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Blasphemous Homecoming

06/07/2019

Blasphemous Homecoming 

One never expects doctrinal accuracy or biblical faithfulness from the musical wing of the Evangelical Industrial Complex, the America-based caucus designed to extract money from gullible Christians. After all, what does sound theology matter when you’re churning out sappy songs and emotion laden lyrics that tug at the heart strings and open the wallets of the evangelical mass market. 

But to include a blatant blasphemy in a supposedly ‘Christian’ album must reach a new low, even by contemporary music standards.

Recently while searching for the words of a song to use as an illustration for a talk. I came across the Gaither’s ‘Israel Homecoming’ on iTunes.  One of the tracks on the album is ‘Rivers of Babylon’ a song made widely popular by Bony  M in the 1970’s.  Here’s the lyrics, as Boney M sang them:

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
Yeah we wept, when we remembered zion
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
Yeah we wept, when we remembered zion

When the wicked
Carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
Now how shall we sing the lord’s song in a strange land
Let the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart
Be acceptable in thy sight here tonight.

The Origins of the Song.

The Lyrics are roughly based on the words of two psalms:

Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

Psalm 137:1-4 By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. 2 We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. 3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, And those who plundered us requested mirth, Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song In a foreign land?

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Willow Trees of Babylon

So, you can imagine how surprised I was to find that the Gaithers had substituted the words of Boney M, (and ultimately the words of the sacred scripture itself) with this:-

When the wicked
Carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
Now how shall we sing King Alpha’s song in a strange land

It disturbed me to think that on a ‘Christian’ album, the LORD had been replaced by someone called ‘King Alpha.’  So  who was this mysterious King Alpha, and why has he been inserted into a paraphrase of a psalm?  I began to look for the origins of the song, and a simple Google search was enough to cause me great concern.  The song was originally the work of two Jamaican Rastifarians, Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton, who composed it in 1970, as a propaganda piece to promote their religion and worldview, and was performed by them as part of the raggae group ‘The Melodians.’  For Rastifarians, the the alteration of the Biblical text was deliberate.  King Alpha was/is the ‘code name’ given to the then King of Ethiopia, Heile Selassie (his wife Menan Asfaw was known as Queen Omega).  The Biblical words were changed, in an act of deliberate blasphemy, to equate a human king with the LORD God Almighty.  That was and still is the core of Rastifarian belief.  This West Indian aberration of Christianity is based on the belief that King Heile Sellasie was a re-incarnation of Jesus Christ!

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Jamaican / Rastafarian Flag

WHEN THE GAITHERS SING ‘Now how shall we sing King Alpha’s song in a strange land’ THEY ARE (wittingly or unwittingly) DEFLECTING PRAISE FROM CHRIST TO A MERE MAN, DISTORTING THE WORDS OF THE BIBLICAL TEXT and PERPETUATING THE PAGAN MYTHS OF A FALSE RELIGION.

 

What is Rastifarianism?  

Most of us will have seen people dressed as Rastifarians, with the distinguishing dreadlocks in their hair.

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Rastifarian

There are  around one million Rastafarians around the world, some living in communes, many with very divergent views. The spread of Rastafarian views outside Jamaica was largely due to the music and influence of Bob Marley, whose song lyrics were heavily laden with Rastafarian beliefs.  For some it is just a rebellious fashion statement, like the punk rockers of the eighties.  For others it is a lifestyle. But there is a dangerous ideology underlying the uniquely Jamaican religious system.  Rastifarianism beliefs (Rastology) include:

  • MONOTHEISTIC DEISM.  For the Rasta, God’s name is Jah, and he partially dwells within everyone, – so they are monotheistic in that they believe in only one god, – but although they claim to be ‘Abrahamic’ they are far from orthodox in their understanding of the nature and attributes of God..
  • GOD’S PRESENCE ON EARTH.  Rastas believed that King Heile Selassie was the living incarnation of Jah on earth.  Here’s a Wikipedia entry for this ‘Many Rastas regard HS as an incarnation of Jah on Earth and as the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, another figure whom practitioners revere.’ Other Rastas regard Haile Selassie not as Jah incarnate but as a human prophet who fully recognised the inner divinity in every individual.
  • AFROCENTRIC ESCHATOLOGY.  Rastas often believed that the black West Indians were in ‘Babylon’ – both literally, because they had been transplanted from their native continent (as had the Jews in Babylon) and figuratively – for they believed that they were oppressed by the governmental systems of the west.  So the police would be referred to as ‘Babylon’. Therefore, “By the rivers of Babylon” when ascribed to King Alpha refers to the Rastas living in a repressive society and the longing for freedom, just like the Israelites in captivity. Like the British Israelites sometimes found in extreme dispensationalist groups within evangelicalism, Rastas often identified themselves as being one of the ten ‘lost tribes of Israel.’ For many Rastafarians, Africa is the promised land, and they call for resettlement of the black nations.    Although Heile Selassie died in 1975, some Rastafarians refuse to accept that he is gone forever, and expect that some day he will return to lead his exiled people back to Africa, to establish a new kingdom for them, where the injustices inflicted upon them by white people and the ruling classes will finally be overturned.  Ironic really, given the huge numbers of economic migrants who flee the dark continent every year!
  • THE BIBLE.  Rastafarians read the Bible, but they allegorise the text to fit their Afrocentric narrative.  They are Israel, – the slave traders and slave owners of the past were the Babylonians.  They chant biblical texts, and Psalm 137 naturally would be one of their liturgical basics.  
  • WORSHIP & SACRAMENT.  Meetings of Rastifarians are known as ‘Groundations’ and consist of music, dancing, discussions, and of course, the smoking of marijuana.  It was this last aspect of their ‘worship’ that brought them to the attention of the authorities in Jamaica and in many countries.  Rastas believe that smoking marijuana is a ‘sacrament’ – a sacred ritual which brings them closer to Jah.  They will often meet to smoke marijuana and read the Bible, believing that the drug clears the mind and elevates them to a higher state of consciousness. The police have other ideas!  

Rastifarianism is more that a drug culture and fancy dress.  It isa dangerous religious philosophy that damns the souls of its adherents, opposes the true Gospel of salvation by grace through faith, and is a blasphemy before God.  

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH THE GAITHERS’ ‘King Alpha?’

Can a single reference to a dead African King really be so objectionable?  Here’s the words of one of the song’s original authors, Brent Dowe, the lead singer of the Melodians, told Kenneth Bilby that he had adapted Psalm 137 to the new reggae style because he wanted to increase the public’s consciousness of the growing Rastafarian movement and its calls for black liberation and social justice. Like the Afro-Protestant Revival services, traditional Rastafarian worship often included psalm singing and hymn singing, and Rastas typically modified the words to fit their own spiritual conceptions; Psalm 137 was among their sacred chants. So, for the Rastas, the ‘King Alpha’ corruption of the Psalms was a polemic for and a evangelistic effort on behalf of a false religion.  

My questions is WHY WOULD A SUPPOSEDLY CHRISTIAN SINGING GROUP, MAKING A SUPPOSEDLY CHRISTIAN ALBUM, use the Rastafarian words, rather than the sanitised version sung by Boney M?  Wouldn’t the words themselves make them stop and consider? Don’t they have access to a computer, or the internet?  Wouldn’t a few moments of searching Google have warned them?  Are they of the opinion that Rastafarianism is a legitimate expression of Christianity? (If so just how far will they go in including false religions within the broader reach of ‘Christendom? – Will we see Mormon songs being included in ‘Homecomings?’)

OR:-  DO THEY JUST NOT CARE – SO LONG AS THE DOLLARS KEEP ROLLING IN?

© Bob McEvoy July 2019

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