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Accidental Gods

(Original story by Anna Della Subin at Killing the Buddha.com...)

"In 1927, the Jamaican-born Black Nationalist Marcus Garvey had prophesied, “Look to Africa, for there a black king shall be crowned.” Three years later, on November 2nd 1930, Ras Tafari Makonnen took on the title Haile Selassie, “Implement of the Trinity,” in a lavish coronation ceremony designed to convince the world of Ethiopia’s civility, high style, and large portions. As the New York Times headline ran, “5,000 Cattle Slaughtered for Feast of 25,000 on Raw Meat and Wine—Americans at Ceremony.” Not just Americans—the BBC, National Geographic, and radio and film crews from across the globe had converged on Addis Ababa. During the gilded pageant, Tafari Makonnen became not only His Imperial Majesty but also Elect of God and head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, an unspoken declaration of his inviolability, the divine right of kings.

A few years later, Haile Selassie had been recognized as “the Messiah returned to earth” by Leonard Percival Howell and other apostles who founded a religion in Jamaica literally in his name. Garvey was declared His John the Baptist. In 1966, when Haile Selassie made his first state visit to the island, an estimated 100,000 Rastafarians awaited him at Palisadoes Airport in a cloud of sanctified smoke. His landing would ever after be known as Grounation Day, the second holiest day after the Coronation.

For his part, Haile Selassie rejected his deification. He claimed to be greatly distressed at being worshipped as Jah, and sent a missionary to Kingston in 1970 to establish the Ethiopian Church in Jamaica, confiding to him, “My heart is broken because of the situation of these people. Help them find the True God. Teach them.” And yet one might argue that Haile Selassie’s involuntary deification represents a perfectly appropriate response to the spectacles that he himself created. All the state banquets, motorcades, and photo ops—the pageantry of power celebrating itself—aims to instill reverence for authority and submission among its subjects. As the 3rd century theologian Origen wrote, in his commentary on the Song of Songs, “It should be known that it is impossible for human nature not always to love something.” It should also be known that it is impossible for human nature not to love too much...."


The story gets quite a bit more odd below, where the author recounts the tale of a society of islanders whom worship the United States of America as "The God of Freedom", and another group which apparently worships Britain's Prince Philip.

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