Cargo Cult

By Scott Keith

*This blog is by a previous employee and friend, Matt Lawler. He has contributed to The Jagged Word in the past, and the other day he surprised me with a couple of submissions. I love to give aspiring writers a shot at a wider audience, so I’ll be running Matt’s piece in place of mine today. Enjoy Matt’s article.


I tend to spend a decent chunk of my time on the web, getting lost on Wikipedia and reading the most random things imaginable. In the midst of one of these binges, I learned an interesting factoid. During World War II, the United States set up various military bases on islands in the South Pacific to more effectively combat the threat of Imperial Japan. After the war, some anthropologists studying the natives of these islands found something incredible. The islanders, never having been exposed to such incredible technology, had developed an entire religion centered around what they had seen. This religion was labeled by the anthropologists as a “cargo cult.” It consisted of idols in the form of replica airplanes, watchtowers, guns, and crates made out of twigs and leaves by the islanders. They believed that these objects were gifts from the gods, or gods themselves, and worshiped them as such. As a matter of fact, several of these cargo cults persist to this very day.

The thought of all of this may make you laugh; it just seems so bizarre. How can such a primitive society still exist? How can they really believe this technology brought to their islands has mythical powers? How can they worship these objects wholeheartedly without giving it a second thought?

Well, guess what? If you take a step back and give it an honest look, this is us. We revere the late technology “god” Steve Jobs. The iPhone is the sacrament of this religion, and we marvel at it and worship at the glow of its screen day and night. We Americans are completely and totally immersed in the realm of materialistic consumerism from birth until death. Commercials, billboards, ads, shopping malls, Amazon, eBay, the next, the latest, and greatest. We are taught discontentment. If you don’t constantly have the newest and best model, then you’re slacking and even inferior. I remember a friend of mine teasing me for keeping a beat up “old” iPhone 5c for years while he had moved on to the iPhone 6s Plus. That’s right. I was being ridiculed for holding in my hand a piece of technology that could not have ever been imagined possible twenty years ago, simply because I was a model year or two behind. This line of thinking and way of life is toxic, both to the human mind and the soul.

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To understand how we can fight against this and reclaim our lives, we must look to Scripture, the source of all answers for mankind’s various problems. Here are some verses that bring wisdom to the issue:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8

“Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:13-15

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Jesus wants our whole hearts and our whole attention. He also said that He came that we may live life, and live it to the fullest. He knows this mindset and way of living have always been a temptation for us, and He wants to rescue us out of it, just as He desires to save us from all destructive practices. God is the God of peace and contentment, and His desire is for you and me to share in those things, not allowing them to be robbed away from us by what society tells us we need to do and think.

At the end of the day, we know that we will never live up to God’s perfect desire for us and that this is one of the ways we sin against Him. Yet, in His great mercy, He has still granted us salvation and freedom on account of Christ. “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. He sets us free from the burdens of self-imposed lawmaking and fulfilling, even the law of our perceived need. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

One last anecdote. One of the most spiritual people I’ve ever met was my Junior High History teacher, Mr. Prouty. He was a missionary who had seen the world. He had traveled China and Africa and had stories you wouldn’t believe if you didn’t know he was such an honest man. He taught at a private Christian school I attended in Orange County, consisting of many affluent students as well as staff. Amidst the BMWs and Mercedes, every morning he would pull in to the school in a beat up little Geo Metro. He mentioned that car only once during class, and his overall appraisal of the car was one of complete contentment and gratitude; he was good at not submitting. His attitude made a huge impression on me. The last I heard, he’s still driving that car, almost ten years later.

Finally, to quote the excellent anti-materialistic film Fight Club, “The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”

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