Speaker must not use his position to promote parochial interests
Pot-belly, egomania & a holistic view of a nation’s health

That an old bible in parliament can transform PNG is a fraud

The bible arrives in PNG (PNG Loop)DAVID EPHRAIM

An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism

AFTER the signing of Covenant between Somare and God in 2007, a few years later we find ourselves with Speaker Zurenuoc removing parliamentary carvings in his holy crusade to remove evil from the state house.

Fast forward to now, and Zurenuoc returns with a 400-year old bible donated by a deceased missionary in the United States. Many thousands of Papua New Guineans brave the hot sun to welcome the holy book.

The idea that adapting Christian norms and practices will transform Papua New Guinea is not a new notion. These pastors in the photograph and others have been stating that since Independence.

Nearly eight years on, we arrive at a spiritual awakening that highlights a society weakened by cargo cultism.

A cargo cult is a Melanesian millenarian movement encompassing a diverse range of practices and occurring in the wake of contact with the commercial networks of the colonisers.

The name derives from a belief that various ritualistic acts will lead to the bestowing of material wealth (cargo).

Millenarianism has been found through history among people who rally around often-apocalyptic religious prophecies that predict a return to power, the defeat of enemies or the accumulation of wealth.

These movements have been especially common among people living under colonialism or other forces that disrupt previous social arrangements.

The term "millennialist movement" has been used by scholars in anthropology and history to describe the common features of these religious phenomena when viewed as social movements, and has most often been used to describe the social movements that have taken place in colonised societies.

Christianity itself can be seen as originating in a millenarian movement among Jewish people living under Roman rule, although its characteristics as a social movement quickly changed as it spread through the Roman Empire.

Cargo cults often develop during a combination of crises. Under conditions of social stress, such a movement may form under the leadership of a charismatic figure. This leader may have a vision (or myth-dream) of the future, often linked to an ancestral efficacy (manna) thought to be recoverable by a return to traditional morality.

This leader may characterize the present state (often imposed by colonial capitalist regimes) as a dismantling of the old social order, meaning that social hierarchy and ego boundaries have been broken down.

Contact with colonisers brought about a considerable transformation in the way indigenous peoples of Melanesia thought about other societies. Early anthropological theories of cargo cults began assumed that cultists simply failed to understand technology, colonisation or capitalist reform.

Since the late twentieth century, alternative theories have arisen. Some scholars, such as Kaplan and Lindstrom, focus on Europeans' characterisation of these movements as a fascination with manufactured goods and what such a focus says about Western commodity fetishism.

The indigenous societies of Melanesia were typically characterised by a "big man" political system in which individuals gained prestige through gift exchanges. The more wealth a man could distribute and the more people in his debt, the greater his renown. Those who were unable to reciprocate were identified as "rubbish men".

Faced with foreign colonisers with a seemingly unending supply of goods for exchange, indigenous Melanesians experienced "value dominance". That is, they were dominated by others in terms of their own value system; the exchange with foreigners left them feeling like rubbish men.

Since the modern manufacturing process is unknown to them, members, leaders, and prophets of cults maintain that the manufactured goods of non-native culture have been created by spiritual means, such as through their deities and ancestors.

These goods are intended for the local indigenous people, but the foreigners have unfairly gained control of these objects through malice or mistake. Thus, a characteristic feature of cargo cults is the belief that spiritual agents will, at some future time, give much valuable cargo and desirable manufactured products to cult members.

Symbols associated with Christianity and modern Western society tend to be incorporated into ancient rituals as magical artifacts, for example the use of cross-shaped grave markers.

Notable examples of cargo cult activity include the setting up of mock airstrips, airports, offices and dining rooms, as well as the fetishisation and attempted construction of Western goods such as radios made of coconuts and straw.

Believers may stage drills and marches with sticks for rifles and use military-style insignia and national insignia painted on their bodies to make them look like soldiers, thereby treating the activities of Western military personnel as rituals to be performed for the purpose of attracting the cargo.

Wikipedia records that the term cargo cult was used in print in 1945 by Norris Mervyn Bird, repeating a derogatory description used by planters and businessmen in Papua. The term was later adopted by anthropologists, and applied retroactively to movements of a much earlier era.

The idea that removing carvings and putting an old bible in parliament will transform Papua New Guinea is technically and practically a fraud, and indicates a very weak state of mind shadowed by cargo cult thinking.

It is a belief that God will bless Papua New Guinea. Peter O’Neill declared on Monday that the “bible is the authority of parliament”.

I am sure many of us won’t be able to keep the many requirements to remain holy. I am not sure how Christians can convert the entire grace of God into law and enforcing this on to the masses of our people.

Firstly, such an action already violates our rights under our own Constitution, but our politicians seem to have no disregard for the rule of law and the freedom that united us and brought this country of many tribes together.

These people only make up a small portion of PNG’s Christian people but already they have managed to influence the ruling elite to accept such a spirituality.

PNG is a democratic country and everyone has the right to disregard and oppose any idea that threatens or undermines his or her right to freedom of speech, freedom to practice his or her traditional norms and right to free thinking.



A footnote on religion in Papua New Guinea

The 2000 census found that 96% of citizens identified themselves as members of a Christian church; however, many citizens combine their Christian faith with some traditional indigenous religious practices:

• Roman Catholic Church (27.0%)

• Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (19.5%)

• United Church (11.5%)

• Seventh-day Adventist Church (10.0%)

• Pentecostal (8.6%)

• Evangelical Alliance (5.2%)

• Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea (3.2%)

• Baptist (2.5%)

• Church of Christ (0.4%)

• Other Christian (8.9%)

• Bahá'í Faith (0.3%)

• Indigenous beliefs and other (3.3%)

There are also approximately 4,000 Muslims in PNG. The majority belong to the Sunni group, while a small number are Ahmadi.

Non-traditional Christian churches and non-Christian religious groups are active throughout the country.

The Papua New Guinea Council of Churches has stated that both Muslim and Confucian missionaries are active, and foreign missionary activity in general is high.

Traditional religions were often animist. Some also tended to have elements of Veneration of the dead, though generalisation is suspect given the extreme heterogeneity of Melanesian societies.

Prevalent among traditional tribes is the belief in masalai, or evil spirits, which are blamed for "poisoning" people, causing calamity and death, and the practice of puripuri (sorcery).


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Michael Dom

Marlene - agreed: Weak leadership.

Marlene Potoura

David Ephraim,
You got it all well written.
I agree with you.
All bloody cargo cult.
Our nation is being led by weaklings, seeking favour from the citizens.

Martina Apps

It is a bit like "the blind leading the blind", this monsters should own to their sins, give back to the state what they have stolen, and leave the bible alone.

Robin Lillicrapp

Those closer to the scene in PNG might be better able to critique the trend than I can.

However, I have noted over recent decades, an increasing clamour among theological camps over the means and rationale applied to securing and holding "The Kingdom."

Most of those efforts require control of wealth, industry, and governance toward achieving their ends.

The following may be of interest as a reference point in plotting history and movements: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominion_Theology

Dominion Theology (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

"Dominionism" redirects here. For the advocacy of dominion status in the British Empire and Commonwealth, see Dominion. For advocacy of the rights and interests of humans in relation to environmentalism and/or animal rights, see Anthropocentrism.

Dominion Theology is the idea that Christians should work toward either a nation governed by Christians or one governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law. At least under this name, it exists primarily among non-mainstream Protestants in the United States.

Go to the Wiki link for a broader profile of kindred philosophies.

Michael Dom

Yeah, I love Ripley - she's got nad's of steel.

Peter Kranz

Michael - you are resorting to Alien? At least give the full quote. Sort of sums it all up.

Hudson: Let’s just bug out and call it even, OK?

Ripley: I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. That’s the only way to be sure.

Hudson: Fuckin’ A…

Burke: Ho-ho-hold on one second. This installation has a substantial dollar value attached to it.

Ripley: They can bill me.

Peter Kranz

Funny how those leading the charge against the heathen idols adorning the Haus Tambaran are the same ones idolising a mere book, complete with fanfares, salutes and mass hysteria.

Definition of idolagtry:

1 : the worship of a physical object as a god

2 : immoderate attachment or devotion to something

Examples of idolatry.

"Her idolatry of her favorite rock star is one step removed from stalking" (Merriam-Webster)

And a quote from Martin Luther seems appropriate.

"God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars."

Michael Dom

Phil - trifle with them at your own peril.

They will lead a Christian conquest against the hoards that invade the other half of our island, liberate the people and establish the Christian State of Melanesia!

And they'll revoke your visa too, so there!

Michael Dom

Too right, David Ephraim.

Fucking A!

Phil Fitzpatrick

It will be interesting when Speaker Zurenuoc starts to hold inquisitions. That might give Sam Koim a run for his money.

After that I guess will come the crusades with soldiers if Christ charging across the landscape.

ISIL you haven't seen nothing yet.

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