I just returned from a trip to Ethiopia. I have been enchanted with the country for years, due to its ancient Jewish and Christian traditions. My trip confirmed all my suspicions.
Every American and every Christian should be aware of this great nation. Jesus said, "The last shall be first." Ethiopia has been last and first many times already in human history. Recently, she has been named the poorest country on earth. But that could flip the other way soon as well. Spiritually, she may never have dropped from the top tier.
Enjoy your read, and please join me in the admiration.
12 THINGS ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS CAN TEACH AMERICAN CHRISTIANS.
1. Black people became Christians way before white people.
2. Black people found Judaism long before white or Greek people.
3. No Starbucks coffee in the church lobby.
4. Having lots of children sure beats national suicide.
5. If Blacks want ancient African religious roots, Christianity far precedes Islam.
6. Young people love cartoons.
7. No tolerance for sexual insanity.
8. Be a moderate. Wear a Christian head covering.
9. There’s a way to get along with Muslims.
10. Sorry Steven Spielberg, the Ark may not be in a giant warehouse.
11. The first people on earth probably have some insights for us.
1. BLACK PEOPLE BECAME CHRISTIANS WAY BEFORE WHITE PEOPLE.
Ethiopia is arguably the first Christian nation on the planet, declaring itself in submission to Christ by at least 325 A.D. But this people group became Christians from the very beginning with the Apostle Philip baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch, recorded in Acts 8.Also, Ethiopians received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (according to John Chrysostom), and, according to tradition, the Apostle Matthew visited the country and baptized King Aeglippus—head of a great empire known as Axum, what is now Ethiopia.
We white people are just so used to thinking of blacks and Africans from a colonial perspective, where the people from the dark continent have been so blessed the past 200 years to learn from their white conquerers. But Ethiopia (the only African country not to be colonized although Italy unsuccessfully invaded in both 1899 and 1935) is not like all the other African countries where Christianity coincides with white invasion. Ethiopia is ahead of us. WAY ahead.
2. BLACK PEOPLE FOUND JUDAISM LONG BEFORE WHITE OR GREEK PEOPLE.
As you may recall, Ethiopia’s monarch, the Queen of Sheba, traveled to Jerusalem and spent a good amount of time with Solomon, asking him “tough questions” (I Kings 1:10). The interrogation went well, and the queen brought Solomon’s religion to Ethiopia, which was a decided Judaic country from around 1000 BC, and the earliest Jewish community in the world besides Israel itself. (A continuous Jewish community remains there to this day.)
While the Ethiopian civilization was carefully studying the Old Testament, white Europeans were “swinging in trees” (to quote the father in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”). Even the Greeks were late to the game, with Hellenistic Judaism coming on the scene in the 4th Century B.C., more than 500 years after these black people. In fact, Ethiopians believe they have the Ark of the Covenant in their country (see #10).
3. NO STARBUCKS COFFEE IN THE CHURCH LOBBY
Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians (non-Chalcedonian Niceans, but that’s a technicality for another day). They don’t do seeker friendly. Their worship services are an ancient tradition. Traditional vestments, not skinny jeans for the clerics. 1000 year old music (or older). So Starbucks, a recent invention, will not be served in the lobby. In fact, Orthodox Christians have fasted on Sunday mornings for 2000 years, making sure the first thing that touches their lips on the Lord's Day is the Eucharist.
But that’s not to say the Ethiopians don’t appreciate coffee. They INVENTED coffee. First century. A goat herder noticed his guys were getting excited after eating red berries on a certain bush. He told some nearby Christian monks who found the berries quite handy for all night prayer services. One thing led to another.
Pretty much all Ethiopians everywhere observe daily the “coffee ceremony,” which is basically sitting around for an hour or two while someone roasts coffee beans over charcoal and lights traditional incense that you smell throughout. Then they have each person smell the roasting beans. Once it’s all boiled, they serve three rounds called “abol, tona, and baraka.” You must stick around for all three, each taking about 15 minutes. At the end, a prayer of blessing is said over the barista.
4. HAVING LOTS OF CHILDREN SURE BEATS NATIONAL SUICIDE.
"Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth.” This is God’s first command to mankind and it has never been rescinded. It is still one of the most important commands, and for good reason. Disobeying it tends to destroy your nation and your economy. Solomon also told us in the Scriptures, “A large population is a king’s glory, but without subjects a prince is ruined.” (Prov. 14:28)
Ethiopian women have lots of babies. The average African woman has five. Because of this, Africa is the future. “The Asian century could be followed by the African century,” says the Post. “As China shrinks, it’s workforce will get smaller precisely when it needs them most.”
5. IF BLACKS WANT ANCIENT AFRICAN RELIGIOUS ROOTS, CHRISTIANITY FAR PRECEDES ISLAM.
Islamic architecture is a ripoff of ancient Christian, Byzantine architecture. Cathedrals in Ethiopia sometimes resemble mosques for this reason. When one walks up to a cathedral in Ethiopia, you hear on a loudspeaker strange ancient chanting, which sounds just like what the Muslims do. But they got it from the ancient Christians. The more traditional Christian men wear cool little hats, and that might mistake them for Muslims elsewhere in Africa.
6. YOUNG PEOPLE LOVE CARTOONS.
7. NO TOLERANCE FOR SEXUAL INSANITY.
This is the age of tolerance. Not so much in Ethiopia. They haven’t gotten into a transgender discussion yet because the insane moderns haven’t made any inroads yet on the earlier taboo of homosexuality. Fully 97 percent of the populace thinks homosexuality should be rejected. It is against the law, punishable by no less than one year and not more than 15. (Adultery is also a punishable offense.)
Ethiopians were excited when Obama visited recently—the first sitting President to ever do so. But they moaned under their breath when his big talking point was gay rights. Their Patriarch Abune Paulos pretty well summed up the politically incorrect sentiments of Ethiopian Christians: "This is something very strange in Ethiopia, the land of the Bible that condemns this very strongly. For people to act in this manner they have to be dumb, stupid like animals. We strongly condemn this behaviour. They have to be disciplined and their acts discriminated. They have to be given a lesson.”
8. BE A MODERATE. WEAR A CHRISTIAN HEAD COVERING.
You see what I did there? Hardcore libs won’t like the joke, but the reality is that our world has gone nuts over female headcoverings, and Orthodox Christians bring a balance. The Salafist and Wahabiist Muslims force women to show nothing but their eyes. The nutso Western liberals encourage women to dance completely naked if they so desire. The balance? Orthodox Christian women have traditionally worn a covering on their heads, but not on their faces.
I probably need to move on from this topic, because it will tick so many people off, even strong bible-believing Christians. I mean … it’s not like they discuss this in the bible or anything … oh wait.
9. THERE’S A WAY TO GET ALONG WITH MUSLIMS.
It’s not easy, and it requires patience and vigilance, but Ethiopians have demonstrated for nearly 1500 years now that Christians and Muslims can in fact get along. Almost half of Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians. Add Protestants and Catholics and the number is 62 percent. Muslims comprise 33 percent.
Both Christian and Muslim holy days are recognized by the Ethiopian government. If two Muslims both want to go before a Sharia law court to settle their differences, they are allowed to do so. The ruling Christian political party in Ethiopia gets a slightly higher percentage of votes in the Muslim sections of the country than the other sections.
Problems have emerged from time to time—a few years ago some extremist Muslims attacked some churches and killed a few people—but those extremists were dealt with forcefully (as extremists) and the rest of the Muslims, generally peaceable, are not lumped in with the bad guys.
10. SORRY STEVEN SPIELBERG, THE ARK MAY NOT BE IN A GIANT WAREHOUSE.
When the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon, they apparently had quality time together, and a son named Menelik was born when she returned to her country.
The ark is mentioned a couple of times in the Old Testament after the days of Sheba and Menelik, so this story is tough for many to swallow, but there is no mention of the ark after Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 587 BC. It’s pretty clear that the ark got swifted away some time before that, and it remains a mystery as to where it was taken. It must be somewhere. Spielberg and George Lucas can speculate, but the Ethiopians have no doubt. It is in their country, at the sacred Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion. Guarded by several men with machine guns, one holy man is chosen every generation to care for the ark, and only he gets to see it, wouldn’t you know it.
In the 1992 book The Sign and the Seal, British writer Graham Hancock (The Guardian, The Times, and The Economist) suggested that the ark spent several years in Egypt before it came to Ethiopia via the Nile River, where it was kept in the islands of Lake Tana for about four hundred years and finally taken to Northern Ethiopia. Other experts disagree. But the larger point is that for some reason Ethiopians are quite convinced they have the ark. Why is that the case, and why is the feeling so strong?
11. THE FIRST PEOPLE ON EARTH PROBABLY HAVE SOME INSIGHTS FOR US.
More importantly, the Bible makes reference to Ethiopia when it describes the four rivers that flow out of the great river of Eden in Genesis Chapter 2:13: “And the name of the second river is Gihon; the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.”
Jewish historian Josephus (1st Century) confirms that the Gihon is the Nile river (Antiquities i.1.3) In fact, 2nd Century Greek historian Pausanius says the Euphrates also “rises again beyond Ethiopia and becomes the Nile.” (Book II,5,3)
Ethiopia is, of course, the source of the Nile, where the Blue Nile flows from the highlands of Lake Tana into the Nile and northward to Egypt. As the largest river on the planet, the Nile is a good choice for the great river flowing out of Eden.
Another compelling piece of evidence for an Ethiopian Eden is DNA science affirming that humanity began in this same area of Ethiopia at Lake Tana. As you can see from the graphic, “Mitochondrial Eve,” as she is referred to by DNA scientists, emerged in East Africa at Ethiopia.
According to Wiki quoting Nature magazine: “Homo sapiens idaltu, found at site
Middle Awash in Ethiopia … is the oldest known anotomically modern human being.”
Gert Muller has written an excellent book making the case for an Ethiopian Adam and Eve, a 2011 work entitled Eden: the Biblical Garden discovered in East Africa.
The point? Well, the first and the oldest always have something to teach us. We would do well to listen to the ancient traditions of Ethiopia.
12. OTHER ENLIGHTENING FACTOIDS.
♦ Monks fast as many as 250 days a year. Laypeople fast from meat and dairy products 180 days a year. During lent before Easter and Christmas, church services are held daily from early morning to 3 PM. Only one meal is allowed during the fasting days and the first meal is taken after the liturgy is complete at 3 PM, except Saturdays and Sundays, where a meal is allowed after the morning service.
♦ Ethiopian Christians follow a different calendar. It starts with creation. Jesus was born in the year 5,500. They have a short 13th month. Due to a different calculating system, their calendar says we are in the 2008th year after Jesus's birth. The New Year starts on our September 11 (as does the Jewish year, approximately, with Rosh Hashana). Their Christmas is 13 days after ours. They keep hours differently, starting at dawn. Our 7 am is their 1 o'clock. (They use the same system as the bible, for example when Jesus was crucified "at the 3rd hour").
Years are observed in a four year cycle based on the Gospel evangelists. So, farmers will plough the land meditating on Matthew, but the next year they will drive their cow and think about Mark's gospel.
♦ Ethiopians claim their recent monarch, Haile Selassie, was in the line of King Solomon and boasted the longest unbroken dynasty in history. He was overthrown and (ALLEGEDLY!) killed by Communists in 1974. He is worshipped by Rastafarians.
♦ Monasticism is a major component of Ethiopian Christianity and has flourished for over 1000 years. In the 1700s a Scottish explorer came across in a monastery the only copy left of the Book of Enoch, quoted in the Book of Jude in the New Testament.
♦ Violent genocide swept the country after the "Derg," the communist regime, overthrew the emperor in 1974. Over a million were killed. Fifteen years later, the smaller Tigray tribe from the north, with the longest unbroken Christian heritage, gathered the other larger tribes together to successfully overthrow the Derg. According to the people I talked with, Ethiopia's Christian heritage was a key component of the rallying cry, and their President today is an outspoken Christian.