Religious Conversion They say change is good, is this so? To some change is bad. People hate to switch upon things when there used to something being a certain way. To others change is essential to life. One must change and adapt to live on and survive. Whether one likes it or not, everything goes through change. It could be from the type of coffee one drink to the weather in the city, things face change. What about change by choice? Has there ever been a certain lifestyle that one changed from? In many cases, these types of changes are religious based.
Throughout life, many people seek clarification and comfort as to this big mystery we call life. Is there a God; who is he; which of these religions are telling the truth, and so on. Personally I feel when it comes to changing a religion; most people make that conversion due to relation. There was something about that scripture or speech that just moved you or opened your eyes into a new realization. The person I chose for this religious conversion experience was my father Brent Washington. In the beginning, it was very challenging as to who I would choose to interview being that I knew many people who’ve had religious conversion.
What made me decide to choose my father was the uniqueness of the religion that he chooses to practice. The conversion that he made was from Christianity to Rastafarianism. Hearing this immediately sparked my attention because for one my father never really told anyone in the family about the religion he practices. Sometimes when it comes to certain issues, he’s a pretty secret person. Secondly, I am not fully knowledgeable on the concept of Rastafarianism and the thought of one changing from a religion that’s more direct to one way of thinking to another religion where the concept is more of a broad thinking.
Once the interview began, my father right away began to flood me with information as to regard his conversion. When I approached him addressing that I would interview him, he seemed very eager which was surprising being that he’s a kind of secret person. Brent Washington is a 45 year old elder, what he claims, who served in the Air Force during the Korean War. He has dedicated his life to Rastafarianism for 21 years now and strongly continues to dedicate himself into the religion even more. In his days as a youth, the word of Christ existed throughout his life and in his home.
Church every Sunday, Bible readings, Prayer, Catholic school, you name it. If it was God related, the family of Brent took part of it. But although his family was Christian people, Brent really didn’t claim it. I asked him why he didn’t claim the title as a Christian and he replied that it gave him no answers. Things were unclear to him and he didn’t feel that passion and strive that his parents and siblings felt. “Felt like I was a cup that wasn’t quite full when it came to the understandings of being a Christian”.
I then asked him what he really meant when he says that he was that cup that wasn’t quite full. His response was that he somewhat had an understanding as to the Christian faith, but he felt no relation to it. From his understanding and what he was taught, Brent felt that Christianity was a religion that was not meant for him or black people period. Being exposed to images of a white Jesus and reading a book written by people that where from the opposite color, one could sort of understand how he felt the lack of connection.
While explaining this you could see the empty space of answers in his eyes. Additionally, while explaining how Christianity had no relation to him, you could notice the sense of hopelessness in his voice as if he knew it wouldn’t work out. From there I asked Brent so what happened or what drove him to finally change his beliefs. His response to this was that his life of religion began to change started when he was in the service. From high school, Brent went straight into the Air Force and was exposed to many different lifestyles that changed him.
Growing up he was never a traveler, so once leaving to go into the service it was literally his first time being outside of his home city of Philadelphia. While in the service Brent met numerous types of people from many different cultures and beliefs. “It was amazing seeing and meeting people of different mindsets from my own”. As he spoke you could see the amazement in his eyes of how this experience moved him. Growing up all that existed to him was that in his home people was either Muslim or a Christian when it came to religion.
Any other religion outside those boundaries was ignorant to him. It was then Brent described how he met a man by the name of Jacob Miles. Miles was a man also drafted into the Korean War from the state of Kansas. He was a little older than Brent was but they both shared a similar background. They both came from a Christian based home where they, themselves, had many unanswered questions and lack of connection to the Christian faith. From gate they both connected and became close friends. So I asked him was it from this man you found the religion of Rastafarianism. He answered yes. It was one night Miles and I were on duty and we were discussing stories from back home. He was a great person that I felt I could open up to and I explained to him how when it came to religion I couldn’t identify myself with one. It was then he handed me this book and said here is all your answers right here”. The title of the book was called “Chanting down Babylon” by Nathaniel Murrel. It was a book written by a man who studied the religion of Rastafarianism and gave his life to the faith. Brent stated that same night he opened that book and became a sponge to the information that the book gave him.
I then asked him, what was it about that book or even this religion that gave you that relation you were searching for. His answer to this was that the relation was that firstly, the book was written by a man of the same color skin as his own, so instantly a level of relation came upon him. When it came to ethnicity, Brent valued his skin color and where he came from. He was not a racist man, but he felt that this religion was developed by people like him (black people) then it was for him. Hearing this, I explained to him that religion isn’t based on skin color.
God wasn’t a racist man and didn’t value a race more than the next. In his opinion he felt that now a day’s culture and race does have some sort of effect on religion. He states, “If you open your basic Bible with pictures in them or look up a biblical figure on the internet more than half the time they are people of the white race. How am I supposed to relate if I’m not white? ” My response to this was if back when you were younger and you were shown pictures of a black Jesus and black biblical people would you have converted to Rastafarianism? To this day his answer is still unknown.
Once this question came about he began to show a sense of rebelliousness and stubbornness so the question was dropped. From there I then asked him another question of if there were any other reasons as to why you converted to Rastafarianism. As the interview continued a lot more endless questions developed from both sides and still left some answers unknown. It was clear that my father also had a lot of questions about his faith that he had overlooked. Overall his reaction to finding these answers were to study up more on his faith to find himself.
Reflecting on this interview if I were to state the type of religious conversion he went through it would have to be a combination of the Intellectual and Affectional conversion. Through his bond and connection with Jacob Miles he was influenced and encouraged to study Rastafarianism. Jacob was a living example to him as to living the life of a Rasta. Brent felt that he found completeness and those answers he needed were fulfilled for him. Additionally, through this influence from Jacob Miles, Brent started and still continues to build his knowledge on the religion of Rastafarianism.