Sunday, July 12, 2009

Changed

Almost 8 years ago, my understanding of God changed.  I sat there at my father's church, in the back row, after playing the piano and realized that I didn't believe in the Blood of Jesus to save.  For a long time before that, I had accepted that there must be more than one way to salvation because I couldn't imagine that all these devout practitioners of other faiths were hell-bound but at that point, I realized that for me personally, Jesus Christ was just not the way.  I felt a lot of guilt and confusion at that realization because Jesus did in fact say, without mincing words, "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one cometh unto the Father but by me."  I knew that no longer believing in salvation through the blood and victory over death because of the resurrection had now set my life on a different course.  I also knew that it would cause a lot of problems in my family--my parents being such serious Christians.  And if you know my father and mother, you know I'm not kidding about how seriously they take their Christianity--sometimes, I will hesitatingly admit, to the detriment of their children.  Anyway . . . 

I sat in church pretending for a few years.  Still played the piano.  Still ended prayers "in Jesus' name".  Kept up appearances for a while.  

In time, I found RastafarI and that spoke to me.  I was moved by the emphasis on going back to the root (Africa).  The words of His Imperial Majesty touched me.  The love expressed for HIM in reggae music profoundly moved me.  And the idea of God being not just someone I read about who existed thousands of years ago, but someone who was just here, who was African was mind-blowing.  I loved the livity of RastafarI.  The discipline.  The modesty as a woman (which I believed saved and ordered my life).  I loved the community and oneness.  The revolutionary stance and the rebelliousness against the wickedness that is Babylon.   The non-conformity.  But even as I embraced RastafarI, I still had some reservations that I tucked neatly away.  I wanted to belong to something bigger than myself.  I had issues fully accepting any human being as God.  It seemed like once the whole Jesus-the-Son-of-God thing had broken up in my mind, it was hard for me to look on anyone as God in flesh.  

Talking to people and reasoning with them, though, I came to find out that in RastafarI, there were so many different interpretations of His Majesty that really you realized that RastafarI is not a dogmatic religion in that sense but more of a philosophy and world view.  Some folks believed in the divinity of Selassie but not that he was the Almighty.  Others believed that Selassie's role was to point folks back to Christ.  Others believed that not only was Selassie pivotal but so was Marcus Garvey and Prince Emmanuel I.  Still others believed that Selassie I was divine but not in a way that we couldn't be.  In other words, Selassie showed us how to be fully human but fully divine, i.e. a physical representation of how it could be done.  This last understanding of Selassie resonated best with me but still felt a little false in my spirit somehow.  You walk out of the RastafarI circle and hear folks speaking of Selassie I sometimes with ridicule and sometimes with admiration and that to me reinforced my understanding of Selassie.  Personally, I never viewed Selassie as the full sum total of the Almighty Jah--just a part.  

So life moves on and I am trodding RastafarI much to my parent's dismay (and actually, you could say that I was disowned for a while there).  I'm comfortable in the livity and kind of reached a place of equilibrium in the whole "Who is God?  Who is Selassie I?" question.

Until about 2 years ago.  I don't know what happened.  Just one day I realized that my understanding had changed again.  Almost completely.  I'll save that discussion for a next post but I'm just at a place right now where I'm like, "whoa".  Is this what your 20s are all about?  So many drastic mental changes?  Though I've been happily married almost 6 years now, I totally get why folks recommend waiting.  There's a lot of kinks to work out.  And you don't necessarily want to drag some unsuspecting man (that you love, of course) through the rigmarole.  

I'm amazed sometimes at how my struggles with my hair/scalp have really pushed me along in my spiritual journey and in finding my ultimate path.   When folks say, "It's just hair",  I always balk because for me, it most certainly has not been "just hair". These days there are very few head wraps because I often deal with an inflamed scalp and really wearing a wrap with no hair to support it is . . . wack.  And you will catch me wearing pants from time to time because  . . . well, it's practical.   

In a few days, RastafarI people everywhere will be celebrating the Earthlight of His Majesty.  I want to attend Nyabinghi Ises . . . but how will it feel?  Will I feel like I'm keeping up appearances?  Hypocritical?  Or will it still feel all right?  And if a bredrin or sistren I know happens to read this blog, how will they react?  Would they burn fire?How would I react?  I sometimes want to greet a Rasta person when I see them but since I don't look the part these days, I don't unless I know them personally.  I wonder if it will be awkward one day to run into a bredrin or sistren when I so clearly don't look the part anymore.  At least, I'm happy to say, that while I consider these things, it's not worrying me too much.  It's my only life and I have to live it.  

I'm finding peace somehow where I am.  I'm not completely at peace but I'm on the precipice.  Have you ever felt like finally the pieces might just be falling into place but you don't want to get too excited because you were at this point before and they didn't fall into any kind of place then?  

Photo Courtesy of http://www.concurringopinions.com/archives/2008/01/the_paths_of_co.html

5 comments:

IU said...

I so know how you feel. I am at that point right now. I recently fell away from Christianity and my parents are from Nigeria.

At this point I'm not too eager to jump into any religion. And while I love the focus on nature and Africa in Rastafari, its homophobia and
uber-patriarchal viewpoints are a turnoff and remind me too much of the Abrahamic religions. Also, any religion that believes that it can definitely define "modesty" for everyone (aka women) is pretty arrogant to me.

I digress, I guess when a person first comes out of religion, it's hard to not be bitter.

Anyway I know how you feel and not being contained by one viewpoint is enormously freeing but also scary.

Chi-Chi, The Original Wombman said...

I definitely agree with you about being bitter when you first leave a religion. When I first left Christianity, I was even angry at times at what I felt was the arrogance and pomposity of Christians. I've since come to realize that Christians are not all one and the same.

You know, on paper RastafarI is all those things that you've described it as. But in practice, living the RastafarI livity, you come to find that RastafarI people hold many different ideas and positions and are as varied in their beliefs as any other group of people. I found that it was actually difficult for me in a way because I often wanted someone to say to me "this is how you do this" but oftentimes, it was very loose and free and folks just do what is in their heart according to what they think Jah has led them to do. Sorry if it sounds like I'm defending RastafarI but there are a lot of misconceptions and flat out lies out there. Not that how you see it is a lie but it's important to know that RastafarI tradition is not black and white.

But I totally agree . . . finally deciding to be unlabelled is very freeing but can be intimidating at times!

IU said...

thanks for clearing up some things about Rastafari.
And although some Christians might not be arrogant, Christianity definitely is. Very, very few denominations of Christianity will even consider the idea that Jesus is not the only way.

Smokie said...

Very interesting read.

I agree that we change very much in our 20s. I can't say that I've ever felt uncertain about my faith (Christianity), but I was a completely different person in my 20s for the most part than I am now.

Peace be unto you. :-)

navelgazingbajan said...

I can identify with you about the changes that come about in your twenties. In fact, I think I agree with Octavia Butler's protagonist in "Parable of the Sower" and "Parable of the Talents" when she says that God is change - in that really change is the only constant in life.

My mother is Rastafari and has been since I was about 7 years old (I'm 29 now). I think in those years even she has evolved in the way she thinks about and practices Rastafari.

Don't worry about your hair. It is only one expression of Rasta not the sum. Like Morgan Heritage sings, "You don't ha fi dread to be Rasta. This is not a dreadlocks thing, divine conception of the heart."

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