Because of the hard work that the Cann family has done thus far in studying the Culture of the Maweroro village, we have a pretty good idea what the religious status of our village is like. For those who are interested, here is a summary of what we know.
At the heart of every religion there is a belief about the character and nature of things which exists, which can be divided into 2 categories – seen and unseen. These seen and unseen things also differ in their value and in the ‘glory’ it holds in the minds of the people. In the Maweroro village, what they believe exists and what they believe about the things that exists looks as follows…
This picture can function as a “foundational summary” of what they belief, but upon it builds more beliefs and actions directed by these beliefs.
Zooming in on these “Level 2 spirits”… they hold an animistic view of these spirits. What is animistic?
Animism is the believe that everything – the rocks, the trees, the ground – is alive, and has a spirit with varying degrees of power. These spirits has to be pleased at all times and appeased when angered lest it uses its power to your harm.
The Bible is not silent on this subject. The Bible does, of course, acknowledge the existence of spiritual powers (Eph 6:12), and of people who try to control them (Lev 20:27, Isa 19:3) as being very real. The Bible also teaches that humans can be possessed and controlled by evil spirits (Luke 7:21, Acts 8:7). However, God expressly condemns the attempt to communicate with spirits other than Himself: ‘”A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads'” (Lev. 20:27)
This animistic belief further drives their actions, and leads to something called…
Sorcery is the manipulation and ordering of spirits to the person’s desire. We know it as magic or black magic performed by witchdoctors.
A person might do a ritual to order an evil spirit to kill their enemy or make them sick. He may try to manipulate a spirit through sacrifices, believing that the spirit will give them good crops if the ritual pleases the spirit.
A people called the Mouk people believed that every strand of your hair contains a part of your spirit – and if someone has a part of your spirit, they can curse you and you can die. So one day, the missionary’s wife cut his hair outside and left the pieces of hair on their ground. An old man in the village became agitated. He carefully picked up all the hair trimmings and disposed of them properly to protect the missionary from being harmed by a sorcerer.
People live in constant fear of these evil spirits, and in hopelessness because they cannot ultimately control all these spirits and evil that is happening.
All of these beliefs and actions and emotions which follows these actions exists because they have made a terrible exchange, EXCHANGING the only one and true God to worship and serve idols, as Romans 1:18-25 says:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse… (they) exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
In our village they believe that when someone in their village dies, their spirit continue to hover on the village ground. In Maweroro the people believe that if a baby cries a lot, it is because a spirit of an ancestor is harassing the baby because it is upset that it is forgotten. Thus the people will continue to rename the baby until the baby stops crying, believing that they have then found the ancestor that wants to be remembered and their spirit is now happy again.
This is a Lutheran Church in our village. So, when you walk into the village you might be tempted to say that these people are all right – they have a church. Upon arriving in the village, Zach Cann asked them “are you Christians?” and they responded with a sure “yes” and said “there are only two kinds of people – heathens, who don’t wear clothes and eat people, and Christians, who don’t do such things”
As far as we can tell, the Lutherans came into the village, preaching good morals and telling them to become more “civilized.” Something like – if they have more than one wife or murder people, they will go to hell, if not, they will go to heaven. They have never heard the true Gospel – they heard faith by works (Romans 4:4-8)
So what did they do with this information? They syncretized it with their animism, sorcery and ancestor worship.
The blending of Christianity into existing beliefs, uniting the two to form a new belief. This new belief is neither the same as their original belief, nor is is according to Biblical Christian faith.
An example of Syncretism in our village: There is a man from the Lutheran church in our village who believes that God gave him bowls to work magic on. He dresses up and does rituals which he believes will please God, while praying to Him for success for their crops. When Christianity is mixed into beliefs like these, Christian prayer is mostly understood as a ritual to manipulate ‘paua’. The only thing that they’ve done is added the magic word “God” to their rituals, as one would say “abracadabra” in a magic spell.
What happened in the church of Thessalonica has not happened among them yet. 1 Thessalonians 1:8-9
“but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere…For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
But what has happened in the church of Thessalonica CAN happen among them, and that is what our hearts desire and prayer is!