Religion News Quick Takes: Snoop Dogg’s Rastafarian conversion

Religion News Quick Takes is a collection of links and blurbs highlighting religion news, cult stories — and anything else we think you might like.

Congress Passes Restrictions On Military Funeral Protests, Delivers Blow To Westboro Baptist Church:

Westboro Baptist Church protesters will soon be severely limited in their ability to disrupt military funerals, after Congress passed a sweeping veterans bill this week that includes restrictions on such demonstrations.

According to “The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012,” which is now headed to President Barack Obama’s desk, demonstrators will no longer be allowed to picket military funerals two hours before or after a service. The bill also requires protestors to be at least 300 feet away from grieving family members.

The Westboro Baptist Church, of Topeka, Kansas, is a hate group masquerading as a Christian church. The teachings and practices of this extremist group fall outside those of historic, orthodox Christianity. Theologically, this group of pseudo-Christians is a cult of Christianity. Sociologically it has cult-like elements as well. [Note the differences between sociological and theological definitions of the term ‘cult’]

Snoop Dogg becomes Snoop Lion, readies reggae CD: Snoop Dogg wants you to know that he’s tired of hip-hop, is Bob Marley reincarnated and is embracing reggae instead of the culture of guns he once rapped about, the Associated Press reports

Snoop Dogg

The artist says that he was “born again” during a visit to Jamaica in February. The priest “asked me what my name was, and I said, ‘Snoop Dogg.’ And he looked me in my eyes and said, ‘No more. You are the light; you are the lion.'”

Snoop Lion and was also given the Ethiopian name Berhane, meaning “light of the world.” AP explains that’s likely a reference to the Lion of Judah, a religious symbol popular in Rastafarian and Ethiopian culture.

CNN has the low-down on what a Rastafari is — and believes.

The transformation comes complete with an album and a documentary, both name ‘Reincarnated.’

Official trailer for the documentary, Reincarnated

MTV says

Before Snoop Dogg was able to properly transform into Snoop Lion and record his upcoming reggae album, Reincarnated, the 20-year rap veteran had to first get the right inspiration. […]

To record Reincarnated, Snoop first got a blessing from Bob Marley’s son Rohan and then made a pilgrimage to Jamaica, where he formed a bond with the Niyabinghi branch of the Rastafari movement. […]

During a press conference Monday, Snoop excitedly explained his mission. “The spirit called me. Any time the spirit calls you, you gotta know it’s serious and real,” he said to a room of gathered press. “I wanna bury Snoop Dogg and become Snoop Lion.”

With his transformation, the Los Angeles rap icon hopes to leave his old ways behind. Gone are songs like “Murder Was the Case”; instead, Snoop is now preaching positivity on new songs like “No Guns Allowed” and “La La La.” “I always wanted to make a song that could stand for something,” Snoop said.

Religion News Service quotes Ennis Edmonds, a scholar at Kenyon College and an expert on Rastafarianism, as saying that while the religion doesn’t require converts to change their names in Jamaica calling someone a dog is deeply insulting.

“Rastas would probably see calling yourself a dog as an indication of lack of self-knowledge,” Edmonds said. […]

Unlike dogs, lions hold a place of pride in Rasta theology, explained Edmonds, author of a forthcoming history of the religious movement.

By the way: Rastafarianism is infused with quite a bit of Christian terminology. William David Spencer, author of Dread Jesus and coeditor of Chanting Down Babylon: The Rastafari Reader, addresses the question, Could Rastas and Christians Really Unite?

See also this Christian response to Rastafarianism, which provides a brief but good overview of Rastafarian beliefs.

FLDS continues abusive polygamist practices in Utah and Arizona: a must-read article by Debra Weyermann, who wonders why the states of Arizona and Utah are not following Texas in prosecuting the manifold crimes committed by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) cult.

[S]ince Jeffs’ conviction last August, FLDS leaders have continued many of their extreme practices — especially in the sect’s longtime headquarters on the Utah-Arizona border, called “Short Creek,” the local nickname for the neighboring towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. For more than a decade, the Short Creek community had been roiled by accusations of systematic child abuse, rape, incest and massive fraud. Although those crimes seem less common now, bizarre allegations continue: involuntary “reassignments” of women to new husbands, the intimidation of children, book burnings, assaults and kidnappings by “God squads” composed of religious vigilantes and Short Creek’s state-certified police force, and so on.

And following a well-established pattern, most authorities in Utah, the state with the longest relationship with the sect, have responded with tolerance rather than prosecutions. Arizona’s stance is only slightly tougher. Neither state is anywhere near as aggressive as Texas, whose lawmen took on the FLDS bigtime. The questions are impossible to avoid: How has Utah and Arizona’s cultural acceptance of the illegal practice of polygamy created a habitat for the much more serious crimes of the most extreme polygamists? And will it ever be possible to dismantle this sect, or any others like it that might arise in its wake, unless those two states finally crack down?

Weyermann is the author of Answer Them Nothing: Bringing Down the Polygamous Empire of Warren Jeffs [Amazon UK]

With $30M lawsuit won, FLDS critic now turns eye to collecting:

A former spokesman turned sharp critic of the polygamous sect led by Warren Jeffs has won an approximately $30 million judgment against the imprisoned leader.

Willie Jessop, also a former Jeffs bodyguard, has now won default judgments against three sect leaders whom he sued for some $100 million in February, accusing them of orchestrating a break-in at his excavating business as retribution for turning against Jeffs.

But winning may have been the easy part.

Pastor: Kermit deserves ‘death penalty’ for taking ‘sodomy route’: Christian pastor Kevin Swanson recently recalled a time when “a Christian perspective ultimately brought the death penalty upon homosexuality” and suggested that Muppet characters Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy deserved the same for breaking with Chick-fil-A over the company’s opposition to LGBT rights, RAW Story reports.

We remember a time when pastors spent their time preaching Good News and trying to help fellow Christians become more like Jesus

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” — T.S. Eliot

The many faces of neo-Nazism: In 2000, the German neo-Nazi terrorist group National Socialist Underground (NSU) shot dead Enver Simsek, a florist with Turkish background, in Nuremberg. It was the beginning of an unprecedented series of murders that ended in 2007 with the death of police officer Michele Kiesewetter in Heilbronn.

The Deutsche Welle says

German politicians and public are asking how this band of terrorists could disappear from the secret service’s surveillance in 1998, and then kill ten people and remain undiscovered for 13 years. The complete failure of the security forces has shocked Germans.

The revelations caused the resignation of Heinz Fromm, the long-standing president of the federal intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz (Office for the Protection of the Constitution).

The latest Verfassungsschutz report, submitted by Fromm in mid-July, assesses the development of far-right extremism in the light of the NSU murders. The agency, which is now the object of heavy criticism, describes over 80 pages a development that began in the 1990s. According to the report, “During this time, far-right extremism has become younger, more active, and more militant.”

Feds drop charge against millionaire accused in psychic fraud case:

Federal prosecutors last week quietly dropped a criminal charge against an elderly Boca Raton millionaire they accused of laundering money for a Fort Lauderdale family of psychics charged with fleecing clients.

Peter Wolofsky, 85, had pleaded not guilty to money laundering, and prosecutors formally dropped the charge against him late last week. […]

Meanwhile, the nine remaining defendants — all members of the Marks family — are trying to force federal prosecutors to return hundreds of pieces of jewelry and other property seized from their homes, safe deposit boxes and a storage unit when they were arrested nearly a year ago.

Federal authorities have accused the family of operating a multi-million-dollar fraud on clients of their storefront fortune-telling businesses in Fort Lauderdale and across the street from Manhattan’s famous Plaza Hotel.

Authorities seized hundreds of items of jewelry, cars and other property when they arrested the family members in late August 2011.

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The Snoop Dogg thumbnail accompanying this item is from NRK P3 at Flickr.

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This post was last updated: May. 9, 2014