The pendulum is swinging
And I thought sport was the religion of New Zealand. I guess
whatever you do religiously -– could be seen as your religion.
I have numerous friends who smoke marijuana habitually. For
most of them it's an addiction -– for a few of them it's a religion and
an addiction...but as could be expected, in discussions on the topic, they only
ever refer to the religion side of things. The honest ones speak of escaping.
In our New Zealand Parliament we have a real mix of
representation amongst our role model leaders (role modelling is a most popular
concept at the moment -– I wonder what it means), including a women who is
actually a man, and a marijuana-smoking Rastafarian (Rastafarianism is a
recognised religion in NZ) - fully equipped with dreadlocks. The latter
advocates that 'smoking is alright if you do it to bring you closer to God'.
No doubt other members of our Parliament 'smoke' as well, nothing to do with
God, it just happens to be a growth trend in this country and many others.
Of course the debate over whether smoking pot is good or bad
goes beyond discussion around religious or recreational preference. There is a
social impact to look at, not to mention legal aspects (which our Rastafarian MP
denounces seeing as 'his preference for smoking ganja is for religious
purposes') and the Accident Compensation Commission is interested in how often
drugs are showing up where they shouldn't -– at work: "One in 10 employees
screened for drugs and alcohol at work are testing positive -– more than 90
percent of them in high risk or safety -– critical occupations....such as in
forestry, commercial fishing, mining, manufacturing and transport industries...Of
the drugs tested for, cannabis was the most prevalent, responsible for about 90
per cent of all positive results...an amphetamine such as speed and ecstasy was
also being reflected in positive tests...The figures were consistent with the
level of drug and alcohol in society..."Generally, organisations move to test
staff where there have been accidents or incidents involving machinery operation...'"
The Dominion Post, 16 October 2002.
There are many tragic stories which illustrate the effects of
mind altering substances contributing to needless injury or death. I remember
the sad occurrence (1990) where a 19 year old Auckland man (Thomas Hemi) lost
his life after leaping off a bungy tower at Rainbow's End amusement park. He
had been smoking cannabis with a friend -– who happened to be the jumps
operator, and neither realised that the cord was not properly attached to the
Lets get back to religion: "The history of Rastafarianism
suggests that the prominence it gives to cannabis (or marijuana, or ganja) has
more to do with its early days in Jamaica than any religious impulse, while
describing it as a sacrament is a class piece of rationalisation after the fact.
The faith emerged in the 1920s as a movement of black
empowerment and hope among the destitute of Jamaica. Black nationalist Marcus
Garvey denounced colonial conditioning that caused blacks to feel ashamed of
their African heritage. He called on blacks to abandon the "Babylon" of
oppressive white power structures, return to their ancestral home in Africa, and
regain their self-reliance and pride.
The cause gained a huge symbolic boost when in 1930 Ras
(Prince) Tafari was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia, taking the name of Haile
Selassie, or "Power of the Trinity". He was, incidentally, a devout
Christian whose titles included Protector of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church,
though that detail seems to have eluded those who exalted him as their beacon of
hope. But it contributed to a mix of Egyptian religion, Judaism, Christianity
and black power in which Ras Tafari was hailed as a living manifestation of God,
or "Jah" (from Jehovah).
A potent strain of cannabis grows freely in Jamaica, and its
use was widespread among the poor. Rastafarians validated the practice by
persuading themselves that the colonial system had wrongly inculcated the view
that the "herb" or "wisdom weed" was harmful, and cited a few Old
Testament texts to show it had divine approval.
In the 1611 version of the Bible, for example, Genesis
says: "The earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after its kind...
And God saw that it was good." A psalm says: "He (God) causes the grass to
grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man."
Rastafarians take "herb" to mean ganja. It does not -–
it means "plants", as modern translations of the Bible make clear. But they
cling to their misinterpretation." The Dominion Post, 12 October 2002.
As with all religions (including Christianity) -– leaders
emerge with different teachings and emphases - and of course varying levels of
intensity or commitment to the cause. The trick is to discern whether or
not the teaching is 'Christ and cross centred (the only true cause of
Christianity)' -– or has some other self promoting agenda, just another
Another Rastafarian leader was Leonard Howell who proclaimed
certain principles for adherents including: the fight against Babylon -– the
white political power structure and "I and I" -– a concept of oneness with
God. I think of 1 John 2:6 when I hear about religions which encourage militant
struggles and self exaltation "He that says he abides in Him himself ought so
to walk, even as He walked". Jesus example and the teachings of Rastafarianism
do not line up particularly well.
The Word of God does not mention Haile Selassie, smoking herb
or Jamaican music -– let alone a doctrine of hate for ones oppressors -–
rather it teaches that we should bless those who persecute us, an ability only
made possible through Jesus Christ at work within us. Neither does the "I and
I" teaching work with John 3:30 "He must increase -– but I must decrease".
Acts 4:12 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for
there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved".