Orville Taylor | Hold your position!
I usually get a kick out of would-be preachers who unrelentingly repeat a monotonous catchphrase. Well, apparently, so did the Rasta man, who was on the receiving end of a front kick that would make Jun Shihan Tony Rob proud.
However, the preacher’s next blow was an ungainly masculine overhead right with the mic in his hand. In short order, he had the dread on the ground, pinned and with turban missing, giving the impression that he had beaten the Ras’ cloth off him.
There was some cheering and jeering as the onlookers, who were some distance away, seemed to back the fist-wielding preacher over the dread.
It is a short clip of the preacher shouting, “Keep yuself wide! Hold yu position!” He continued: “Hold yu position, demon!” and then repeated his warning, inserting Satan as the predicate of the sentence.
A dreadlocked man with his hair wrapped in a bobo cloth was prancing around while the vociferous preacher was raising his tempo. It is not clear whether the referenced demon, or Satan, was something the man of God believed he saw inside the Ras or it was the dread himself. What is significant is that the prophet seemed to have complied with a normal use-of-force policy and the common-law minimum regarding self-defence.
Whatever might have provoked the aggression from the man of Jah, he stepped away and returned with a vessel with rum, which he threw on the preacher. Whether he went for glass or went for cup, he was treated like a penalty shot with no safety net. Unrelenting, preacher man made the Ras see the wrath as he lost his cloth and was as powerless as a lamb to the slaughter.
For the average onlooker, the Rasta man got what he deserved. He had no right to ‘dash di rum pon him widout warning’.
Indeed, if he had attacked Blacky Chan, his business would’ve been fixed so well; his fight would’ve been the verb in the past tense.
Yet, inasmuch as many persons agree that the dread was wrong and preacher was right to defend himself, I ask the following questions: Did the preacher know that the Ras had liquid that was not harmful? If he thought it was water or rum, should he have retaliated with a kick? If he suspected it was acid or other corrosive liquids, why did he stand his ground, given that a kick could’ve splashed it all over his own body?
There is a significant size difference between the shorter and older-looking Ras and the strapping younger buck. If my ears didn’t deceive me, the Rasta man, while stepping around and following him, did say that he was going to wet him up. Although a poor choice of words, the message was clear.
Only the eyewitnesses and combatants know the full details, but the video ended with the hapless Jahman being treated like a star in an American police video.
After making the rounds, the video sparked a now-publicised reconciliation where the Rasta man has reportedly said that he does not know what got into him, but it might be descendants of Mr Wray, his nephew, and all his relatives. Thus, preacher man might have been right in chasing out spirits.
Yet, I am somewhat disturbed by the range of comments, especially from professed Christians who expressed a range of sentiments, including glorification of escalated violence, with some even suggesting that the Ras should have simply been more savagely treated. One Christian respondent on Facebook was even boasting that people must know that followers of Christ are not pushovers and that they are roughnecks, too.
It is not simply a matter of self-defence or the proportionality of the response. The questions that are best answered by lawyers and police officers are really not those that are the remit of preachers.
Preachers and those who want to proselytise have to understand what the message is and what their purposes are. Maybe the script has changed since Jesus died and the first set of apostles walked the earth. However, my simply question is: What was achieved by the behaviour of the preacher?
The stories I read in the Bible told me about a man being murdered, and while being murdered, he asked God, his Father, to forgive them. One might argue that Jesus was God and had the power and knowledge to repel the threat or resurrect himself. But what about Stephen, whose last breath was of forgiveness?
Is there something different about them today? Jesus and the apostles’ lyrics are full of references to non-violence and non-retaliation to threats. What is it that makes Christianity different with gun-toting preachers?
Is there any space for martyrdom, or is modern-day Christianity something that’s supposed to be easy and carried out once a week with praise and worship?
Is there a different formula today from the one that caused an obscure movement with a handful of followers to become one of the largest religions in history – without the benefit of social media?
I don’t have the answers, but what I do know is that in Jamaica, more youth have been attracted to Rastafari since the Internet was established in the early 1990s. Similarly, gang membership and homicidal youth have increased. On the other hand, young men have been disappearing from church.
All of this is food for thought, but hopefully, the video and reconciliation between preacher and Rasta man will kick-start a new thinking.
- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.