September 21, 2010
Someone recommended that I continue posting about Don Richardson’s book in groups of chapters instead of individually. This seems like a good idea, so I decided to read chapters 4-6. These are some reflections on these last three chapters of part 1.
Chapters 4-6 displayed the horror a belief system can entail. The Yali life is built on its religious structure which, as exemplified in these chapters, suppresses any questioning of whether these religious tenets are true or not via fear of being killed.
In the previous chapter, we saw some of the wene melalek, that is, the ancient words which guide the Yali people. One of these sacred commands is that incest within the tribe was punishable by death. In chapter four, Richardson explains well why incest was such an issue. Here is an excerpt from page 72:
In barbaric societies, hostility tends to discourage free exchange of marriagable daughters between clans. Thus inbreeding threatens to weaken Yali society. Some tribes remedy this problem by maintaining special social rewards for all who willingly wed their daughters into other clans. Yali culture chose a different solution- instill in every heart an obsessive dread of incest.
Richardson goes on to say that this fear was so deeply entrenched that men would actually have recurring nightmares of committing incest. Waking up thrashing about in a cold sweat, they wondered if it really happened and if the death penalty was on them.
It is this kind of fear that shrouded the people in other areas. No one begged to query much, and what was courageously asked by one of the young initiates was responded to with a, “How dare you ask that!” tone of voice. They lived in darkness (no answers to the questions) and fear (no knowledge of what their fate could be).They were utterly without hope of any kind.
I am going to refrain from spoiling anything in these chapters. I urge you to pick up this book and read it. Part 1 was very informative and intense. It more than adequately set the stage for my mind to imagine these “lords of the earth” with darkened minds and veiled hearts. At one point in my reading, I thought to myself, “For crying out loud! How many more innocents are you guys going to sacrifice?!” Not too long afterward, I really felt the twinge of the heart for the lost peoples of the earth. I then had a thought cross my mind. I know I’ve said it this way and that on the blog, but it deeply occurred to me as I turned the pages of this book that we really need to go out and reach these people…
If you want a missionary heart, I would submit to you that a good step along the way would be to read this book.
The four final commands of the wene melalek:
7. Thou shalt not attack a healer while he holds his medicine bag.
8. Thou shalt honor the four sacred feasts for the cutting through of knowledge.
9. If a woman or uninitiated male beholds sacred things or overhears sacred words, thou shalt make atonement by pouring pig’s blood into such a one’s eyes or ears.
10. If a woman or uninitiated male intrudes upon holy ground, thou shalt punish such a one with death.