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Kingdom tok: legends and prophecies in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

Recent ethnographic publications on Christianity in Melanesia tend to emphasise the propensity of Pentecostal churches to encourage members to enact a dramatic change in their lives. For example, Annelin Eriksen illustrates how these churches enable people in Vanuatu to 'break with the past' as a meaningful act with political connotations (Eriksen 2009:175). In contrast, groups with a strong identification with Judaism in Melanesia intertwine new religious ideas and practices with their tradition on the basis of what they see as a 'genealogical' connection with their 'Jewish' origins (ASAO 2011:9; Dundon 2011; Kirsch 1997). In Solomon Islands, (1) and particularly Malaita, religious groups make use of connections with Israelite ancestors to articulate various interpretations of kastom. For example, Ben Burt has shown that the doctrine of the Remnant Church derived 'from careful study based on intellectual and historical premises widely accepted by Kwara'ae' people and legitimated 'its members' political aspirations' (Burt 1983:334). Thus, while these groups are described as seeking a connection with their past, Pentecostal converts are portrayed as working towards their separation from it. Though divergent in this respect, I had the opportunity to observe how they converge on other aspects.

I conducted fieldwork in Honiara, capital city of Solomon Islands, for 13 months between 2011 and 2012.1 lived for most of the time in Gilbert Camp, a settlement situated across the southeastern segment of the town boundary. My research was focused on the morality and economy of migrants from Kwara'ae, Malaita, and I was particularly interested in studying the diffusion and impact of Pentecostal churches. Upon my arrival, I soon realised that it was pointless to study Solomon Islands Christianity as if it constituted a set of separate churches and denominations. Besides the current ecumenical efforts to deliver combined services and foster cooperation among the churches, there are other factors that make the Solomon Islands religious scene particularly complex, fluid, and unpredictable. These range from multiple memberships to different churches to reiterated denominational changes.

Pentecostal churches are now a constitutive part of this variegated and complex religious landscape, and so are groups that identify with Judaism (to the extent that some of these groups define themselves as 'Jews'). In this paper, I will make use of the terms 'Jew' and 'Jewish' when referring to informants who define themselves this way. (2) Although their ideas of what is a Jew are various and not necessarily compatible, it is my impression that they usually define their 'Jewishness' on the basis of their alleged genealogical connection to the Lost Tribes of Israel. Concerning Pentecostal churches, I define them as independent churches which promote a personalised relationship with God, also evidenced through by the reception of spiritual gifts such as prophecy, healing, and glossolalia (cf. Ernst 2006a:3-4; Robbins 2004:117).

In Honiara, breakaway movements and the diffusion of Pentecostal churches have become topics of constant discussion among Solomon Islanders. They speak of this set of phenomena as a new 'season' of Christianity, using expressions such as the 'third round of the Revival'. Although they usually make use of this expression to indicate the relatively recent burgeoning of Pentecostal churches, they also use it with reference to a phase in the development of Solomon Islands Christianity regardless of denominational differences. This period is characterised by an emphasis on people's power to challenge the political and religious hierarchies, their struggle to define their identities, and a renovated control of their faith, as opposed to a Christian identity perceived as externally imposed by generations of foreign missionaries.

In this context of change, groups of Malaitans who claim a connection to the Lost Tribes of Israel can be found in Honiara. Among other things, they claim to be descendants of biblical kings who arrived in the Pacific Islands on their Ark after the Universal Flood; they state that there is an ancient Lost Temple of Israel hidden in the deep bush of Malaita, where their ancestors originally worshipped God, and they interpret passages of the Bible as references to the destiny of Solomon Islands as a God-chosen country (cf. Dundon 2011:41). The ways in which these characteristics relate to and connect within the broader religious situation in Solomon Islands require investigation within the context of their formation. One way to do so is looking at elements these groups share with other religious groups. In Malaita, these elements range from separatism to nationalistic discourses and claims to provincial autonomy. In Honiara, discourses are mostly focused on theocratic aspirations, preoccupations with hidden knowledge, and the authenticity of Christian sources. In this way, although they proceed from different premises and tend to act and formulate discourses in different ways, it is possible to identify differences and commonalities among these relatively new churches and religious groups. In this comparison, I concentrate on two 'Jewish' groups and some Pentecostal churches in Honiara, including Kingdom Harvest Ministry International, Christian Outreach Centre, Assemblies of God, and others.

I argue that recognising commonalities among these groups and churches illustrates how Solomon Islanders understand the current religious and political situation. It shows that many of the current fusions and fissions of contemporary religious groups are underpinned by the same aspirations. In particular, I want to reflect upon the use that people make of Kingdom tok. By Kingdom tok, Solomon Islanders in Honiara refer to the act of speaking about what they see as 'The Kingdom', that is, a community of individuals elected by God to realise his mandate on earth. Kingdom tok is framed by a body of legends and prophecies through which people in Honiara interpret history, culture, and identity, be it in the public spaces of the Central Market or in the intimacy of their peri-urban huts.

In this paper, I place more emphasis on what these groups actually do and talk about in these contexts, rather than their theology as a set of ideas and practices. In so doing, I hope to demonstrate that, below the surface of denominational exclusivity, both Pentecostal churches and 'Jewish' groups perceive the present reality as a period of Solomon Islands history in which they can reshape the meaning of their faith in order to engage with the present 'season' of their history.


Groups of Solomon Islanders with a strong identification with Judaism have usually emerged after a breakaway from other denominations (see Burt 1983). Historically, the same process has been identified in the formation of Pentecostal churches, in Solomon Islands and elsewhere (Ernst 2006b: 159-204; Robeck 2006). In Honiara, I had the opportunity to study how groups of Solomon Islanders left their denominations to begin Pentecostal churches as well as breakaway groups that defined themselves as 'Jews'.

David, (3) one of my informants, withdrew his membership from the South Seas Evangelical Church of Gilbert Camp and created a small group that identified with Jewish beliefs and the Old Testament. The gathering was rather informal. It was called 'Tabernacle' by some members, although others used different names, and some even insisted that there had to be no name for the group. Even before the group came into being, David was a very committed Christian. He then started to feel that he needed to find a different way to live his faith. It was not until he met Matthew, founder of an Evangelical non-denominational group, that he decided to take the decisive step out of his local church. Regarding that experience, he explained to me:
   When you only go to church on Sunday, when the bell rings, that is
   not worship! That is religion. When you live inside the Kingdom,
   worship is your lifestyle. It is a religion when you are meant to
   number 20 or 30 [to make a difference]. But God can be interested
   in just 3 or 4 [people].... We do not belong to a church. But when
   the time of the Kingdom will come, we will be one.

Young Joshua and Tony also left their original denomination, the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM), (4) to create their own 'Jewish' group. They have a local retreat where they can gather, talk about what they see as their original kastom, and research their connections with the Lost Tribes of Israel. Their group does not have a name, although they like to refer to the place where they congregate as 'Zion'. This is where they built their maket ham, a shack of timber on the front side of which they painted the flag of Israel. They say that they did not have any serious trouble with their local church. They only felt that they needed something closer to their identity as Malaitans, and that the local Anglican clergy were too focused on church services and not enough on them 'as people'. They had developed a Bible study group, and soon started to focus on the Old Testament. They identified passages of the sacred text which they related to Malaitan kastom. (5) Then, a Pentecostal preacher came to their church for an evening prayer, as part of the ACOM programme called 'Decade of Evangelism and Renewal'. At that point, when they learnt about the possibility to 'follow one's own call from God', they created their small breakaway group.

Their desire to break away resembles that of other Solomon Islanders who decide to venture into the complex and varied religious landscape of the capital city. I interviewed the founders of numerous Pentecostal churches in Honiara, and recognised that breakaway is a feature they all share. A paradigmatic example is provided by the case of a group of young Anglicans who, during the 1980s, wanted to worship in a more charismatic way. The group had developed charismatic activities in the cathedral of St. Barnabas, and the then Archbishop Amos Waiaru was worried that they were threatening the 'Church of Melanesia standards of doctrine, faith and practice' (Waiaru 1990). After months of much antagonism, the charismatic group left and established the Rhema Family Church. (6)

As it is the case for Pentecostal churches throughout the Pacific (Ernst 1994:72-85, 124, 2006a), numerous religious splits, schisms, and breakaways regularly take place in Honiara, be it at the church, community, or family level. I listened to and recorded many stories of Solomon Islanders who, for many diverse reasons, decided to change their denomination. When they were discussing those events, they were also speaking of a more fundamental set of issues pertaining to their desire to shape their identities, which include autonomy, self-determination, and a desire to unite with others who broke away.

It appears that autonomy and self-determination are major concerns for both Pentecostal Christians and the 'Jewish' groups. For the former, although Israel is understood as a foreign entity as much as the 'waitman churches', they want to see themselves as legitimately entitled to share the prosperity of the Kingdom of God without depending on externally imposed identities that can be associated with British colonial rule, European dominance, or the global West. In contrast, they make use of Kingdom tok in order to criticise corruption in government and the disruption of social life in Solomon Islands. On these grounds, they tend to formulate brand new identities based solely on ethno-theologies (see Dundon 2011:39^)0) that are the composite site of their social relations, shared histories, and interpretations of sacred texts. As we shall see, people in these groups confabulate about popularised versions of kastom, theological principles, biblical passages, legends, and personal experiences. Through Kingdom tok, they re-create their relationships with each other within the framework of a set of combined narratives in which they play the role of powerful protagonists. In so doing, they share ideas that turn out to be the elements at the basis of new group identities. The ways in which these identities are presented make them look different, and a superficial analysis would maintain this distinction. For example, each group might have a different set of reasons to explain the theoretical and practical causes of its breakaway.

However, below the surface of distinctive discourses about their origins and directions lies a set of commonalities, such as the one concerning their desire to define themselves in different terms from those of their original denominations. What Pentecostal churches and groups that identify with Judaism have in common, therefore, is the fundamental character of their breakaway, which is a significant act that represents their engagement with a whole set of new possibilities in terms of spirituality and identity.


The decision to make a religious breakaway translates also into various forms of political discourses. Solomon Islanders frame their breakaways within these discourses, and thus see them as responses to political issues, which they partly understand in religious terms. The so-called 'Jewish' groups interpret fragments of the Old Testament in ways that solidify their conviction that the people of Solomon Islands are powerful players and game changers. As they reframe their role in such a way, they look at the current socio-political situation as a battlefield where spiritually empowered social agents oppose the forces of evil, embodied by corrupt politicians, criminals, and false prophets.

Although these groups insist on the primacy of Malaitan people as far as their genealogical connection with Israel is concerned, they consider their role to be beneficial to Solomon Islands as a whole. Residing in Honiara and connecting with people from other provinces undermines the emphasis on regionalist and separatist aspirations that Malaitan residents often uphold. It follows that the desire of 'Jewish' groups in Honiara to have an impact on Solomon Islands society constantly oscillates between the local, regional, national, and global dimensions, depending on variables such as context and interlocutor. They tend to present their connection to a particular locale as just one idiom within a complex composition of other diverse relations. For instance, they can see themselves connected to Malaita, but this can be spelled out in terms of genealogical connections to 'Jewish' ancestors, kastom, separatist projects or in declaration of migratory pride by those who left their homeland and rebuilt their life in the urban context. In other words, the meaning of their localisation is variable as it depends upon which particular relationship is elicited.

To give another example, during Kingdom tok, they emphasise their relationships with other people whom they meet in the urban context, and with whom they share their vision about a better future for Solomon Islands. In so doing, they spell out one of the major principles of their idea of 'theocracy', that divine individuals freely roam, act, and interact without the fixed reference of a church. They perceive their actions as scattered, but somehow coordinated by the 'big plan bio God' J There is no need for a church, they think, because they are already cooperating even if their actions might look dispersed and autonomous. They say that in order to see 'the plan' clearly, one should look at things from God's point of view, that is, from above.

In contrast, their acts look dispersed only as long as you look at them from a 'human perspective', as opposed to a 'godly' one. Thus, they do not feel the need to formalise their membership in the Kingdom under the label of a particular denomination. Although some might prefer to give a name to their group, as it is the case for Zion and Tabernacle, many consider this to be rather unnecessary. What really counts for them is their individual stewardship and their work towards the establishment of the Kingdom. That is one reason their groups are so small. They see this as positive, because they feel free from the institutional intricacies of larger churches and groups. Nevertheless, sometimes they organise gatherings where they worship with other individuals and groups. With respect to these forms of sociality, David once told me that the absence of a 'roof' over their head makes the world the biggest church ever built.

The narrative formulated by Pentecostal groups in Honiara can also be interpreted as a criticism of the modem state. Frustration over the broken promises of development is routinely spelled out in the Sunday services of any of the 40 charismatic and Pentecostal groups I visited during my fieldwork. In response to such frustration, pastors and adherents react with fervour about issues of governance. They emphasise the role of the individual who takes up his own destiny as a consequence of a call from God, and who has an impact on those areas of society in which the state failed to intervene.

With the help of spirit-filled members, pastors and adherents provide a broad set of services to their communities, within and beyond their own denominational lines. Besides initiatives such as kindergarten, primary education, fundraising, and support to local communities, which can also be found in other denominations, I visited churches in which courses of entrepreneurship, domestic economy, and even a system of credit and loans had been set up. When these kinds of activities are effective and well coordinated, members of Pentecostal churches say that they feel that the Kingdom is 'already there'. For them, society should be a place where citizens can have what they need because like-minded people are there to provide it or share it. They conceive of the Kingdom as that place, and in Kingdom tok, they formulate their excitement about its materialisation. In this sense, the Kingdom is not just a potential alternative to democracy in Solomon Islands. For them, it is an actual parallel system of service provision already in place.

From the above discussion, it appears that Pentecostal groups in Honiara frame the impact of their faith within the broad discourse of nationhood and citizenship (cf Eriksen 2009). Although they mostly operate at the community level, they position their local impact into a vision of the country seen as a system and general model of belonging. In other words, Pentecostal Christians in Honiara do not frame their identity in opposition to the democratic narrative of national unity. Thus, Pentecostal and 'Jewish' groups in Honiara converge in their framing the impact of their faith in nationalist rather than regionalist terms, although this might not be the case in other areas of the country. In Malaita, instead, worship sessions in Pentecostal churches, as well as in 'Jewish' groups, are often interspersed with references to regionalist ambitions of escaping the recent developments of Solomon Islands politics.

Be it in nationalist or regionalist terms, my impression is that Pentecostal churches and 'Jewish' groups have been frustrated by decades of unfulfilled promises from the government, in terms of service provision, corruption, and good governance, and that this is fuelling a shared criticism of the state and a desire to provide assistance to their fellow citizens. The efforts these groups put into the creation of alternatives to state public services demonstrate their wish to shape their identity as frontline actors in the governance of their country. At the same time, they want to maintain the spiritual dimension that inspires their efforts. These groups aspire to coordinate their spiritual identities and practices in order to form clusters of cooperation that work as alternatives to existing state institutions. They also share the desire to be self-determining as a God-chosen people. They see themselves as social actors bound by 'covenants' or 'calls from God'. Put otherwise, these groups perceive themselves as spiritually empowered actors in the development of their territory.


Pentecostal churches and 'Jewish' groups in Honiara frequently mobilise a desire for 'theocracy'. 'Theocracy' is a term they often use in interviews, public speeches, and religious services in order to suggest that the actions of and interactions between spiritually empowered individuals are unified within a divine governmental system. It is the idea that all forms of social organisation--the state, the church, and the clan--should be subjected to a God-given mandate to rule the world. A remarkable feature of this mandate is that people do not see it as 'religious'. Rather, they see it as 'divine'. This mandate implies the constitution of a body of saint-like figures who would rule Solomon Islands according to revelations, visions, and dream-like instructions directly inspired by God.

However, the 'Jewish' groups see 'theocracy' differently from Pentecostal Christians in Honiara in that they view such divine mandate as given by God to the people of Israel in the Old Testament (cf Burt 1983:339, this issue). And since they claim a genealogical connection to the Lost Tribes of Israel, they see themselves as legitimate recipients of that mandate. In contrast, Pentecostal groups see 'theocracy' as actualised through their direct action. They perceive themselves as a sort of divine delegation, appointed and ratified with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, it should be noted that such a sharp distinction is purely analytical. In other words, although it is possible to draw an opposition between the theological bases upon which they construct their ideas of theocracy, this should not suggest that such divergence causes conflicts between members of Pentecostal churches and 'Jewish' groups.

In Gilbert Camp, and the urban context more generally, both Pentecostal churches and 'Jewish' groups frequently present 'religion' as detrimental to the practical challenges of life, particularly urban life. 'Religion', in their eyes, misleads the believer to the extent that religious institutions, for them, aim at their own perpetuation rather than the establishment of the Kingdom of God. In particular, they criticise the separation between worship and daily life, which they consider to be inextricably linked.

In opposition to the idea of a once-a-week church service, they propose a theory of sociality based on the divine mandate to act and cooperate outside the scope of religious institutions. They see these actions and interactions necessary to realise 'theocracy' as a concrete alternative way to govern the country, the community, family, and even the single person. This idea of theocracy challenges the usual notion of Solomon Islands nationhood by presenting the Kingdom of God as a preferable alternative to democracy and even community leadership.

Alongside the important role played by pastors and church leaders in dealing with issues such as water supply and road improvements, now members of religious groups who endorse the ideal of theocracy occasionally intervene to tackle problems at the community level. In urban communities, such as Gilbert Camp, I had the opportunity to observe effective cooperation among these individuals. However, when they see themselves in relation to the state, it is the idiom of opposition and incompatibility that they prefer to use. Indeed, these partisans of 'theocracy' argue that state actors are substantially unable to deliver services to the population, as a consequence of their 'ungodly' lifestyles. The term is defined by opposition to the 'godly lifestyle' that is at the basis of the theory of sociality advanced by these supporters of theocracy, which I try to delineate below.

Pentecostal Christians in Honiara believe that individuals who receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, speak in tongues, and 'accept Christ in their life' become the repository of a divine power that makes them able to have a positive impact on society. They do not see the need for a church or institution that unites these individuals under a common label. They can act on their own, conscious that what they do will contribute to the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

This belief might sound confusing, given that Pentecostal Christians in Honiara normally do belong to a church or a group. However, as I was conducting participant observation among them, I had the impression that they give much more importance to their agency as individuals, that is, to what they see as their effective and meaningful action, rather than their membership in a particular group. This became explicit as I observed them taking part in activities organised by different churches throughout the week. It was as if they could at the same time belong to all of them and none of them.

When I interrogated them in this respect, they offered rationales that explained their attendance in contextual rather than general terms. For example, they said that attending one church rather than another was conditional upon a car being available to reach the church. To give another example, if a female singer is needed in a church different from the one she usually attends, denominational differences should not present a hindrance. However, such individuals never said that they were not attached to any church in particular, although some said that being a member of a church did not prevent them from attending other services when the opportunity arose.

Although Pentecostal pastors I interviewed in Honiara always attended the same church, they are among those who clearly state that there are no strict rules as to who can join the service, nor to what he or she can do during or after it. In sum, what matters to Pentecostal Christians in Honiara is exercising their agency as spiritually empowered individuals, regardless of whether this happens in a particular church, in many, or outside. In other words, whereas attendance at a church is conditional upon the circumstances, action and interaction as spirit-filled people are a necessary condition for the establishment of a 'theocracy'.

In the same way, the 'Jewish' groups in Honiara imagine 'theocracy' as a country ruled by people chosen and 'appointed' by God himself. In this context, Kingdom tok becomes a way to voice their concerns regarding the current state of national politics and what they see as the widespread deterioration of people's morality. In Honiara, they say that people forget their kastom, stop caring about their relatives, and dedicate their entire life to the accumulation of capital. They add that this is not just their fault. 'It's the system!' David once told me as he was trying to convince me that Solomon Islands needs to be ruled by 'a king', meaning God.

In order to explain to me what he meant by Kingdom, he told me the following story:
   For example, look at this Israel flag. You see? The first time I
   have seen it, it was printed on paper. I said, 'Oh God, I would
   like to have the original one! I do not want a photocopy, or a
   second hand one. I want the real one! First hand, not second hand!
   If I get the second hand one, that would mean that my daddy8 is a
   poor daddy!' Not long after, someone came up after prayer and gave
   that flag to me saying, 'This is for you David!' So, when I saw
   that, I thought, 'that must be a gift from God, who wants me to be
   happy.' You see, the Kingdom is a place where you can be happy,
   because there is someone who takes care of you.

It is my impression that David's story illustrates his belief that being 'appointed' by God implies receiving all the essential instruments to exercise the divine mandate. It follows that to establish a 'theocracy', it is necessary to be in a direct relationship with God in order to be provided with the means to operate, such as the flag of the state of Israel. This idea that one can receive provisions as a consequence of a direct relationship with God resonates with elements in the classic version of the Prosperity Gospel (Robbins 2010:170-1). In the last section, I hope to provide further evidence to show how David's point of view adheres to that of members of contemporary Pentecostal churches in Honiara, in that both seek to establish a direct and concretely mutual relationship with God.


In Honiara, the idea that one can satisfy one's spiritual needs as a consequence of living within a particular paradigm rather than another is formulated and presented in strikingly similar terms in Pentecostal churches and 'Jewish' groups. Adherents of both groups insist that there must be a relationship between the ways in which one prays and the material outcomes in terms of wealth, health, good fortune, and the like. (9) God cannot be a 'poor Daddy', as David said, the proof being that, in the world, there are nations that prosper, people who succeed, and countries that flourish. So, 'why is Solomon Islands still underdeveloped?' David rhetorically asked me. He said that the only possible explanation is that there must be some form of worshipping God that 'works' better than others.

The idea that the first missionaries who came to Solomon Islands only taught part of the 'tru stori' is presently widespread in Honiara. Solomon Islanders like David, Joshua, and Tony tend to think that missionaries did so on purpose. They allege that the ministers conspired to keep to themselves all the provisions that God intended to donate to those who converted and believed. In order to appropriate the share of the natives, they only brought a very superficial and incomplete version of the Good News.

These ideas echo the leitmotiv of numerous accounts of so-called cargo cults (e.g., Otto 2004:209-26), which depicted Europeans plotting to hijack the provision of goods originally sent to Melanesians by their ancestors. The word that Joshua and Tony use to define the attitude of those missionaries who were perceived as desiring to keep the secrets about the proper methods of worship to themselves is 'fangata'a' (10) or 'selfish'. They are said to be selfish because they are perceived as unwilling to share the returns of the 'proper' worship practice. Fangata'a is also the word that David uses to describe the falling moral standards of people who live in Honiara.

In my friends' opinion, there is a straightforward connection between the two sets of events. First, the missionaries came and replaced the ancestral worship with faith practices that turned out to be ineffective. Then, people of Solomon Islands became impoverished and easily exploitable by the waitman. In order to survive, they had to be selfish with their fellow islanders, like the missionaries had been with them in the first place. Thus, my friends perceive a moral and economic decline in Solomon Islands and think that this is the result of, on the one hand, a long-standing separation from God and, on the other, an on-going relationship with selfish foreigners.

Hence, such tasks as developing Solomon Islands, entering the Kingdom, and establishing a theocracy are all conditional upon reversing this situation of spiritual dependence on faith practices transmitted by foreign missionaries. This reversal is possible through accessing the 'hidden knowledge' pertaining to the 'the right way of worshipping God'. Indeed, 'God hemi fangale'an (11); He is no fangata'a' ('God is generous; He is not selfish'), explained David, mixing Pijin, English, and Kwara'ae. Then he added:
   When God is fangata 'a, it is because you are not confident in Him.
   For example, some time ago, ... when I was going to work, my wife
   asked me; 'Hey, and what are we going to eat today?' ... I replied:
   'Shush! This complaint is not for me, but for the "big man" up
   there.' ... Then, my wife understood, and said: 'Oh yeah, you are
   right, that is His worry.' Then, as I was at work, she phoned me
   and said: 'I just received a bag of rice!' And I said: 'You see? We
   are not dealing with a dead man, we are dealing with a living God!'

David is a Kwara'ae man, and thus, his idea of his transactional relationship with God should also be investigated with the understanding that his ideas of the ultra-mundane are informed by kastom. The transactional character of the relationship between Kwara'ae people and their ancestors has been ethnographically documented. Burt, for example, rightfully wrote that Pagan Kwara'ae depended on their ancestors for their welfare in every respect: for the success of their gardens, for health, wealth, protection and good fortune, in fact for their very lives. Obtaining the benefits of the ancestors' all-pervading power depended on securing their continued favour, and the consequence of their displeasure was misfortune, sickness, or death (Burt 1982:379).

Kwara'ae relationships with their ancestors mirror their relationships with their living relatives. In other words, the material character of their ultramundane reciprocity reflects the expression of kwaima 'anga or generosity (12) in concrete acts of giving between living relatives. Kwaima 'anga is a relationship of mutual care and respect that transcends distinctions between mundane and ultramundane.

David also uses the expression, 'Kaon blo Israel' or 'Israel's debt', to explain that all the prayers and worship sessions that he dedicates to the God of Israel will one day result in God's return to the country. In other words, praying and worshiping in the 'right way' will reverse the current condition of distance between Solomon Islanders and God that was inaugurated at the time of the first Christian missions and resulted in the long-standing condition of underdevelopment. (13)

When David speaks of prayers and worship, he phrases them in terms of being gifts of words that he donates to God. This is another feature that aligns him with Pentecostal Christians. Indeed, his idea echoes Coleman's contention that Pentecostal 'believers posit the existence of a complex set of connections and even affinities between language and the material world' (Coleman 2006). Coleman drew on Mauss to claim that words in Pentecostal worship sessions are seen as material gifts that contain part of the spiritual essence of the donor. He then drew on Gregory's categorisation of gifts and commodities (Gregory 1982) to maintain that gift-like words establish a relationship of indebtedness with the receiver. I believe that the same understanding of words as material gifts to be returned is at the basis of David's conviction that God will feel compelled by his prayers to re-establish a connection with Solomon Islands.

Furthermore, David believes that the 'original sin' that distanced Solomon Islanders from God took place when his ancestors stopped worshipping at the Lost Temple in the mountainous interior of Malaita. According to David's account of the legend, the first Malaitan man who worshipped God was a 'Jew' who had two sons. He engraved a mythical stone with Hebrew inscriptions detailing his doctrine and practice. His sons observed him, but he died before he could teach them to read and speak. Then, they started to imitate him. However, since they did not learn the principles of that faith, they became confused, and started to worship their own father, rather than God, The Father. That was the beginning of a progressive separation between God and the people of Malaita, whose actions soon made their home lose its status as 'Holy Land'. Later, when the first missionaries started their activities, they did not teach 'the right way of worshipping'. As a result, Solomon Islands is still struggling to re-establish a direct connection with God. With these stories, David finds a causal connection between the efficacy of his worship and the imminent return of the tribes of Israel.

Joshua and Tony reiterated this causal connection. They display the flag of the state of Israel on Naha Road in Honiara because they want the people in the urban settlements to see it every day when they go to town or come back from work. In this way, they want to please God, as well as the Jewish people from whom they seek recognition. God promised Abraham to make a great nation of his offspring, and the two young Malaitans would like to be considered part of that offspring. In order to prepare for the time that will come, they literally flag their willingness to be included in the Tribe.

In sum, Pentecostal churches and 'Jewish' groups in Honiara currently share the conviction that the present is a season of revelations. On the one hand, these come from popular legends about a mythical past; on the other, they emerge from prophecies of a better future for the country as a result of a divine intervention. Solomon Islands Christian 'Jews' perceive the analogies between the Old Testament and their kastom as evidence that they, as local groups, have connections to the original covenant. That connection was severed, as the popular legend retells, but thanks to their vision, the Bible, and the confidence they share in their urban retreats, they feel they are re-establishing it. Likewise, Pentecostal churches in Honiara understand the Prosperity Gospel as a form of knowledge that can give them access to power and wealth. The fact that such reappropriation results from their own action, not from that of an external agent, is very important for members of both the Pentecostal churches and the 'Jewish' groups. That is what they see as exceptional in the current 'season'.


In this article, I have tried to show how Pentecostal churches and groups that identify with Judaism discursively share some fundamental underpinnings of their beliefs and practices. In Honiara, there are groups of Christians who do not recognise themselves in the historical denominations and seek new ways to express their beliefs. They see the present situation as a new season in the development of their faith, in which they want to be on the frontline to make a God-chosen country of Solomon Islands.

These aspirations advance the ideal of a theocracy, to be realised in the unified identity of Solomon Islanders as people chosen by God. They feel that this is the right time to take control of their faith, for they perceive a newly established relationship with God as a consequence of revelations that they recently accessed in the form of legends and prophecies. Their understanding of these sources configures themselves as powerful players in the eternal fight between God and Satan, as much as in the challenges of Solomon Islands politics, economy, and governance. They feel empowered, as they feel they are now able to access a form of wisdom that remained 'hidden' for too long. In sum, when Pentecostal churches and 'Jewish' groups make use of Kingdom tok, they are taking the power to define what they want to believe, be, and do in the current season of Solomon Islands history.

DOI: 10.1002/ocea.5098

Rodolfo Maggio

University of Manchester


I wish to thank Terry Brown for helping me to search the National Archives of Solomon Islands, as well as the Archives of the Anglican Church of Melanesia for issuing the permit to use Archbishop Waiaru's Pastoral Letter. Also, I would like to thank Lynda Newland and Terry Brown for their comments on earlier versions of this paper. Although these were very beneficial towards the final version, it goes without saying that all shortcomings are entirely mine.


(1.) According to the Constitution of Solomon Islands, the country's name is 'Solomon Islands', with no definite article.

(2.) Members of groups that identify with Judaism insist a great deal on the legitimacy of using the term 'Jewish' to define themselves. 'We are Jewish! You can tell from our history', I heard them saying quite regularly. In this paper, I use the terms 'Jew' and 'Jewish' in inverted commas to emphasise such self-identification with the Israelites of the Ancient Near East.

(3.) I have given pseudonyms to all individuals presented in this paper. I tried to choose pseudonyms that reflect the religious background of each character, as well as the typology of names that are common in the area of study.

(4.) In 2008, the Church of Melanesia changed its name to 'Anglican Church of Melanesia'. When I use the acronym ACOM, it means that I am referring to events after 2008. When I use the name 'Church of Melanesia' and its acronym COM, it means that I am referring to events before 2008.

(5.) For example, the moral code of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:4-21) is seen as reproduced in the ten strings of tafuli'ae, a type of shell money used mostly in marital and compensatory transactions. Among the principles of the Decalogue that are seen as mirroring Malaitan kastom, those most commonly mentioned include honouring one's mother and father, the prohibition to 'touch' one's neighbour's wife, and the interdiction to pronounce ancestral names in vain. More generally, Malaitan men recognise similarities between their customary relationship with their wives and Adam's role as Eve's master (Genesis 3:16), as well as between their patrilineal descent and the tracing of Jewish lineage to the King David.

(6.) The Rhema Family Church was founded by Alfred Alufurai, following the breakaway of a youth group from the Church of Melanesia as a consequence of the charismatic activities the group had developed over the 1980s. The church headquarters were built in Honiara in 1989, and local branches were created in Makira, Malaita, Gela, and Western Province in the 1990s. After the election of Fredson Fenua as senior pastor, the church established connections with churches in Auckland, Perth, Port Vila, and Port Moresby.

(7.) Big plan blo God, Solomon Islands Pijin, literally 'the big plan of God'.

(8.) In this case, he means 'God'. When David prays in Kwara'ae, he addresses God as Ma'a, the Kwara'ae word for 'Father'. Solomon Islands Pijin 'daddy' (father) as a term of address in prayers directed to God is also widespread in contemporary Honiara.

(9.) Stuart Kirsch observed that 'In Melanesia disenfranchised groups contribute to the process through which they are designated "lost tribes" in order to increase their access to resources' (1997:58). This aspect is represented in the case of groups with a strong identification with Judaism in Honiara, as illustrated below.

(10.) Fangata'a, Kwara'ae, literally 'eat bad'.

(11.) Fangale'a, Kwara'ae, literally 'eat good'.

(12.) Kwaima'anga is used mainly in the sense of observing obligations to give to and help the others, and it is also the term that most closely expresses the concept of reciprocity (Burt 1994:176).

(13.) My use of the word 'underdevelopment' does not imply any reference to current development theories and/or any specific understanding about how desirable change is best achieved in society. The expression is solely intended to represent one common way in which the economic situation in Solomon Islands is described locally.


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Title Annotation:Special Issue: Descent from Israel: Jewish Identities in the Pacific, Past and Present
Author:Maggio, Rodolfo
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Nov 1, 2015
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