Rastafari Road to Orthodoxy

Songs of Freedom: The Rastafari Road to Orthodoxy

In Road to Emmaus journal:

In this engagingly open interview, Michael and Teresa Wilson of St. Mary of Egypt Serbian Orthodox Church in Kansas City, Missouri, talk about their decades as Rastafarians in America and Jamaica, their path to Orthodoxy, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

RTE: How did you become involved with Rastafari?

MICHAEL: For both Teresa and me, it began with Bob Marley and his music in the late ‘70’s. We were 18, 19 years old, and just married. One of the things that really attracted us was that Bob had this wild hair and dressed like a simple man, but in his lyrics he referred to the Bible, which blew our minds. I was from Manhattan, Kansas, and at the time I thought that people who read the Bible and went to church had to wear a suit and tie, had to look and act a certain way. I was even anti-church because of those images. It was a new awakening for me to realize that the Bible was for everyone, everyone in the world, not just the stuffy suit-and-tie people I’d known.

So here comes Bob Marley, with his guitar, his dreadlocks, and smoking herb (marijuana), and it all attracted me. He was a person who was there for the poor, the elderly, the kids, and most of all, he was talking about God. At the time it seemed that he was actually reaching us middle and upper- class white Americans more than black Americans. The people he tried to sing for shunned him.

RTE: Why?

MICHAEL: Because he looked poor and low class. Some black Americans were looking towards education as a way to improve things, but in our neighbor- hood most black people were reach- ing for the gold chains and fancy cars as a way to feel they’d made it. Then came Bob out of the Jamaican ghetto saying, “You don’t need all that. Love your brother, give yourself to God, live simple.” That wasn’t something they wanted to hear. At the time, Teresa and I were trying to break the cycle we’d grown up in – “me first, out of my way.” So, he gave us an image to look up to, and little sayings and words of songs that I later fig- ured out were from the Bible.

MICHAEL: No, we didn’t know him, but we saw him once when he played in Lawrence, Kansas. It was one of the most amazing nights of my life. There was a time during the show when he was a definite rock star, but there was also a time when something higher came over him. He talked about those

We knew some of the first reggae artists that came after Bob Marley. You’d go to their hotel room – they’d have been put up in some fancy hotel by the concert promoters – but the TV would be shoved off into the closet and the Bible out on the table. You wouldn’t see any beer cans, but you’d see food spread out for everyone that came: greens, potatoes, tonic health drinks the Rastas make from roots…. The essential part of their group was the cook, not a guy to go find the girls or the drugs after the concert.

Keep reading: Article link (PDF)

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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