On my second day in Ethiopia, we stopped in the city of Shashamane. In 1948, emperor Haile Selassie allowed a number of Jamaican Rastafarians to settle in Shashamane, and since then it has had a small community of these people.
The museum features works of art, mainly portraits of the late Emperor Haile Selassie, made out of banana leaves. It also contains a wide variety of medals given by the late emperor, and various books.
I asked him how people who claim to follow the Bible, can also worship a human being: Haile Selassie. His answer was that the emperor was more perfect than you or I. I wanted to ask him if he believed Haile Selassie was more perfect than Moses, whose burial place was kept secret lest people worship him. But he continued to the related topic of how black people are God’s chosen people. At this point, I pointed out that Haile Selassie wasn’t really black. One glance at him will tell you that he was primarily of Caucasian stock. Tafari dismissed this by claiming, in so many words, that dark skin was all that really mattered.
I asked him for biblical sources to back up his claim that Ethiopia was of special significance. He brought out a book of Psalms and showed me a verse or two that listed, among other places, Ethiopia.
He wears a marijuana emblem on his shirt. So I asked him what religious significance marijuana has for Rastafarians. His answer was that it holds no religious significance. Rather, they are herbalists, and they respect the medicinal properties of marijuana. I was told, by an Ethiopian I’d met at the airport, that it was the Rastafarians who introduced “ganja” to the local Ethiopians.
This man was very agreeable, and pleasant, to be with. His artwork is impressive; it’s amazing what one can do with banana leaves. But from a theological point of view, I’d say that his ideas are crazy.