Cargo Cult Bizarre

Posted without comment. From the Washington Post:

A Religion That Grew From a Lot of Brew

On the South Pacific island of Tanna, beneath a volcano that rumbles and smokes, a guy wearing a fake U.S. Army uniform raises an American flag. Then 40 barefoot men march past, carrying fake rifles made of bamboo, their brown chests decorated with red paint spelling out “USA.”

Later, a group of men slinging fake chainsaws sing a homemade hymn: “We’ve come from America to cut down all the trees so we can build factories.”

This isn’t a protest or a piece of performance art. It’s a religious ceremony held every year on Feb. 15 — John Frum Day, the high holy day of a South Pacific religion that worships a messiah who is, as Paul Raffaele writes in a wonderfully weird story in the February issue of Smithsonian, “an American god no sober man has ever seen.”

Raffaele traveled to the nation of Vanuatu — formerly known as New Hebrides — to check out the John Frum religion, one of the last of the famous “cargo cults” that sprang up in the South Pacific in World War II. He tells a story so bizarre that it reads like a Kurt Vonnegut novel.

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