From Rasta to Rastafringe
published: Saturday | June 12, 2004
Mark Dawes, Staff Reporter
EVANGELISM TARGETING members of the Rasta community form one of the major articles included in the June 2004 edition of Charisma magazine.
The article penned by Andy Butcher, a senior writer at Charisma, cites a trend in which the Rastafari movement is becoming less focused on the divinity of Emperor Haile Selassie I and is increasingly taking on a New Age character. The magazine dubs the trend 'Rastafringe'.
The Charisma story is seemingly written to give an overview of Rastafari to its overwhelming American readership. The writer seems to argue that Rastafari is increasingly evolving into a hazy spirituality.
To get 'a feel' for the 'Rasta vibe' the author recently attended the 6th Caribbean Reggae Festival held last November at Bicentennial Park in Miami. There he spoke with some in attendance to find out there relationship to Rastafari.
The concert-goers, he described as "The predominantly college-age throng" who "have the same fuzzy spirituality and vague goodwill championed by their babyboomer elders They are laid back rebels with a cause even if they don't know exactly what it is."
The article quotes the Rev. Clinton Chisholm who now serves as Associate Pastor at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in South Florida, as saying that the Rastafringe "fills whatever lifestyle you want to live--There is no pressure on you ethically. It's an umbrella that doesn't put any pressure on you you just love and enjoy your music and do your own thing-- It's significant in that every person who moves towards Rastafari, even if they are not really deep in conviction or commitment, is a harder person to win to Jesus."
Rasta researcher, Professor William Spencer of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is quoted also. He estimates tthat 90 per cent of those in the Rastafringe come from Christian homes and are comfortable with Biblical threads in the movement but not with their former churches focus on moral absolutes.
The writer says "With no central doctrine even among orthodox Rastas, views about such core issues as the divinity of both Selassie and Jesus vary widely and no recognisable structure, Rastafari is hard to gauge definitively. But many researchers say that although the Rastafringe numbers in the millions, at the heart there are probably not many more than a million true believers."
The Rev. Mr. Chisholm observes that with the growing popularity of Rastafringe among young whites, this has the effect of blurring Rastafari as a distinctly black religion. Rastafari, Mr. Butcher, notes, was also distinctive in its formative years as being virtually anti-white.
Despite what the article describes as the growing New Age influence in Rastafari, the magazine points to the Twelve Tribes House of Rasta where it says Selassie is honoured but Jesus is highlighted as the Saviour.
Professor Spencer, who is the author of Dread Jesus and co-editor with Dr. Nathaniel Samuel Murrell, Adrian A. McFarlane, of Chanting Down Babylon: The Rastafari Reader told Charisma that though Rastafari is increasingly gaining a white following and acceptance, the movement is likely to remain at its core - a black identity movement.
He believes the best option for evangelism to Rastas is not to urge them to join up with an evangelical church as "this is not necessarily helpful." Instead, he said "If Rastas become better Rastas, they will follow Haile Selassie, and they will worship his Lord Jesus."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mind&Spirit in its December 16, 2003 edition published a story of an interview done in 1968 with Emperor Haile Selassie I by Dr. Oswald Hoffmann former host of tthe international radio programme 'The Lutheran Hour. Contained in the transcript of the broadcast are seemingly clear expressions by the Emperor of his Christian worldview, including his personal faith in Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world.