Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Politicians and destiny

This weekend the ultra-fundamentalist Destiny Church held their annual conference in Auckland. Coinciding with the campaign for a byelection in the Maori Electorate of Te Tai Tokerau, the church’s leader, TV preacher Brian Tamaki, saw an opportunity to position his church as a force in Maori politics. This is troubling for a lot of reasons.

Tamaki’s brand of fervently rightwing Christianity is toxic. In 2004, Tamaki predicted his church would be "ruling the nation" within five years; it didn’t happen, of course. He created a political party for the 2005 elections. It failed dismally. He re-branded his party for the 2008 election and it performed even worse. The party was de-registered last year.

Tamaki condemned women in government leadership positions, saying it’s “the work of the devil”. He’s also notoriously and rabidly anti-gay, having led blackshirted followers down Auckland’s Queen Street shouting “enough is enough” as they gave stiff armed salutes reminiscent of the Nazis, all to try and stop New Zealand’s Civil Unions law. He led another rally against the law outside Parliament. He lost that battle, too.

The New Zealand Herald examined Tamaki’s church recently and reported that it’s become more and more cult-like in recent years.

The main problem with politicians attending this event is that they went to Destiny’s conference—this wasn’t a “political forum” as the church called it—it was heavy on the religion, including Tamaki “laying hands” on the politicians to bless them. By attending, the MPs were implicitly lending their support and approval to Destiny and its entire agenda.

And to what end? Destiny members might, ideologically, have something in common with National and Act, as well as the socially conservative parts of the Maori Party, but what do the other parties have to gain by dancing with Brian? Labour, in particular, will never get the 0.5% of the vote they represent and should not have been there (the Green Party’s own annual conference was the same weekend, and they were not at Destiny’s services).

Tamaki’s misogyny and homophobia are anathema to the Labour Party’s liberal base. So for Shane Jones—once touted as a potential leader of the Labour Party—to pander so obviously to Destiny and to stroke Tamaki’s ego is hugely worrying to party supporters. Jones said, “not everyone in Labour is hostile to God”, implying that Labour supporters who can’t stomach Destiny are automatically anti-God when, in fact, many of those people would be very pro-God, indeed.

However, it’s also insulting and pretty disgusting for him to insinuate that atheists and agnostics are “hostile to god” when they’re hostile only to Tamaki; contrary to Brian’s delusions, he’s not really a god. Jones’ remarks also shot down one of the long-held beliefs of the party, namely, that its ideology is “applied Christianity.” Tamaki and his weird, cultish church are not the only Christians, Shane.

No party has anything to gain by pandering to Destiny, and they all have something to lose. But Labour has the most to lose. They should treat Tamaki and Destiny as the poison that they are.

To learn more:

For some Maori perspectives on these events, check out the post on Maui Street, as well as commentary by Dr Leonie Pihama, the strong comments at He Hōaka and a plea that "you should listen to this nobody" at Mars 2 Earth. For information on last year’s political pandering at Destiny’s annual conference, check out the post on Kiwipolitico.

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