance. Then one day two of Jehovah’s Witnesses called at my parents’ home and began talking about the Bible. I did not pay much attention until mention was made of Armageddon.
“I know all about that,” I told them. “And I’ll live to witness it.”
“Do you believe in being a witness for Jehovah?” one of them asked.
“Who is Jehovah?”
With that, he promptly turned to Psalm 83:18, which reads: “That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”
For the first time the name Jehovah’s Witnesses had meaning to me. I had formerly dismissed the Witnesses as just another church society, all of which I had written off as false. But now I gladly accepted the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life from them. I started reading it immediately.
The chapter “Who Is God?” interested me very much. I can remember sitting and repeating the name “Jehovah” over and over again out loud, just like a baby learning a new word. In time, my need to know who the true God is was satisfied.
Then the chapter “Righteous Rule Makes Earth a Paradise” satisfied the need I felt for a righteous, equitable system of things on earth. How thankful I was to learn that soon the whole earth will become a paradise with a clean, unpolluted atmosphere! And I was thrilled at the prospect of living forever with no need to migrate to some isolated hills to get away from wicked civilization!—Psalm 37:9-11, 29; Luke 23:43; Revelation 11:18.
Thus I came to the conclusion that the course I had chosen as a path to worship God was unsatisfactory. So I asked one of my relatives to cut my long hair, and I began to sever all ties with my Rastafarian associates. But this was not easy. They viewed me as a traitor and threatened to kill me. However, that did not deter me. I felt that nothing could stop me from studying the Bible, for I had found something that truly satisfied my needs.
After cleaning myself up I found my way to the local Kingdom Hall. Shortly afterward, a pioneer (a full-time preacher of Jehovah’s Witnesses) arranged to study the Bible with me regularly. He was very kind and patient. He had to be. At times he couldn’t even understand me because of my Rastafarian vocabulary!
Having found the truth that satisfied my spiritual needs, I felt obligated to share this good news with my parents. My mother responded favorably and was soon attending the meetings at the Kingdom Hall with me. My father, too, was quite impressed by the change in my appearance and personality. About six months after I began studying, I dedicated my life to serve Jehovah God and was baptized. I had the added joy of seeing my mother get baptized a few months after me.
When I think back and realize that two of my close Rastafarian companions were murdered and others are still in prison, I am thankful to Jehovah that today I serve him! Sharing the truth of God’s Word with others and associating with loving Christian brothers and sisters have indeed given me a happy, satisfying way of life now. In addition, I have the wonderful hope of everlasting life in a righteous New Order in which all mankind’s needs will be forever satisfied. (Psalm 145:16)—Contributed.
[Blurb on page 15]
I believed that the things made by God were mine and were free, regardless of who possessed them
[Blurb on page 17]
I was thrilled at the prospect of living forever