John Frum and Cargo Cults. Sometime when you write a blog on religion, topics can be hard to come by. There are days when you feel like you’ve covered every possible subject on the matter. It highlights the problem finite humans have in describing and talking about an infinite being. I have to actively search out new ideas. And there are times when I just find myself staring at a computer screen wondering what I’m going to write about.
But every now and then, you stumble across a topic from an unlikely source. In this case, it stemmed from my hobby of collecting and using vintage safety razors. Not the first place I normally go for inspiration on my blog posts to be sure. But in this case, it worked out.
Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements
When you use a safety razor, part of the fun is going all the way with a classic shave. This means using a shave soap and brush to create your lather. If you’ve perused your local drug store however, you’ve probably noticed that shave soaps are not exactly easy to come by. You pretty much have to go through an artisan soap maker to get your soaps.
One of my favorite artisans is Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements. They not only make fantastic shave soaps, but aftershaves as well. Douglas Smythe is the owner and creator of the company. Doug is a great storyteller. And he creates back stories for all of the scents he produces. I always enjoy reading the legendary tales that inspire him to make each scent.
So when I ran across his scent “John Frum”, I was intrigued. The picture on the container looked like a World War 2 pilot on his plane. My dad was a pilot in the late 1950’s, so aircraft and pilots from this era have always fascinated me. But when I read the back story of this scent, I was amazed.
Cargo cults began popping up on pacific islands in the 1930’s and 40’s. These are remote islands that didn’t have much contact with the outside world. So imagine their sense of amazement when the Japanese and American superpowers began landing on their islands. Here were technologically advanced peoples with sophisticated war machines. And the most amazing thing to the natives was that these people actually had their gods dropping supplies right out of thin air!
You can see where this is going, right? For a people that were always struggling to provide basic necessities, having food, clothing, shelter and other creature comforts just fall from the sky seemed like divine intervention. And they of course wanted to be “blessed” just like the Americans and Japanese.
The Rise Of Frum
“Who is John Frum?” might be the wrong question. “Where is John Frum?” might be a better one. You see, John Frum is the central figure in a Cargo Cult on the pacific island of Tanna. As we said, the natives of this island wanted to share in the riches of the forces that had occupied their island. So they figured they could access the gods by calling on the American service man that caused the cargo to fall from the skies.
No one knows for sure who John Frum was. But what most likely happened is a soldier introduced himself to the natives by saying “Hi, I’m John from Mississippi” or some other hard to pronounce place. The natives gave up on the city, and just referred to him as “John From”, or “John Frum”.
More To Come
So that is the story of how I came to hear of John Frum and the cargo cults. But why bring this up on an apologetics blog? How can a small group of pacific islanders possibly be a challenge to American Christianity? I’ll look at these questions and dive deeper into cargo cults in my next blog. So stay safe everyone, and buckle up for a wild ride!
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