Prince Philip and the Point of Mission Work

By Roz Monger

Still thinking about the John Frum cargo cult? Well, another interesting movement active amongst the Yaohnanen people on Tanna Island is the cult of Prince Philip. Yep. You read it correctly. I am writing about the Royal Consort, husband to Queen Elizabeth the Second of Great Britain and the Commonwealth. The one who talks to plants and drives a Range Rover around Windsor.If you Google the Prince Philip movement, you will find all the reasons why he is revered amongst this people group. He fulfils their prophecy belief that, born from a volcano on the island, he (with distinctive pale skin) will travel across the oceans and marry a powerful woman. He will then return to be with his people on Tanna. They, meanwhile, await his return. In the meantime they do not send their children to school (this people group are distinctive by their inability to read or write) and they live basic, unadorned lives.  Obediently, they do what they have been taught by generations of chiefs – they observe the rituals and regulations that will, surely, bring the Prince back to Tanna.

The Prince himself avoids visiting Tanna – let’s face it, awkward wouldn’t be the word to describe such a scene! – but he has supplied three official photographs of himself, including one holding a weapon sent to him by the tribe. These photographs are revered and shown to visiting journalists as proof of the Prince’s godhood, because that’s what it comes down to – this group of people believe that Prince Philip is not so much a man, as a God.

This reminds me so much of Israel’s journey through the era of the Kings. ‘We want a King!’ they cried. ‘No, not a good idea,’ cautioned God. After all, He knew that no earthly King could aspire to godhood. And what was it with wanting to worship something from the world? God, the God who had redeemed Israel from the Egyptians and given them victory in Canaan – only He was worthy of worship.

Still they pleaded, and pleaded even more, for a king who would deliver them in military victory. Was it not enough that God had done so many times before? Obviously not.

Samuel, the Judge of Israel, was quite disgusted at their pleas(1 Samuel 8:6).  However, he took their request to God, and God made the following statement.

Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. ( 1 Samuel 8:7)

The Prince Philip movement is serving an earthly king, who is truly only a man. Some  anthropologists suggest that Christian missionaries were responsible for triggering this strange belief, as they confused the Yaohnanen people with stories of a messiah/king from a long way away. However, God has not left the Yaohnanen people free of the signs of His lordship. In both general and specific revelation, God has made His nature known even to this small group on Tanna. Rebellion in the form of slavish tradition has blinded these people to the general revelation of God. Why do mission work? So that the specific revelation of God – the preaching and teaching of the Gospel – may open the eyes of the Yaohnanen people, so that they may be delivered from ‘obedience’ to ritual and traditional beliefs and be redirected to the Source of all life itself – Jesus Christ.

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