John Frum versus Prophet Fred

Vanuatu villagers in bloody cult clash

Rebelling against the aggressive proselytising of Presbyterian missionaries, dozens of villages on the island of Tanna put their faith in a mysterious outsider called John Frum. They believed he would drive out their colonial masters and re-establish their traditional ways. On Tanna, islanders became convinced that John Frum was an American. They have spent the past 60 years dressing up in home-made US army uniforms, drilling with bamboo rifles and parading beneath the Stars and Stripes in the hope of enticing a delivery of "cargo" again.

In a bloody encounter with knives, slingshots, axes and bows and arrows, John Frum believers clashed with the members of a breakaway Christian sect led by a softly spoken villager Fred Nasse, who calls himself Prophet Fred. Six houses and a thatched Presbyterian church were burnt down during a battle that involved 400 islanders.

"In the past we believed in John Frum, but now we believe in Jesus," said Alfred Wako, 49. "The John Frum people don't go to church and they don't send their children to school. They believe in the old rituals. They are heathens."

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10 Responses:

  1. asan102 says:

    good to see the christians are making some progress. Damn heathens.

    • susano_otter says:

      Not much progress in this story, unless you consider "switching to the faction that doesn't kill members of opposing factions when things don't go their way" progress.

      Which, even given the absence of any irony tags in your post, I get the impression you don't.

    • kallisti says:

      It's horrible to see Christians destorying cultures that they don't agree with!

      >Kirk Huffman, an anthropologist who lived in Vanuatu for 17 years,
      >said: "Nobody knows who John Frum was, though it is irrelevant whether
      >he was a real person or a spirit. Movements like these were a way for
      >traditional people to come to terms with colonialism and Christianity."

      That last sentance really bothers me...why should people have to adapt to Christianity?


      • susano_otter says:

        People have to adapt to things all the time.

        Your neighbors bring home a dog. Do you come to terms with this development, or do you decide you can't take it and freak out?

        That new school opens up two blocks away. Do you adapt, or flip out and kill someone?

        Blacks start moving into your neighborhood. Do you accept this change, or do you join the KKK?

        Christianity gains popularity in your village. Do you come to terms with it, or not? How is "coming to terms with" Christianity in your neighborhood any different than coming to terms with a new ballpark than changes traffic patterns downtown, or coming to terms with the annual marathon, or the sudden rise of door-to-door Girl Scout Cookie salespeople, or any other change to the culture and attitudes of your local community over time?

        If Frum Cultists had rushed across town to lynch people at the local NAACP office, would you be wondering why people should have to adapt to uppity niggers?

        People--normal, everyday people--got ruthlessly slaughtered here. Unless you sincerely feel that Christians deserve to die at the hands of angry mobs, your concern is probably misplaced.

  2. kingfox says:

    Take is to tomorrow morrow land!

  3. cabrius says:

    Whoa. I had thought the whole 'cargo cult' thing was mostly urban legend and/or an apocryphal cautionary tale.

    • quercus says:

      There are tribes so primitive and delusional that they worship the Duke of Edinburgh.

      Try and search for "Louis Epstein".

      • kallisti says:

        And others that are so delusional that they worship a bush and a great big old dick!

        (grining, ducking and running)


  4. sally_mcgee says:

    These "Christians" did not destroy their culture, these people had never had any english and no education. Of course it is easy for an outsider to think that that is all the Christians were trying to do. Before assuming the worst, people should get educated on this topic, this doesn't include three paragraphs that are biased on one side. I just got done reading this book and found out that the Tannese people have been encouraged to keep their custom. If you guys are really interested in this culture, purchase the book called, "a man with a bird on his head" and then tell me what you think.