Friday, April 21, 2006
One Odd God
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Mything in Action!
You won't like it much when some archeologist of the future points to your mega-church and calls it an "ancient temple for worship of mythical deities." Am I right?
So where does that put Stonehenge? Back on the active roster, if you ask me.
We have a visiting god today, and he's been waiting in the wings for awhile. So with no further ado, please give a great, big "Gods Are Bored" welcome to Great God Almighty John Frum!
Anne: Welcome to "TGAB!" Shall we call you God, God Almighty John Frum, or what?
Frum: Plain old John will be a-okay. Wanna Lucky Strike?
Anne: No thanks, I never gamble ... emmm ... you mean a cigarette?
Frum: Yeah. A smoke.
Anne: Never seen an active god who smokes.
Frum: It's part of what my praise and worship team likes about me.
Anne: So you're not a bored god. You're on active duty, with a praise and worship team! Congratulations!
Frum: It's not a big team. But then, I'm a pretty young god.
Anne: John, I think our patrons here would be very interested to know how you got your start, where you work, and how you came to be a deity.
Frum: Well, my praise and worship team is located on Vanuatu in the Melanesian Islands. It's a pretty isolated place. In fact, it's so much like one of those uncharted islands on "Survivor" that they used it. On "Survivor." Really. But don't let the beaches fool you. The island is 20 miles long by 6 miles wide, and about 28,000 people live there.
Anne: And they all worship you.
Frum: Give or take a few minor denominational schisms, yes.
Anne: Awesome. I'm sure many bored gods are going to be wondering how you landed this post.
Frum: Some Presbyterian missionaries cleared the way for me. And after WWII, it was smooth sailing.
Anne: Explain, please!
Frum: Well, about 1900, a group of Presbyterian missionaries arrived on Vanuatu Island. They told the people there to give up all their religious ceremonies and go to church instead. Except that the religious ceremonies on Vanuatu Island include the use of Kava ...
Anne: Let me guess. A plant with hallucinogenic properties, used in religious rituals to connect with the divine.
Frum: Bingo! And the Presbyterian missionaries said, "NO MORE KAVA." They put an end to everything the islanders called "kastom," everything that had worked for these people for millennia. When the islanders tried to rebel against this authority, the missionaries called in the colonial officials from the larger islands, and they established "peace."
Anne: One can imagine the ways in which colonial authorities established "peace."
Frum: In secret, at great peril to their lives, the village elders continued to use Kava. And one night I came to their chief in a vision. I said I would help the islanders to restore "kastom," that it was their right to worship in the ways of their ancient old gods.
Anne: I'll bet those gods just love you.
Frum: Too much. They let me win at poker.
Anne: Okay, continue your story.
Frum: The elder's vision occurred around 1930, and for some time after that not all the islanders bought it. But then came World War II, and Vanuatu Island became yet another Allied beachhead. All of a sudden, here come all these nice Navy guys with cigarettes, and chocolate, and outboard motorboats, and Spam. The islanders never had any of that stuff before. They figured it was a gift from me, John Frum.
Anne: Makes sense.
Frum: And it strengthened my position with the islanders so much that they've been praying for my return ever since. And they can use all the Kava they want. I even have a "John Frum Day," February 15, when they all dress in their best clothes, hoist a sacred American Flag, and march like drilling soldiers, all in my honor.
Anne: They think you're going to return and bring them cigarettes and chocolate? And motorboats? Suppose they don't get any of that stuff in, say, another 100 years?
Frum: Is there any part of the world where you can't get a Hershey bar if you want one? Or a Billy Joel CD? You miss the point. The Vanuatu Islanders didn't just want chocolate. They wanted the right to practice their "kastom." Remember, I came to see them before WWII, and I didn't bring any smokes with me. Just the reminder that all cultures have a right to exercise their ancient and accepted religious rites.
Anne: That's what we're all about here at "The Gods Are Bored." We write about the right to rites!
Puck and Princess: BRAVO!!!!!
Anne: One last question, John. Where'd you get that weird last name, "Frum?"
Frum: It's the Vanuatu Islanders' way of saying "broom." See, I came to sweep out all that foreign Presbyterianism and restore the old ways. I'm just doing my job.
Anne: And doing it doggone well. We at "The Gods Are Bored" salute the Great God John Frum, and long may He reign!
Source: Smithsonian Magazine, February, 2006, "In John They Trust," pp. 71-77.
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS