The Last Cargo Cult

| February 27, 2002 Issue

The Last Cargo Cult, Mike Jay, The Mighty Organ
The group of tiny islands that comprise the nation of Vanuatu lies just off the northeast coast of Australia in the Coral Sea. Vanuatu has all the elements of an exotic vacation destination -- untouched sands and pristine waters -- but this country's claim to fame isn't its beaches, it's its cult. The cult of John Frum, as reported by Mike Jay of The Mighty Organ, celebrates a spirit messiah that is believed to have been a black American GI. In rejecting both the religion of their ancestors and of missionaries, the members of the cult revere John Frum as a sort of successor to Buddha or Jesus or Mohammed. Like Jesus, he's set to return -- only with material spoils that he will bestow upon the local people. While a ceremony has taken place on February 15 for the last 45 years, the more progressive, politically engaged citizens of Vanuatu see the celebration as an embarrassment. "John Frum was just a black American GI," says one islander. "But you can't tell the John Frum people that. You can't tell them he wasn't a god."
--Kate Garsombke
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