Religiously, the Rastafari are committed to the belief in the living God :
God living in and among his people.
Accordingly, such a belief throws cold water on anyone who claims leadership status. The living God, which according to the Rastafari is Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia, is not only the ultimate decision maker, but there is no distinction between him and his followers. Thus, every member is an autonomous person whose obligation is to nothing but the convictions of his or her inner self. In this sense, the Rastafari is antihierarchical through and through.
As the Rastafari is a movement where flat hierarchy prevails, every member is a professional activist, none of whom has grounds to claim a distinct and sumptuous posture. Thus, insofar as a symmetrical relationship between the leaders and the led is integral to the philosophy of the Rastafari, it is of
no avail to have a formal hierarchical organization.
Structural versatility is also manifest in the religious dimension of the movement. The Rastafari is what a sociologist of religion calls an emergent religion. The absence of formal organizations, leadership, and official creeds is what differentiates emergent religions from traditional ones.
Hence, the Rastafari as an emergent religion differs from traditional religions such as Christianity.
The absence of churches and leaders, and the perspective of movement participants about the Bible, is
what makes the Rastafari unique. Because the Rastafarians consider each member as a church unto him- or herself, the existence of a separate Rastafarian church is considered redundant and superfluous.
Prayers and other religious rituals can be conducted in any place as long as there is a group of Rastafarians. Consequently, among the Rastafari there is no professional staff of ministers who provide leadership and disseminate the doctrines of the movement. Unlike mainstream religions, the Rastafari does not have an established institution that formally trains a set of religious experts whose purpose is to disseminate the message of the movement.
Even the Rastafarians do not refer to the teaching of Haile Selassie as do Christians and Muslims to the teachings of Christ and Mohammed. This is simply because Haile Selassie did not have a set of religious principles that he set out for his followers, nor did he at any time declare himself leader of the movement.
This is one of the reasons why the Rastafari are at liberty in interpreting the messages of the Bible.
Title: DECENTERED MOVEMENTS: THE CASE OF THE STRUCTURAL AND PRECEPTUAL VERSATILITY OF THE RASTAFARI
Author: Alemseghed Kebede
Published: Sociological Spectrum. 2001.