Hard News by Russell Brown

Mo' Destinies

I was keen for Tariana Turia to come on my 95bFM Wire show today to talk about the potential impact of the Destiny New Zealand party on on Maori politics, which, as I noted yesterday, is likely to be more pronounced than it is in the broader political domain.

But she refused, because, according to her press secretary, she has "a policy of not commenting on religious movements", and her refusal was in keeping with this policy. I found that a little bit odd, given that she's been commenting like billy-o on the Ratana Church lately. Oh well …

UPDATE: Matt McCarten, who's assisting with the Maori Party campaign, has just kindly agreed to come on and discuss the same topic with us. You can listen to it around 12.25pm via the bFM Internet stream.

Act MP Stephen Franks is pissing me off at the moment, mostly because I heard him interviewed twice on the radio yesterday and I can't understand how someone so obviously intelligent permits himself to be so obviously silly when he opens his mouth.

I understand Franks' objection to the civil unions omnibus bill, and in some respects he has a point. I'm also very wary myself of expanding the boundaries of "hate speech", the Parliamentary select committee inquiry into which is underway, in response to an unusual case that was the subject of a Karl du Fresne commentary on Mediawatch. But it was supported by both National and Labour MPs and is just that: an inquiry. It's quite possible there will be no change.

I do wonder at Franks' pristine moral clarity in upholding the right of people to make generalised slurs against homosexuals, or to declare them to be evil or against God. How would he respond to a movement that held, say, white people to be innately wicked? After all, Franks frequently accuses other people of racism - most recently in this statement on Maori Language Commission CEO Haami Piripi's submission on the seabed and foreshore bill. Even if you believe that Piripi's public opinion was wrong and/or inappropriate for someone in his position (and I do), isn't it OTT and intimidating to accuse the man of "political corruption" and "peddling racism on State salaries", and demand his dismissal? Well, isn't it?

But mostly I wish he'd keep to his points instead of tossing around cheap slogans (generally in the course of railing against, er, cheap slogans). I heard him refer yesterday to the "malignant left" and "left fascism" (this after getting all huffy about comparisons of the Destiny march with Nazi rallies).

Perhaps the virtues of free speech actually do trump all else, but would it kill Franks to momentarily refrain from abusing the "homosexual lobby" (yes, he said that too) to acknowledge that the people actually in the gunsights find the abuse of people like Brian Tamaki not just hurtful, but materially threatening?

Franks might also wish to note that generalisations about the (ahem) "homosexual lobby" are, like generalisations about homosexuals themselves, perilous. The flagrantly homosexual Indie Gay Forum noted the "scary" suggestion of banning anti-gay hate speech in New Zealand and quoted … some chap called Stephen Franks, actually …

The strange thing is that while Franks is busily thinking up new epithets for the allegedly intolerant left, he doesn't seem to be able to come up with a single zinger for Pastor Brian, who, as GayNZ.com points out, says things like this:

"The homosexual spirit is right out there in front leading the charge to reform society backwards - right? And to do that it's got to take out the word of God... And the first way to do that was to create a SPIRIT OF TOLERANCE working in society. PUBLIC TOLERANCE! So that it can begin to turn people away from believing that husband and wife, that man and woman, what we call the natural family, the marriage, was the relationship that was esteemed by God.”

So the people who preach tolerance are intolerant, and the people who regard tolerance as but a tool of the devil are, er, tolerant. Have I got that right, Stephen? I think your rhetorical engine is misfiring and needs a service.

One more thing: Franks slated the Press Council complaint about the Star Times' factually-deficient story on so-called sexual reorientation therapy (not upheld by the way, because its shortcomings "[did] not reach the threshold for the complaint to be upheld") but recently threatened make a complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Commission about TV One's televised race relations debate, on the basis that it was, er, factually deficient.

I tend to think that a written response would have been more productive than a complaint (if only because Press Council complaints are so infrequently upheld), but elements of the SST story were more out of line than anything in the One News special, and I'm a bit tired of the idea that journalists can't possibly be expected to pronounce on the merits of anything an expert says. There's a handy little tool for that - it's called Google. I had a look at the issue a while ago and decided that "reputable" wasn't really the best word for the study at the heart of the story, and that the story itself was woefully short on context.

The retarded interface on the Press Council website won't let me link directly to a ruling (or to anything other than the top page), but you can click through and look for the decisions attached to the names Dean Spooner and Christopher Dempsey under the Rulings tag.

After pointing the readers to the web forums of the local Christian magazine Reality, which are hosted by the Bible College of New Zealand, I had a bit of a poke around yesterday and found another thread on Brian Tamaki and his church, which indicated that he is the subject of suspicion and hostility from many other evangelical Christians. Of most interest was a post from "Seymour", who said he had been a leader within Destiny Church "until I left as I was finally disgusted by what I saw."

I emailed Seymour to ask if he'd like to come on the radio and talk about Tamaki and Destiny. He didn't reply - but by the end of the day the forums page had disappeared and the link led only to the Bible College's home page. Fortunately, I had already saved it. Here are some excerpts from a very lengthy post by Seymour (I've left out the detailed examination of what the scriptures say about tithing):

Brian Tamaki would have said "church" instead of "poor" because he that is what he means - he wants your money to build "his" church and empire, and does not want to give to the poor as Jesus says in scripture - believe me! I am an ex-destiny leader and he twists and uses scripture out of context often, esp. omissions from surrounding texts, to promote his agenda and get what he wants …

What I will say is that that these" tithing" preachers take a few verses out of a chapter and disregard the main contextual message usually from the old testament and use them to justify their position, then they hammer them home repeatedly and systematically until they get into your psyche. Sometimes it is because it is what they have always been taught, and they know no better, but other times they actually know there is very little biblical justification but teach it anyway, because it insures they will be able to fund their ministries and endeavours and succeed. Brian is just more extreme than most and pushes it to the limit with "cult-like persuasion". Most Christians are generous people and want to give to a worthy cause and help others in need, and that is a good thing. I still give towards certain causes and try to help others, but these American style evangelist types are just charlatans who are fleecing innocent church goers by manipulating them and twisting the scriptures to their own ends. Jesus warned of these "ravenous wolves" dressed in sheep’s clothing who would seek to "devour" the flock and they are doing a good job of it I must add, to my disgust!

These tithe teaching churches declare to the IRD that the income is all from "free will giving" to prevent paying taxes on any "mandatory type" club fees or levies so they can come under the donee organisation banner or charitable trust banner? Of course not all tithe-teaching pastors cream it off the top for personal gain – many provide many good things for their people and live on the same level regarding salaries etc. Most churches today have some sort of board that the pastor is accountable to, but if they don't, and the preacher sets himself up as a super-apostle type guy who is above correction then who are they accountable to? Some of these preachers make huge salaries from their churches, and all the excess funds are nicely protected in private trusts for sure! This is really manipulation and almost extortion I am afraid, under the guise of Christianity …

No, all this stuff it is a far cry from biblical Christianity I must say, and Brian Tamaki is either a deceived preacher who should know his bible better (especially when he is being paid so much - he said 6 digit figures! - and it's his job to!) or [potentially defamatory allegations excised here - RB]. I’ll leave that to you to decide! I believe he is extracting far more than a man of the cloth (or any person) needs to survive on and it is disgusting when most of his congregation are living from paycheque to paycheque - week to week! He is making a rather handsome profit at the expense of the masses he purports to lead or more correctly "controls". I have seen it all from the inside out! Believe me! Jesus said "One knows the type of a tree by it's type of fruit"… I believe Brian's heart doesn't want to know the truth, he is self-deceived and has a problem with money and fame etc. Money is his god I am afraid looking at all his recent acquisitions over a few short years since coming to Auckland …

Also take a look at Cultwatch@cultwatch.com if you want to know what a cult acts like… I feel sorry for those caught in his web who worship him and the church (idolatry)rather than Christ himself! and they will be offended by what I have said here, but one day they will realise, even if it's only once they get to heaven.

I hope it is this side of eternity! I'll see you all there!!! God Bless.

And you too, sir. But shouldn't the Act Party be investigating?

NB: The post above briefly had Steven Price as author of the Mediawatch comment on hate speech. It was actually Karl du Fresne (Steven heartily disagrees with the view expressed in it). Ironically, I meant to check it before posting but ran out of time because I had to drop everything and be interviewed by Linda Clark about blogging ...