Did Bob Marley Die a Christian?

Did Bob Marley Become a Christian?

Well, I hope so, because I really like his music! He was one of the world’s most creative musicians, blending rock music with the feel of the islands and the rhythms of Africa. If it wasn’t for Bob Marley most people would know nothing about reggae music.  Besides his innovative musical style, Marley was also known both for his playful and sometimes dead serious lyrics. One of my favorite Marley lines is, “Oh please don’t you rock my boat, because I don’t like my boat to be rocked.”  Many know Marley for his pointed political statements and his passionate Rastafarian practices heard in his songs, including his passion for smoking ganja (marijuana.)

Yea, but did he become a Christian?  You just can’t hope, especially when most people know that Bob Marley was one of Rastafarianism’s best known spoke persons.  Marley was bright and articulate. He was no misinformed convert to Rastafarianism. When it came to his religious committment through his music Marley was completely informed.  There is no doubt he had a good grasp on the Rasta’s spiritual, social and political positions.  While there are reportedly 700,000 practicing Rastafarian’s worldwide, Marley was perhaps the best known.

One of his most moving songs (which includes a repetitive line chanting “Move!”) is “Exodus: Movement of Jah’s People”   It’s a passionate “Back to Africa” plea. “Exodus” reflects some of the prominent tenents of Rastafarianism.  Rastas saw, Haile Salassie, emperor of Ethiopia as the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah.”  The Messiah.  “Exodus” is about the worldwide scattered African community moving “Back to Africa.’ Specifically to Ethiopia a.k.a Holy Mount Zion.

Some of Marley’s lyrics (Get Up, Stand Up) reflected his disdain for the indifference of the established church on earth to the suffering plight of the poor and oppressed on earth. The song also indicates his affirmation of Salassie as Messiah/Savior.

Haile Salassie knew that the Rastas had put him on the level of the Messiah and to dissuade them he commissioned the forming of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jamaica (home to Marley & reggae.) Salassie and the church made many statements against “emperor worship” and “herbal sorcery” (the marijuana smoking in Rastafarianism.) The church was formed in Jamaica to lead the Rastas AWAY from worshiping Haile Salassie as the Messiah.  If a Jamaican joined the church they had to renounce Haile Salassie as the Messiah. The church maintains that one can ONLY be baptized in the Name of Jesus.  There have been standing issues between the Rastas and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The issues between the Rastas and the EO Church have revolved around the Rastas claim that the EO Church has moved away from the Bible’s emphasis on the poor and justice. The obvious ones to me are that the EO Church has better historical doctrine, while the Rastas have way better music..  but we digress…

Bob Marley, one of Reggae’s best known artists, one of Jamaica’s best known sons and the world’s best known Rastafarian ‘non-official’ spokes-person battled cancer for four years, beginning when he was 32 years old. His cancer began as melanoma on the bottom of his foot. A strange place indeed for that type of cancer.  Marley let the cancer go for a period of time before getting treatment.  In the later days of his cancer he was shuttled (secretly and quietly) to some of the best and most famous cancer treatment centers in the world.

In the midst of his cancer battles and on his last tours Bob Marley’s faith and worldview began to change.  On November 4, 1980, Marley was baptized by the Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Kingston Jamaica.  Here’s the account of the Archbishop concerning Bob Marley, his baptism and conversion:

“Bob was really a good brother, a child of God, regardless of how people
looked at him. He had a desire to be baptized long ago, but there were
people close to him who controlled him and who were aligned to a different
aspect of Rastafari . But he came to Church regularly. I remember once while
I was conducting the Mass, I looked at Bob and tears were streaming down his face…When he toured Los Angeles and New York and England, he preached the Orthodox faith, and many members in those cities came to the Church because of Bob. Many people think he was baptized because he knew he was dying, but that is not so…he did it when there was no longer
 any pressure on him, and when he was baptized, he hugged his family and wept, they all wept together for about half an hour.”

For Bob Marley, he knew exactly what he was doing in his baptism, probably more than many people know when they are baptized.  While most people will profess a “turning towards Christ” in their baptism, in order to be baptized in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Bob Marley also had to RENOUNCE the “heresy of Emperor worship.”  He was turning from Rastarfarianism and towards Christianity. Marley knew what he was doing. He was turning to Jesus Christ. This sent shock waves through the Rastafarian community.

At 36 years old, the undisputed “King of Reggae Music” on May 21, 1981 Bob Marley was buried with his Gibson guitar and hisBible at his side.  His last words to his son Ziggy were, “Money can’t buy you life” and according to his mother, Cedella, his very last words were, “Jesus take me.”

I’ve always loved Bob Marley’s music.  I can’t wait to see him!

“One Love, One Heart.  Let’s Give Thanks and Praise to the Lord and We Will Feel Alright!” Bob Marley

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