The embarrassing tale of the King James Bible present to PNG: Fraud, Corruption, Hypocrisy, Cargo Cultism, and amusement
By Anonymous and via Nineteen Years and Counting
The gift of the supposed 1st edition 1st imprint of the 1611 King James Bible to Papua New Guinea is an amazing piece of drama. It wraps and presents in a single, digestible story all the craziness, hypocrisy and corruption that characterises PNG today.
Deceiving the people about what this Bible present represented was perpetrated largely by PNG Parliamentary speaker Theo Zurenuoc, who is so immersed in his magical cargo cult dream world that even having the whole world laugh at him wouldn’t cause him to pause and reflect. Zurenuoc’s fraud was four-fold:
1. An American government gift? Zurenouc originally said that the gift was coming from either the national government of the United States or the state government of Indiana. Neither proved true. No one who participated on this sightseeing trip has provided even one piece of evidence of American government involvement in the Bible gift nor its presentation. The American Embassy in Port Moresby refuses to comment on the whole affair.
2. Donated and picked up in the USA State of Indiana? The Bible was not received in Indiana by the Government of Papua New Guinea, but in another state altogether by PNG fundamentalist church leaders. The event occurred as one session during a meeting of the Interchurch Holiness Convention, which is solely comprised of fundamentalist Christians and took place in Dayton, Ohio. This is well established by photos and accompanying captions that have appeared on the internet, as well as on the website of the group that presented the Bible.
3. A unified welcome for the Bible? The major churches of PNG, including Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran, were silent about the gift when it arrived in PNG. However, the Catholic church was outraged by the earlier destruction to parliament building traditional art carvings that Speaker Zurenuoc led in late 2013 as Step 1 of the process to ‘rid parliament building of evil spirits’. The new Bible is Step 2 of the process. The whole affair was led by the fundamentalist Christian sect called the PNG Bible Church which interprets the Bible in a very different way from the mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches. Only on 1 May did the Catholic Bishops finally acknowledge the Bible donation, showing dismay that Zurenuoc and others “often appear to use ‘Bible’ and ‘Word of God’ interchangeably, meaning that Zurenuoc was promoting an object as being the word of God rather than as witness to the word of God, as befits the reality of numerous Bible translations over the millenia and endless interpretations of what the words in the Bible say.
4. A rare, priceless gift to PNG of great significance?
First, Zurenuoc said it was one of a kind, then he said it was 1 in 3 known copies, then he said it was 1 in 5 known copies, a statistic that PM Peter O’Neill repeated. The story changed constantly. PM Peter O’Neill stated that it was a “priceless antique”. It was also reported as “known to be the best and most well preserved [copy]”. You would never believe it, witnessing the relatively careless way the Bible was carried once it came into PNG hands. Anyone who truly respected a priceless ancient book would never allow it to be exposed to air, much less handle it and parade it out in the open. Zurenuoc’s ignorance and arrogance allowed all these violations to occur. In the bigger picture, the Bible donation event was so insignificant that it wasn’t reported at all in the American media. In fact, American scholar Donald Blake, in an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corporation, flatly denounced Zurenuoc’s assessment of the Bible’s rarity, stating that there he has documented at least 169 known copies of the 1st edition King James Bible, and suspects there are as many as 680 in existence, most of which would be damaged, with pages missing. Expert Blake estimated the value of the rarer 1st imprint Bible to be no more than USD $95,000, or about K280,000.
Unionist John Paska and the Post Courier now both say that the trip to get the Bible cost taxpayers K693,041,far more than the Bible’s estimated K280,000 worth. Funding this junket with taxpayers’ money amounts to misappropriation for several reasons.
First, the government and the public was deceived by Speaker Zurenuoc that this was a government-to-government transaction and probably did so to escape misappropriation charges. But the reality is that this was a fundamentalist Christian church-to-fundamentalist Christian church transaction that Speaker Zurenuoc only played a witnessing role in, driven by the Speaker’s personal religious beliefs.
Second, despite a party of 4 MPs taking off for the event, all photos posted on the internet that show the Bible transfer in Dayton, Ohio, shows only Speaker Zurenuoc present. Missing in Action seem to be Southern Highlands Governor William Powi, Lae MP Loujaya Kousa, and Kundiawa-Gembogl MP Tobias Kulang. None have come out in the media and stated what they did on this trip to justify the cost of sending them. It is intriguing that MP Loujaya Kousa is not mentioned in Union leader John Paska’s submission to the Ombudsman Commission, even though she was originally included in the travel list and posted a remark on Facebook in a way that implies she was present at the handover.
Zurenuoc himself is silent about the MPs activities or any justification for sending a government party of at least 5 individuals for a private church trip at taxpayers expense. Neither the Americans states of Indiana nor of Ohio would be considered top priorities of important places for a parliamentary delegation to visit to achieve anything significant. This has all the appearances of being a sightseeing excursion for all but Zurenuoc, although undoubtedly many ‘great accomplishments’ will suddenly be revealed by Kulang, Powi, and Kousa if ever an investigation takes place.
A number of Christians in the social media either declined to respond to the allegations of misappropriation that this trip involved or have stated that it was okay that this trip be funded with taxpayers money.
This is a small example of a longer, bigger trend in a country that states itself to be Christian, but radiates to the world one example after another of hypocrisy against the Bible’s guiding words. Christian country PNG of today has few Christians displaying vocal outrage against either recent witch burnings nor violence against women generally.
For years, Christian churches and their congregations have hardly protested about blatent high level government corruption and stealing. Several Christians on the social media actually felt it was okay to use government funds for this recent even only because it involved a Bible, and ignored the lies and deceptions that surrounded the event.
This highlights a disturbing trend in PNG not to learn from mistakes that today’s advanced nations went through when religion and governance were allowed to mix with each other, but to repeat the mistakes. It also displays for all to see the hypocrisy some PNG Christians have at understanding that the 10 Commandments do not only apply to “certain situations” and that anything involving the Bible is exempt from following God’s Word.
THE CARGO CULTISM
Primitive cargo cult mentality in PNG is alive and well. The mentality has its origins in not understanding how things work and assuming that only the proper rituals would lead to the wished for results. Cargo cult mentality persists today in PNG because we’re content at our status as a poorly educated society. This means that as a people we are largely ignorant of global realities and of how science and technology discover truths about the universe and it working. People like Zurenuoc are products as well as promoters of this ignorance. Zurenuoc’s organised ritual to welcome the Bible, added to his pronouncements of this one Bible’s magic to change the nation is Biblical cargo cultism.
The Bible was paraded around Moresby and a red carpet reception as if it were either a person or a magic object. It was lifted to idol worship status by promoting that it had exceptional power, above and beyond other Bibles.
Eda Ranu CEO Henry Mokono stated that the mere presence of the Bible “would make a difference in the long run” to straighten out all the social issues PNG was facing. Speaker Zurenuoc stated that the mere presence of the Bible in parliament would “elevate the standard of leadership.” Carrying out a ritual (the idol worship-style procession) in the expectation of cargo (the doing away with evil in parliament) fits the definition of classic cargo cultism.
THE SIDE ENTERTAINMENT
Dr Gene Hood, the fundamentalist Christian who donated the Bible, died the day after it was transferred into conspicuously careless PNG hands (what magical explanations could we come up to explain that coincidence?!). Dr Hood was misrepresented by his PNG supporters as a billionaire media magnate. In reality, he wasn’t even a millionaire and lived in a simple house at 216 S 17th Ave, Beech Grove, INDIANA 46107. He owned a handful of radio stations under his company Pilgrim Communications, Inc., established with the idea of using radio to spread fundamentalist gospel. Yet, he and son Randy, also a Pilgrim Communication principal, weren’t so committed to spreading the Good News that they said “no” to leasing one of their stations, KREL-AM to a group that proceeded to unveil its new programming schedule as KHIG(H), America’s first radio station to devote all its programming to promoting marijuana use. This surprising news came out in April, just before the Bible donation, an unexpected development that’s not all that surprising, considering that so much was hidden from the people of Papua New Guinea about the Bible story to begin with.
The PNG government’s always-present commitment to non-transparency expressed itself once again in the King James Bible donation. Zurenuoc and company bears the blame not only for early errors in figuring out what the Bible donation was all about. However, Zurenuoc also gets all the credit for motivating a legion of volunteer internet investigators to dig out and expose the lies, deceptions, and other unpleasant facts surrounding this tale.