The following is taken from the Smithsonian Magazine
In John We Trust – published Feb. of 2006. Written by Paul Raffaele
(Paul, . . great, great writing. Definitely worth the read.)
Here’s the skinny: There’s a tropical island called Vanuatu, on the other side of the world – a jillion miles away in the South Pacific. You might have seen it on “Survivor.” The villagers of this tiny island worship John Frum, an American they met in the 1930’s. Frum promised them cargo. Cargo? Yep. Cargo. The religion built around this man is what anthropologists call a ‘cargo cult.’ For the islanders it is about John Frum. He was the American who told them to reject Christianity and western values like money and to live according to their old ways. Free.
Cargo cults are nothing new. They routinely erupt in remote islands where foreigners and their amazing stuff is considered godly by natives that have little or no contact with the outside world. My contention is that the John Frum religion is not a cargo cult.
“For as long as Tanna’s inhabitants can remember, island men have downed kava at sunset each day in a place off-limits to women. Christian missionaries, mostly Presbyterians from Scotland, put a temporary stop to the practice in the early 20th century, also banning other traditional practices, or “kastom,” that locals had followed faithfully for millennia: dancing, penis wrapping and polygamy. The missionaries also forbade working and amusement on Sundays, swearing and adultery. In the absence of a strong colonial administrative presence, they set up their own courts to punish miscreants, sentencing them to forced labor. The Tannese seethed under the missionaries’ rules for three decades. Then, John Frum appeared.”
“John told us that all Tanna’s people should stop following the white man’s ways,” Chief Kahuwya says. “He said we should throw away their money and clothes, take our children from their schools, stop going to church and go back to living as kastom people. We should drink kava, worship the magic stones and perform our ritual dances.”
And they did just that. Forever faithful that Frum would return one day with the cargo he promised. None came until WWII. Americans built a small military base on Vanuatu, reinforcing the ‘cargo cult’ when the natives were employed and given many unique American gifts. But the prophesy of John returning with cargo never really happened.
“John promised he’ll bring planeloads and shiploads of cargo to us from America if we pray to him,” a village elder tells me as he salutes the Stars and Stripes. “Radios, TVs, trucks, boats, watches, iceboxes, medicine, Coca-Cola and many other wonderful things.”
I’m not buyin’ it. This is not a “Cargo-Cult.” John Frum gave them direction. He never gave them much more than cargo, he freed these people from the tyranny of evil men. He told them to throw away the Christian ways. He told them it wouldn’t make them happy. And then he had the audacity to say, worship me instead. Somehow, I don’t think they’d be happier as Christians.
“The chief tells me about his trip to the United States in 1995, and shows faded pictures of himself in Los Angeles, outside the White House and with a drill sergeant at a military base. He says he was astonished by the wealth of the United States, but surprised and saddened by the poverty he saw among white and black Americans alike, and by the prevalence of guns, drugs and pollution. He says he returned happily to Sulphur Bay. “Americans never show smiling faces,” he adds, “and so it seems they always think that death is never far away.”
“Death is never far away.” Is that what makes us sad? I am happier thinking about life and less happy when I think about death. Romeo the cat is back. (Read about Romeo’s near death experience on Beth’s New Improved Austin Bloggery) and now I am happier. But the Chief is right. Americans never show smiling faces.
“As we look down into John Frum’s fiery Tanna home, I remind him that not only does he not have an outboard motor from America, but that all the devotees’ other prayers have been, so far, in vain. “John promised you much cargo more than 60 years ago, and none has come,” I point out. “So why do you keep faith with him? Why do you still believe in him?”
Chief Isaac shoots me an amused look. “You Christians have been waiting 2,000 years for Jesus to return to earth,” he says, “and you haven’t given up hope.”
Don’t lose faith Chief Isaac. The Cargo’s comin’!
Come on guys! (I’m looking at you internet community) Lets put together a fund to send a cargo ship out from Australia. Will fill it full of everything a modern islander needs. If anyone knows Christopher Hitches, have him read this. He would be perfect to bring the right people to this cause.
We’ll have to leave the note, “Sorry for the wait. I’ve been busy. Here’s the cargo I promised. I’ll send more when I get a chance. And remember, live free. Live according to the old ways. Don’t go Christian. Signed, John Frum.”
$200,000 ought to do the job. $200,000 to fulfill a prophesy. $200,000 to create a real miracle and forever keep Christians away from these people.
Wiki Travel broke down the current religious sects in Vanuatu: Presbyterian 36.7%, Anglican 15%, Roman Catholic 15%, indigenous beliefs 7.6%, Seventh-Day Adventist 6.2%, Church of Christ 3.8%, other 15.7% (including the John Frum Cargo cult)
Only 15% of the population are part of the Jon Frum movement. They need your support. Lets end the iron fist of Christianity on these islands forever. I can’t think of a better charity. We could save these people for generations. And only an American can do it.
We can save these people from fear and hate. We can save them from South Park Christians:
South Park Christians:
Chef : “Stan, sometimes God takes those closest to us, because it makes him feel better about himself. He is a very vengeful God, Stan. He’s all pissed off about something we did thousands of years ago. He just can’t get over it, so he doesn’t care who he takes. Children, puppies, it don’t matter to him, so long as it makes us sad. Do you understand?”
Stan : “But then, why does God give us anything to start with?”
Chef : “Well, look at it this way: if you want to make a baby cry, first you give it a lollipop. Then you take it away. If you never give it a lollipop to begin with, then you would have nothin’ to cry about. That’s like God, who gives us life and love and help just so that he can tear it all away and make us cry, so he can drink the sweet milk of our tears. You see, it’s our tears, Stan, that give God his great power.”
Stan : “I think I understand.”
Before the Christians arrived, the Vanuatu were living the way God intended. Free. I’ll admit that not all Christians are the same but missionaries always seem to play the angry vengeful God card. The Vanuatu would be better off worshiping the Ori. (My favorite imaginary God from the TV show Stargate.)
By fulfilling the prophesy of John Frum it would fulfill my dream of becoming a reverse missionary – which many consider to be the reverse cowgirl, but that’s something else entirely.