The Cargo Cult

by Godwin Otuno

One of the unusual legacies of the world War Two (WWII) has been the cargo cult of the South Pacific. Many of the Aboriginal people were first exposed to modern civilization during the war through the Allied forces. The American Military used the remote Islands of the South Pacific as temporary landing strips and supply depots. The plains bringing in these cargos came and left quickly and in the process leaving their great cargo behind. The tribal people had no time to learn the ways of the Allied forces. But in the mean time they came very close to the technology of the “white” man. The natives saw cigarette litters that produced fire instantly and believed that it must be miraculous. They saw bulldozers that pulled down trees, for the first time, they saw jeeps, refrigerators, radios and all sorts of equipment and many concluded that the “white man” was or must be a “god”.

When the war was over the “white men” were gone and the tribal people built shrines to the cargo gods. These shrines were replicas of the cargo planes, control towers and airplane hangars all made with bamboo sticks. These structures looked like the real thing but they were non functional. In some of the more remote island, the cargo cults still thrive today. These natives pray for holy cargo from every airplane that flies over. As civilization begins to penetrate these cultures their fascination for cargo has not diminished. Missionaries who have been sent to areas where cargo cults have flourished received warm welcome at first. The natives view their arrivals as a second coming, unfortunately the natives were looking for cargo not the gospel and missionaries have found it very difficult to penetrate the materialism that is the very essence of the islanders religion.

Virtually every religion ever designed by man worships a god whose function is to deliver some sort of cargo. The god of man’s making exist to serve men. He is only good for what he is able to provide. If or when he fails to provide then he is no longer their god. Unfortunately the Christian faith is fast becoming the cargo religion, a religion where God can be coerced, cajoled, manipulated, controlled and exploited for the Christian’s own benefit. God is expected to deliver blessings, financial and material prosperity at the request or in some cases at the command of the believer.

The new spirituality in the church today is the perfect religious match for a culture driven by a narcissistic mindset, a culture consumed with satisfying its lust and the resulting emptiness. Our churches now promise followers the benefits of the Christian faith without any form of commitment to the Christian principles. The church now embraces a theology of ease because we have created a new god and a new religion that does not look anything like the one described in the bible. We have created a religion that asks and takes nothing from us. No wonder it lacks the power to deliver anything of value.

When we define scriptures in relative terms, depart from the original message of the gospel, distort the truth of the gospel and deliberately deceive and allow ourselves to be deceived by “gospel salesmen” we will end up with a gospel that sounds and feels good but lacks the power to save. That is why in Galatians 1:6-9, Paul the Apostle wrote …I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: [7] Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. [8] But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. [9] As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. Paul issued this warning to the brethrens in Galatia because there is no other gospel. The bible never told us that there will be no pain; the bible did not say that there will be no difficulty. Scriptures did not promise to make you a millionaire when you come to Christ. Jesus said …in the world ye shall have tribulation(John. 16:33), in other words there will be pain, there will be sufferings, bad things will happen to good people, but does that mean that there is no God? Does that mean that God is no longer good; does that mean that God cannot save or deliver his people from difficult situations? The answer is an emphatic No. In that same verse Jesus said … be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John. 16:33). The cargo cult is alive and well, not only in the remote pacific islands but in our cozy suburban churches. The question is, are you one of its converts?

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