Friday, March 17, 2006

The Frumious Bandersnatch

In Vanuatu there is an island where a cargo cult has developed, worshipping a mysterious American by the name of John Frum (or possibly John Broom) who first visited the island during World War Two and who resides in a volcano.
"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."

Like many religions, there is a breakaway sect (sort of like the New Reformed Frumites in contrast to Orthodox Frumism).
Daniel says that Prophet Fred split with Chief Isaac in 1999 and led half of the believer villages into his new version of the John Frum cult. "He had a vision while working on a Korean fishing boat in the ocean," Daniel says. "God’s light came down on him, and God told him to come home and preach a new way." People believed that Fred could talk to God after he predicted, six years ago, that Lake Siwi would break its natural dam and flood into the ocean. "The people living around the lake [on the beach beneath the volcano] moved to other places," says Daniel. "Six months later, it happened." Then, almost two years ago, Prophet Fred’s rivalry with Chief Isaac exploded. More than 400 young men from the competing camps clashed with axes, bows and arrows and slingshots, burning down a thatched church and several houses. Twenty-five men were seriously injured. "They wanted to kill us, and we wanted to kill them," a Chief Isaac loyalist says.

So, his prediction only took six months to come true. That's a better score rate than most "professional" psychics!

The article concludes, slightly mocking the islanders' naive beliefs:
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."

Well, speaking personally, EoR knows of evidence proving the existence of Americans, radios, TVs, trucks etc, but not for the existence of a deceased-raising, walking-on-water, son of god. He thinks the likelihood of the former arriving is much more likely than the latter. He's off now to worship at a volcano...

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