Thursday, October 14, 2010


I was driving the family through a suburb of Portland. As we approached an intersection I noticed a man standing on the corner, waiting for the light to change so he could cross. He wore baggy clothes, dreadlocks, and a Rasta hat.

The man’s lips weren’t moving, but his gestures made it clear he was talking to himself, or to God, or to what he thought was God, which was probably more-or-less himself. He was white and probably had no idea of the true roots of the Rastafarian religion – born out of hatred for the white race – or perhaps he would have said the religion had left those roots behind. Either way, this man wore all the trappings, and knew the hands signs, and he stood on the corner waiting for the light in more ways than one.

The man’s gaze was somewhere in the trees lining the street, but as we passed through the intersection the man beat his chest three or four times and flicked two fingers toward our car.

A peace sign.

Whether or not it was really a peace sign, or whether or not it was really pointed at us, I’ll never know. Maybe it was a gang sign. But it looked and felt like peace, regardless of the man’s intentions.

Was it the same with Balaam?

Balaam was a hired gun, a seer steeped in the darkness and bloodshed of the most ancient pagan traditions, like the oracles of ancient Greece and the witch doctors of the old American Plains. But God used Balaam as a tool to confound those whom He hated and bless those whom He loved (Numbers 22-24).

The confused, muttering Rastafarian on the street corner was no more a prophet than was Marcus Garvey or Emperor Haile Selassie, the two central figures of the Rastafarian religion. At best he was a poser seeking attention, and at worst he was a heretical pothead wrestling with God and sorely losing. Either way, and regardless of his intentions, he blessed members of the new Israel with a flick of his wrist.


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