As we approach the Winter Solstice season, many people across the world are preparing to celebrate events relating to their religious and cultural socialization. Christians in the West and the East will celebrate Christmas on December 25th and January 7th respectively. Some Africans, African Americans and Africans from across the Diaspora will celebrate Kwanzaa, and a variety of people, including indigenous Americans, Asians and Europeans will host events consistent with their traditional cultures. This article presents a perspective on Ras Tafari relations with Western and Ethiopian Christmas, an interpretation on Emperor Haile Selassie I’s 1937 Christmas message to Americans, and some general comments on the icons, and social labels of religion within the Western paradigm.
Most of us have experienced the polarization between persons supporting a religion or a religious denomination and those opposed to same. This polarization is true for religions and religious practitioners, period. It has also led to multiple conflicts across the globe in the name of religion or against specific religious groups.
Unfortunately, religious dogma and images were forcefully imposed on, and continue to dominate the consciousness of Africans in the West and on the African continent. Most people have become mortally committed to religious indoctrination, and perhaps, rightly so. Still, it is important to accept certain facts, reconcile those facts with our lived experiences, and bring some additional critical analysis to the discourse, especially in the context of the ‘Christmas’ season, Ethiopia, Ras Tafari and His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I.
In 1937 Emperor Haile Selassie I sent a Christmas message to the American people. This message provided some context on the Ethiopian cultural practice of Gena, and the religious meaning of Christmas to the Ethiopian people. The message is also used by some Ras Tafari adherents to sanction the belief in Jesus Christ. Others simply avoid the topic because of lack of knowledge, or lack of clarity.
His Majesty sent the 1937 Greeting to the American people during the Winter Solstice, and specifically within the cultural timing of “Christmas” [The Western Christian celebrations of the life of Eyesus/Yeshua/Jesus]. Of note, Ethiopia, a Christian nation, also celebrate the birth of Eyesus Christos on January 7.
The Emperor’s message was sent shortly after Malaku Bayen, an Ethiopian Commissioner and blood relative of the Emperor established the Ethiopian World Federation (EWF). The organization was established in 1937, to centralize financial support for Ethiopia’s War efforts against Italian aggression. It should be also noted that many of the pioneering Elders of Ras Tafari were members of the EWF. EWF was also, the initial vehicle used for enfranchising Ras Tafari repatriation efforts to Shashamene, Ethiopia.
It is important to note that the different dates of celebrating the Christmas event, as with New Year, Easter, etc., between the Ethiopian and American/Western religious institutions are impacted by space, time, culture and cultural symbolisms. Proof of this argument is quite simple. If the birthdate of Eyesus Christos was a historical fact, there could not be more than one correct date. The religious icon[Eyesus Christos], narratives concerning the icon, and dates relating to the icon are therefore, more symbolic than empirical, and should be accepted as such. However, the messages, and the lessons from the narratives transcends religion. They are eternal.
The truth is, most of the current religious icons and deities within religious movements, including Ethiopia, are components of cultural continuities from the early constructions of religions. These cultural continuities have long existed and continue to exist within groups of self-determined nations and peoples. Like religion, calendars and dates are creations of self-determined peoples within and connected to specific geographical, cultural and political spaces.
While religion, religious dates, and religious icons are all important, they have no bearing on MAN’s mortal soul or MAN’s future destiny.
Addressing the Children and Grandchildren of Kush
The religious paradigms and entities in which people of African descent were socialized assisted in the Western construction of Race and race-based slavery. They also, created the narratives and images of white supremacy.
African Americans and Americans in general were socialized in several religious denominations including Roman Catholicism, Episcopalian/Anglicanism and other 16th century and post 16th century Reformation movements. Their socialization initially occurred outside of the normal paradigms of religious construction – meaning, a lack of self-determination. For African Americans their spirituality and expressions of religion were brutally repressed, and they were forced into accepting Eurocentric, and in some cases, Arabian representations of religion. This has led, in part, to the current state of mindlessness and spiritual confusion among the people, including some Ras Tafari adherents.
The loss of culture, including identity, language and spirituality has severely diminished the relation that individuals and communities have with themselves. It also stunted the progression of self-determination among African peoples. However, honest evaluations of the realities of conquered peoples should lead to the conclusion that most are currently on a self-created rehabilitative trajectory unique to the spaces of their evolution.
Unfortunately, most will NOT recover some unique aspects of their cultural past, and for a variety of reasons most do NOT want to. Their recreated spiritual and socio-cultural objects and subjects have given them hope and comfort to cope with the turmoil of this earthly journey. However, those creations only facilitate the journey, they do not change the individual or collective destinies of the people.
Self-determination: Being Ras Tafari
As aspirants of self-determination and the higher self, Ras Tafari rejected most Eurocentric religious impositions, especially the images, icons, and modalities of worship. For its creation, the Ras Tafari Movement used historical and contemporary facts, took the elements of goodness from established religions, including Western Christianity, and recreated its own narrative. Ras Tafari also found its spiritual mecca, and its icons for reverence, adoration and worship. More importantly, the Movement accepted Emperor Haile Selassie I as its Divine leader and used Jah Ras Tafari as one of its salutations to the Divine.
With knowledge and acceptance of the above, we can contextualize the 1937 Christmas message sent to Americans by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I.
A critical examination of the Divine person and of the social and geopolitical realities of the era leads to the reasons for His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I’s message, and why there was no deviation from, or condemnation of the Western model of Christmas celebration.
First, it is antithetical to the Divine to be overly concerned with the nuances of religion. Therefore, in sending his message to the people and government of America, His Majesty empathized with the social orientation of the people.
Secondly, JAH would never insult the religion of others, especially people whose written intent and organizational efforts were aimed at empowering positive developments for themselves, goodness to others, and to assist justice (militarily, monetarily and politically) on behalf of his people and nation. (This was accomplished through the EWF)
Thirdly, it is prudent to recognize the less than subtle rebuke that the Emperor offered in his remarks to the American establishment and the governments of the West. He stated the following:
“Shame on those of us who are Christians and do not follow the way of the Savior of the World, whose life was filled with kindness, humility, and martyrdom! If we lived by the laws he gave us and were worthy of being called Christian, peace would have reigned on this earth.
...Men were supposed to be the equals of the living angels who unceasingly sang praises the eternal God. Had this been so, peoples of the world would not have been divided along lines of enmity.
The Emperor’s words were a clear rebuke to the hypocrisy of Western Christianity, with its glut for materialism and control over the resources of the world, its inhumanity, and its discriminatory practices against the Ethiopian race. His use of the title, “Savior of the World” speaks to the Biblical narrative on the life of Eyesus Christos, and importantly, the qualities that offers salvation to the world: those of kindness, humility and sacrifice for others.
The other parts of His Majesty’s speech can be interpreted verbatim, or within the context of his divine person and higher intellect: calling all humanity regardless of religious conviction or dogma, to serve the cause of peace, justice, goodness…a greater humanity.
Whether accepting the cultural nuances between religions, or the literal and insinuated codes within the Christmas message, all conscious seekers MUST reconcile their spiritual past with present indoctrinations, and ALL MUST decide on, and move toward our potential future of GOODNESS!
As InI process the implications of condemning Christianity, synchronizing Christianity with other African-centered practices, or, embracing a completely new religious ethos, let us be reminded of these words, also from the mind and mouth of the Divine-His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I, JAH Ras Tafari:
“The temple of the most high begins with the body which houses our life, the essence of our existence. Africans are in bondage today because they approach spirituality through religion provided by foreign invaders and conquerors. We must stop confusing religion and spirituality. Religion is a set of rules, regulations and rituals created by humans, which was supposed to help people grow spiritually. Due to human imperfection religion has become corrupt, political, divisive and a tool for power struggle. Spirituality is not theology or ideology. It is simply a way of life, pure and original as was given by the Most High of Creation. Spirituality is a network linking us to the Most High, the universe, and each other…”
Also, InI must remember that His Majesty sent the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to the West, including Jamaica, Trinidad and the United States, to serve those who needed a physical temple for assembly and for Christian religious worship. But he NEVER condemned other faiths, including the spiritual-cultural movement of Ras Tafari. As the Conquering Lion noted, “Religion is personal.”
Many have been empowered by calling on the multiple names of the Almighty, based on their cultural orientation and spiritual socialization. Some say YAHWEH, Jesus, El Shaddai, Elohim, Hare Krishna, Allah, Buddha, etc.
While they trust in the icons of their faith, InI should NEVER stop hailing Emperor Haile Selassie I, JAH Ras Tafari as ALMIGHTY Divine, and MUST attest to the power and empowerment in the name of Ras Tafari.
So Iloved Family, let us declare GOODNESS as our religion, and service to our deserving brothers and sisters within the human family as our honor and duty!!!!
Let InI accept spirituality from our higher connections, Ethiopia: That network linking us to the “Most High, the universe, and each other!”
ALL praises to our Majesties, Emperor Haile Selassie I and Empress Menen Asfaw!!!
I am, Your Majesty’s Obedient Servant,