Sunday, March 11, 2007

John Frum and Jesus

February 15th was John Frum day, a high holiday in one of the South Pacific's cargo cults. In this cargo cult, adherents wait for the return of a religious figure named John Frum, an American, who will bring prosperity and wealth to those who follow him. (It appears that his name comes from a service man saying he was "John, from (some state or city)."

My first reaction to reading about it was to feel sorry for the adherents... here they are waiting for a divine being to return in glory after having visited them in person, but, at least my perspective, their beliefs have no basis in objective reality, and, if so, they are rather misguided.

My second reaction was to notice the similarities between cargo cults and Christianity. (Not necessarily a prosperity gospel, though one could make that parallel too). I profess to follow someone who came to world in rather humble circumstances, has promised to return, and, in the meantime, we should follow him. This is no more far-fetched than the cargo cults. Furthermore, their faith is, presumably, as real to them as mine is to me.

This gets to the importance of objective spiritual reality. Whether or not there was/is a Jesus, as described in the Bible matters a lot--if not, then this is just another, worldwide version of a cargo cult--deifying past experiences to our own benefit.

In a way, society lets Christians off too easily. Somehow, it's viewed as a rather respectable religion by many, but in reality, if one doesn't accept its fundamental premise (God, Jesus, crucifixion , etc...), then we should be held in contempt--a bunch of nutjobs running around wasting our time and others.

Of course, if the assumptions of Christianity are true, than those who disregard them risk being a bunch of damned fools (theologically speaking).

Ultimately, the reality of Jesus, and John Frum, matters a lot.

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