Pitcairn: Lost Paradise

I just completed Lost Paradise: From Mutiny on the Bounty to a Modern-Day Legacy of Sexual Mayhem, the Dark Secrets of Pitcairn Island Revealed. The author, Kathy Marks, was one of the journalists on the island to cover the sexual abuse trials a few years back–trials that shattered the myth of the island as a South Pacific paradise. Within Seventh-day Adventism, the myth included the image of the place as an Adventist haven, with no crime, and only one church.

Well, they fooled us, didn’t they? Fletcher Christian and his boys rebeled so that they could live in unrestrained hedonism. But in a few years their tyranny over the Polynesians (including stealing of wives) led to their own deaths. Marks supposes that what might have then happened is that the men agreed not to go after one another for sexual misconduct. A climate of sexual abuse of girls developed, in which men in their 20s and 30s raped young girls–and also engaged in promiscuity with one another’s wives. It seems the only taboo that endured was prohibition against father/daughter incest. It’s a horrific, disgusting tale, of a community torn by back-biting within and yet defensive self-protection towards the outside world. They proved experts at “hypocriting,” playing pious for the cameras of tourists.

Some of the pastors assigned by the church were fooled. Some felt helpless. Some just told complaining girls to be quiet and not make a fuss.

It’s a tragic tale. Yet in the wake of the trials, there is little remorse and no repentance–just accusations that they were victimized by the outside world and by journalists such as Marks. Marks paints a portrait of an island of consummate con artists. The islanders continue to put on the happy face and sell their souvenirs via webpages. Still hooking people on the myth.

5 thoughts on “Pitcairn: Lost Paradise

  1. …and lets not mention the article in this January’s Adventist World (the monthly world wide “Review” magazine), where Pitcairn emerged as a tropical idyll, full of christian fellowship and witness opportunity… with only a small print, footnote sentence, at the end referring to “reports of alleged criminal activities”

  2. I saw that AR cover story and thought, given the openness characteristic of that mag these days, “Aha–a teachable moment.” Um, apparently not. But otherwise, why go there?

  3. Not sure if you read me right, but we’re on the same page–why discuss the location–and subjects–of what’s become a major international news story if you’re just going to wear rose-colored blinders? Mind-boggling. This is a perfect example of the perils of insular communities and fundamentalist views of religion, and the Adventist church has conducted studies on these very issues, e.g. Strahan’s research some time ago at Avondale:

    http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/afrcpapers/strahan.html

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