Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Rejection of Babylon Through Music

The evolution of reggae has undergone many changes over the course of its existence, yet to this day it embodies some of the same characteristics and elements as it did during the dawn of its birth. The author believes we should not characterize reggae as exclusively protest music or its lyrical matter based solely on the Rastafarian philosophies (109). 

In today’s world I believe people see reggae in another light, a light where the main purpose of reggae is more for protest rather than the ways of the Rastafari. The book states that Rastafarians use reggae as a “medium through which the people are restored to self-awareness…. People learn the truth about the system under which they live…. And which the poor express their frustration with and grievances against the political and cultural guardians of Jamaican society… and their demand for change….” (51). Through these songs, musicians are able to express the ways of the Rastafari, and also ridicule Babylon for it’s political and cultural injustices.  Thus incorporating a fair mix between characteristics of religion and protest. Reggae is often seen as a “musical hand-grenade, to be used against those seen as the oppressors and agents of Babylon” (110), through this the Rastafarians have brought a more philosophical depth and the ideologies that reject the values associated with Western culture.  Reggae that exemplifies the Rastafarian beliefs incorporates protest, but also with powerful messages regarding poverty, unemployment, inequality and the rejection of Babylon. The Rastafarian philosophy is unmistakable in the musical characteristics and the lyrical content of reggae. “Whether or not singers and songwriters are committed Rastas, their lyrics are saturated with the Rastafarian perspectives and clothed in Rastafarian language” (111). 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Exodus, Movement of Jah People

I found the way of life of these particular Rastafarians very interesting. The code of conduct in which they live their lives is completely different than any western style of living, which is exactly what they are trying to achieve. They are trying to achieve complete separation from Babylon (Western culture). In doing so, they are in a remote location in the mountains of Jamaica, and live a very simple lifestyle without the use of unnecessary materialistic goods and other luxury goods such as the use of running water. What also stood out in the video that I had noticed in the reading was the relationship the Rastafarians have to the colors of the Ethiopian flag. These colors are seen on the shanti’s that they live in, thus symbolizing the their connection with Ethiopia.

After viewing the video on the Rastafarian Boboshanti’s and their way of life, I began to realize how closely the Rastafarians follow the demise of Babylon, which is a characteristic of Rastafarians seen in our book. They are trying to free themselves from the western way of life, "Babylon is the primary symbol for the interpretation and assessment of the colonial establishment" (50).  They closely associate evil with Babylon, which can be seen on the hand painted signs in the video, "righteousness over evil", and  "good over evil". Another central theme I had noticed between the two cultures was their will to reach the promise land through the means of an exodus. This exodus seems to be a staple in the Rastafarian culture; this theme can be seen in the meaning of Bob Marley’s song Exodus. In this song, he constantly refers to exodus as the movement of Jah people, once again reflecting their will to seek some sort of religious freedom to Ethiopia, the promise land. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Solomon's Great Influence

After reading the Kabra Negast through, I began to notice more and more themes that are present in the Bible, a lot of which have to do with King Solomon.  Such themes that are stressed throughout the text are wisdom and Solomon’s code of ethics. Like the Bible, wisdom is idealized and brings knowledge, morality and ethics; all of which are seen and also idealized in the Kabra Negast. After studying this texts, I began to realize this texts serves more as a form of propaganda that is indoctrinating Christianity into other cultures through a text that is so similar to the Bible.
     The structure of the text is similar to the Bible by the use of short stories possessing individual meanings and connecting back to an overarching meaning. Another observation I made from the two texts was Solomon’s divine power he had been given by God through a vision. In this vision God offers to grant Solomon whatever he asks, Solomon then asks God for wisdom. With this, Solomon will become one of the greatest political powers of his time. Thus reflecting Israel’s pinnacle point of power.  This position seems to have an effect on less politically strong powers such as Ethiopia, for instance the influence of Christianity on Ethiopia via. Israel. This transformation can be seen during the Queen of Sheba’s change from polytheistic gods to a monotheistic god (God of Israel). King Solomon’s influence of wisdom also wears off onto the Queen of Sheba, one can see the principals of a previous culture beginning to change and transform to a more “ordered” culture. “I am smitten with love of wisdom and I am constrained by the chords of understanding; for wisdom is far better than treasure of gold and silver”.
        After King Solomon impregnates the Queen of Sheba, their son is born and eventually brings the Arc of the Covenant back to Ethiopia from his trip to Jerusalem where he finally meets his father. During this, their son Menyelek serves as the bearer for the Christian texts to come into Ethiopia.  Once again this strengthens the point of this text having hints of propaganda that strengthen Christianity’s influence on Ethiopia.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is Religion a Good Mix For Our Country?

Is Religion and politics a destructive mixture for our Country? Many people believe religion should not be associated with any form of politics, and others believe our current political situation is doing just fine. At the moment, I am very partial between the two; on one hand I believe religion adds to the “culture wars” and causes Americans to see each other as different people, causing resentment for the other side. And on the other hand, I believe government should be left alone, and keep the foundation of our country with the same intent the founding fathers had in mind.
            I think religion is dividing this country apart, the positions liberals and conservatives have is the main culprit behind this division. In general, liberals feel conservatives are trying to implement their religious principles, turning our Country into a form of theocracy. While conservatives feel liberals are trying to abolish God from the public domain, thus imposing atheist views on this country. These issues of religion and faith are difficult to settle because they only drive both sides further and further apart. But at the same time, politics and religion are not essentially a destructive mixture. I personally believe the presence of religion in our current political system should not be touched. In several examples that include religious associations such as “in god we trust” found on our currency or “one nation under God” heard in the pledge of allegiance does not specify any one religion, but addresses religion in a general matter, by “God”.  I believe these associations enforce our freedoms we have in America and our right to practice whatever we please. 

More information regarding this topic can be found here: Understanding the Problems with Religion

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thinking Critically

Saint Augustine’s On Christian Teaching and J. Todd Billings’ How to Read the Bible, share shockingly similar views and themes as each other. It’s odd that these two texts written millennia apart from each other share such similar views. For one, the theme that really stood out that the two writings had in common was their criticism for Christians reading the Bible and interpreting it for themselves.
A common theme that these texts share relating to the interpretation of the Bible can be seen towards the beginning of Billings’ article when he writes about biblical books that “can help Christians see implications of their faith for various aspects of life, but they can often communicate that the Bible is the authoritative answer book to felt needs and problems.” When interpreting texts such as the Bible, individuals often take direct teachings literally from the Bible and fail to ask questions or look beyond the teachings. People sometimes fail to think critically, they take the Bible for that it is worth and automatically assume this book is the book of life, no questions need to be raised because it is dubbed to know everything. A similar theme is seen in Saint Augustine’s On Christian Teaching, Augustine criticizes individuals for reading the Bible for what it is worth, by “reading it, men seek noting more than to find out the thought and will of those by whom it was written, and through these to find out the will of God, in accordance with which they believe these men to have spoken”. 
Billings also believes Christians in todays world cannot rightly understand God’s word because they are not scholars themselves. People seem to have become accustomed with what is in front of them and fail to raise questions for themselves, but not to derive an entirely separate meaning like what can commonly seen in other cultures across the world. All reading is supposed to challenge your ability to think critically, especially in a religious text such as the Bible. However, Billings thinks a way round misinterpreting the Bible is through the, “Historical reconstruction behind and within the biblical text is a central way to avoid idolatrous and unfaithful biblical interpretations”.
I think the philosophy of reading the Bible is represented truthfully in these two readings. I think both authors are right in saying people are not reading the Bible critically. What astounds me most is that these two scholars, separated by millennia have such similar thoughts on the Bible.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Credibility of Religion

Religion can be vigorously disputed and quite often turns into heated debates, not only can taking on this debate be discouraging for people, but quite often can be very repulsive. Because the topic is very touchy, there have become countless definitions of what the Ideology of religion is. From what I have seen, most definitions have hints of bias within them. From the definitions I have seen, most are not concise. We need to agree on a definition that encumbers moral code, human affairs, meaning, god or gods, existence and other key elements of religion. I think people are afraid to tackle this subject because of its political background and other touchy subjects such as war, ridicule and harsh criticism. People are often cynical by religion because of the hatred and violence committed in its name and can often be attributed by the conflicts and offenses that have occurred as a result of religion. Over countless wars and violence since the dawn of religion, religion and its teachings seemed to have lost a fair portion of their credibility. Just about every war has stemmed from religion in one way or another. In no way am I hinting that religion should be abolished, like Richard Dawkins, but I think a more concise definition that includes a broader array of elements that all religions share would break some of the religious tensions we see today. I am not saying this is possible, but religion is a necessity for our daily lives and it fundamentally affects everyone. The existence of religion is existential in our lives and preserves ethics and personal meaning, which is fundamental in life. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

From Two Different Culture's Come a Similar Belief

Many elements found in Israelite and Egyptian mythology seem strikingly different from one another, for instance in Egyptian traditions, their faith is polytheistic, believing in many gods. In the Hebrew/Israelite tradition Yahweh is the only god, he is the almighty and all knowing. Coming from two different backgrounds, Psalm 104 and the Hymn to the Aton show closely related themes and ideas. These two religious passages deal mostly with harvest, fertility and life, giving thanks to the almighty for his generosity. Psalm 104 reads, “He waters mountains from His lofts, from the fruit of Your works the earth is sated. He makes the hay sprout for cattle, grass for the labor of humankind to bring forth bread from the earth….” (13-14).  Passages 13-14 directly relates to the Hymn to the Aton from passage five, “the entire land performs its work: all the flocks are content with their fodder, and trees and plants grow, birds fly to their nests….  everything which flies up and alights, they live when you raise for them (5-6).  Both examples of these passages show clear evidence that god bringing a new day was highly stressed as being important for their society as well as everything that goes with that. I think these two examples stress a common theme found in many religions today, I am sure there are other examples from religious texts that show common themes to these two texts. However, the comparisons of these two deities are also very important, in Israelite beliefs; Yahweh is spoken of as a supernatural being, while Aton is more of a presence, as he is the sun.  This reflects monotheism vs. polytheism, while Yahweh is the god of everything, and Aton is the sun god, he too is the most powerful god, however in Egyptian beliefs there are over 2000 gods. This shows that Egyptians were closely connected with nature and their surroundings. Versus in Israelite beliefs, this characteristic is not as present as it is shown in Egyptian beliefs.